As Strictly Come Dancing returns for a new series on Friday night, ex-EastEnders star Natalie Cassidy talks about her love of dancing… and the pain of high heels!

How do you think your ‘second mum’ Wendy Richard would have reacted to you doing Strictly?
“I think she would have been very proud. She was a very glamorous lady and she would have loved all the sequins and frocks. I know she enjoyed the show. I’m doing Strictly… for Wendy, and for my lovely mum.” (Evelyn who passed away in 2002)

How have the rehearsals been?
“It’s a total shock to the system the amount of physical activity we’re doing in a day. Not many people can manage nine hours of exercise, but because it’s such fun and the music’s on, you don’t realise. I’m just having such a nice time. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel like a competition winner!”

Has it affected your diet
“Yes. I make my evening meal quite light so I can go to bed easily and make my breakfast more substantial for the day’s training. And I’m having lots of cappuccinos and lots of Berocca!”

Have you had any accidents?
“I’ve got lots of bruises on my arms.There’s a few lifts where I’m spinning around, which look lovely but my arms are black and blue! I’m not training in my ballroom shoes; I’m saving my feet as much as I can. When I do wear the shoes, by 4pm, I can’t tell you the pain! It’s very frustrating because from my head to my ankles, I just want to dance and dance. The thing I’m most worried about is injury. I’d be devastated if I pulled something or got a bad back or hurt my feet, I couldn’t bear sitting out and watching everyone else dance.”

What about your relationship with your partner Vincent Simone?
“We’re getting on like a house on fire, I feel so lucky to have him. Everything he does, he makes you feel good, look good, he’d never do anything to make you look silly. He’s a very good choreographer and a professional in ballroom and latin which is very fortunate because we’re doing some difficult stuff and he’s throwing me into it, which is helping.”

Do you think you can win?
“I’m very competitive. I didn’t think I would be but because I love it so much, the thought of going out and not being able to learn another dance breaks my heart already. I’d have to sabotage the programme! I’ll be in a superwoman outfit standing at the top of the BBC!”

What about the opposition. Who is impressing you?
“I think Ricky Whittle is fantastic, not only do he and his partner Natalie look amazing together, he’s got a lot of rhythm, so I’m keeping my eye on him!”

You have had some tough moments this year, haven’t you?
“I suppose. But I’ve always been a very positive person and although losing Wendy was very painful, everything has a silver lining and career wise I’ve had a fantastic year. I’ve done an array of different things I wanted to do and this is going to be the cherry on the cake, as long as I can get down to at least the quarter final. But I want to win!”

And after Strictly… what’s in store then?
“When I win? I hope to go into a West End show. That would be nice wouldn’t it? Or if I still love dancing as much as I do now, I’d open a lovely little weekend school for babies and teach them the basic moves!”

*Strictly Come Dancing starts on Friday September 18 at 8.30pm on BBC One*