AS one of Britain’s best-loved actresses, Martine McCutcheon would have been subjected to all the temptations of the jetset life.
So it is little wonder the Love Actually favourite has finally come clean about her “addiction” to Coke. Fortunately it was only the Diet variety.
The mum-of-one’s crippling craving saw her guzzling eight cans a day, which led to her being judged by other mums at the school gates.
Martine, 46, confessed: “I don’t really drink tea or coffee so the caffeine in it was my thing.
“I’d wake up then be walking my seven-year-old into the playground with a can of Diet Coke and the mothers looked at me disgusted, absolutely disgusted — ‘She’s not got her posh coffee cup, she’s rocked up with a Diet Coke’.
“I was drinking it at that time of day and even before I went to bed. I always had a can next to me. I loved that little buzz it gave me.”
The former EastEnders actress managed to kick her habit and has, until recently, been living a low-key life in Surrey with her husband Jack McManus, 37, and son Rafferty, seven.
She turned her back on fame after her wedding to songwriter Jack in 2012 but is now starting to “fall in love with the industry again”.
Last year she impressed fans of The Masked Singer, performing as Swan, and she completed a live tour of the ITV show last month.
Martine, who suffered miscarriages in her thirties before having Rafferty, said: “I took time out of the industry because my priority was to become a mother. It took a lot longer than I thought . . . I had a lot of problems keeping babies.
CONFIDENCE AT AN ALL-TIME LOW
“The fluffy world of t*ts and teeth didn’t matter any more. There was a far bigger lesson to be learned and a far bigger picture to be looked at.”
She added: “Now my son is seven I’m still a bit obsessed with being a mum. I still begrudge anything that takes me away from him for longer than a few hours because I’m so in love with him.
“I’m doing a movie, playing the very small part of an ex-ballerina, with John Cleese in Budapest in Hungary this year. I am starting to look at other things too.”
Martine revealed she is considering doing a one-woman stage show.
She is known to millions for her role as Downing Street PA Natalie in the 2003 festive movie favourite Love Actually opposite Huge Grant’s Prime Minister.
The role came when Martine was at her “lowest” after a difficult run in a West End production of the musical My Fair Lady.
She had chronic fatigue syndrome ME, which led her to be admitted to intensive care and she was forced to withdraw from the starring role of Eliza Doolittle.
Martine told Spotify’s Brydon & podcast, hosted by actor and comedian Rob Brydon, of getting the movie offer: “It was just so confidence-boosting when my confidence was at an all-time low.
“I can still see in the film some of my vulnerability, which works — it was very much the essence of who I was at the time.”
The Notting Hill and Four Weddings And A Funeral fan had always wanted to work with writer Richard Curtis.
So when the call came to star in his next big film she knew it was the opportunity she needed in order to keep working in the industry.
Martine said: “Mentally I was really down and I went to see some friends in Spain.
I’d wake up then be walking my seven-year-old into the playground with a can of Diet Coke and the mothers looked at me disgusted, absolutely disgusted — ‘She’s not got her posh coffee cup, she’s rocked up with a Diet Coke’.
“I sat on the plane and I remember thinking, ‘I feel so lost because this has been like my religion, my escape, my everything . . . you’ve got to give me one massive sign, God, or universe, or whatever, to make me think that I’m meant to stay in this stinking industry, because at the moment I hate it’.
“The next day in the villa the phone went.”
It was her agent, who had called to tell her that Curtis wanted her to star in his latest movie opposite Grant, now 61.
Martine added: “I was shaking. I dropped the phone on my foot and I remember looking up at the sky and just thinking ‘F***, you don’t muck around do you?’. ”
But when she returned to the UK for a read-through of the script she was so nervous that her hands were shaking.
Her co-star Alan Rickman, who died in 2016 aged 69, picked up on her nerves and gave her some words of wisdom she will always remember.
Martine explained: “He was so sweet, he kicked me under the table and said, ‘Are you OK?’.
“I said, ‘Yeah, I’m just so scared, I’m so nervous I’m going to muck it up’.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry darling, we’re all scared, we’re just acting like we’re not. Act like you’re not and that will help you as an actress’.”
Martine, who played Tiffany Mitchell in EastEnders from 1995 to 1998 and had a No1 single with Perfect Moment in 1999, revealed that she has “gone all posh” since her days growing up in Dalston, East London.
She told podcast host Rob: “I was born within the sound of the Bow Bells. It was never dull. There were always things going on in the street. There were always police cars and God knows what else, but it was all I knew.”
Martine said that her mum, author Jenny Tomlin, “is a true Eastender, and a rough diamond and proud”.
Now my son is seven I’m still a bit obsessed with being a mum. I still begrudge anything that takes me away from him for longer than a few hours because I’m so in love with him.
She added: “It’s something I used to feel a bit embarrassed about, that I was from where I was from. For me, I always felt like we were not quite as good as anybody else.
“I never felt quite enough, or thought that I’d get found out, the whole imposter syndrome thing. But now I thank my lucky stars for it and wonder what on Earth I was thinking.”
A keen dancer as a young girl, Martine’s life changed when she won a scholarship to the Italia Conti stage school in London. The school was a haven for Martine, whose home life was blighted by her father’s violent rages.
The actress has previously spoken about how her father, Thomas Hemmings, would threaten both Martine and her mother.
‘MY GO-TO PLACE WHERE I COULD ESCAPE’
She told the Loose Women show her parents had a “dysfunctional, obsessive” love and recalled how he had a problem with drink and drugs.
He would “see red and do horrific things”.
The actress revealed: “We lived in an estate in East London. He threatened to drop me from the balcony if she didn’t do what he wanted her to do, when he was as high as a kite one day. He would do the most terrible things and he wouldn’t remember what he had done.”
After their relationship deteriorated, Martine moved to the safety of the countryside with her family.
Her mum went on to marry Martine’s stepfather, John McCutcheon, and the couple had a son, Laurence or “LJ”, now 30.
She said of her time at stage school: “It was like an English version of Fame. You’ve got kids tap-dancing about and ballet shoes and music playing everywhere.
“I absolutely loved it. I’d had a difficult upbringing with domestic violence in the family and it was a place that I felt safe.
“It was much more than a hobby. It was my go-to place where I could escape and be in my comfort zone.” One contemporary was Russell Brand, who claimed in his autobiography that he snogged Martine in a corridor. Though maybe he was thinking of someone else.
We lived in an estate in East London. He threatened to drop me from the balcony if she didn’t do what he wanted her to do, when he was as high as a kite one day.
She exclaimed: “In his book he said he kissed me! I never kissed him, I was terrified of boys.
“Typical Russell, he’s so naughty. He always used to slide down the bannisters, he could never just walk down the stairs.”
But Martine confessed that she soon got into trouble herself and was eventually told to leave the respected drama school after taking on secret acting jobs.
She revealed: “I got expelled because I kept telling them, ‘Oh no, I’m not well, I’ve got shingles’, and really I was filming The Bill. I didn’t realise that The Bill was going to be shown the day before certificate day.”
After drama school, aged 15, she formed the girl group Milan with two friends.
They were snapped up by the label Polydor but Martine soon experienced the highs and lows of life on the road. She said: “The worst time I had was when we did a gig at The Ritzy in Doncaster. When we came out on stage there were two goths and a dog in the audience. And they didn’t even clap at the end.
“I’ll never forget our manager going out there and saying to us, ‘Imagine it’s Wembley’ and I was like, ‘Are you having a laugh?’
“We’re giving it all and there’s these two goths just stood there stony-faced — even the dog didn’t look happy.”
Source: The Sun