The secret of my success: Carol Harrison

Best known as Louise, the long-suffering mother of Tiffany in EastEnders, Carol Harrison is currently playing the Wicked Countess in Cinderella at the Hackney Empire in London.

For me, success means achieving the artistic freedom to choose what you want to do, as well as earning enough money not to have to struggle. A lot of the time I don't see myself as a great success at all. I tend to be quite self-critical - maybe it's because of my Catholic upbringing - and I suffer from low self-esteem at times, like many actors. I'm very much a perfectionist and find it hard to live up to my own expectations. But once I give myself a good talking to I feel better.

If you are artistic you are born with something magic somewhere. But nothing has come to me without a struggle. Funnily enough it's often the things that have been the most difficult that have ended up being the most successful for me. I had an unhappy childhood and I used to escape into a fantasy world where I could be somebody else, someone happy. Those escapes made me want to be an actress. I used to entertain my mother and discovered what a wonderful way it was to light up someone's life.

I'm a bit of a chameleon and that has tended to go against me. I've mostly done serious work such as EastEnders, but I was born with good timing and I have done successful comedies such as Brushstrokes too. The problem is that people don't quite know how to place you. If they know you've done a good job in something serious, they don't even think about considering you for a funny role.

A successful actor will make sure their performance is truthful. They need to understand the truth behind the emotions they portray rather than using tricks. Everybody has their own way of finding that truth. I'm not driven in an ambitious sense - I won't go and chat up casting directors - but I do think that I have talent and something to say. I like creating an impact and I'd really like to write and produce my own movie one day. One of the big surprises of my career was finding out I could write.

Success is about feeling you have something to contribute and persevering until you get the chance to have your say. But whatever happens you should keep your feet on the ground, never get above yourself or let things go to your head.

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