Media: An odd road to 'Eldorado': Lesley Udwin on her leap from soapbox to the new soap and, below, Sue Summers canvasses expert views

IF ANYONE had told me that I'd find myself based in Spain in 1992, I might have imagined myself in any number of scenarios: acting in some 'important' issue-based film, or touring a (probably classical) play; acquiring the rights to a book I was planning to produce as a film; or researching some injustice I had learnt about that fuelled my anger and commitment.

The very last thing I'd have envisaged would have been acting in a television soap.

I am, by any standards, the unlikeliest candidate to be invited to play a regular character in a soap; I am not a 'packageable' pretty thing of the ilk that the peculiar world of soaps usually seeks out. Nor am I a 'character actress'. My background is replete with weighty, dramatic roles in the classics and in contemporary plays with a serious socio-political bent (Lady Macbeth; Ibsen; Dostoyevsky; the National Theatre; the Royal Court; BBC 2 . . .). The last film I acted in was a searing critique about the torture of prisoners of conscience in Turkey.

And then there is my other career, as as producer. I helped to develop the BBC's Screen Two production, 'Sitting Targets', based on my real-life struggle, along with a group of female tenants (all the men having fled in fear), against the notorious landlord, Nicholas van Hoogstraten.

And recently I produced Granada's controversial World In Action film 'Who Bombed Birmingham?', about the cover-up that kept the Birmingham Six unjustly imprisoned for 16 years.

Earlier this year life was proceeding along its familiar path - I was developing television and film projects; working with writers; giving advice to beleaguered tenants; raising film finance; helping one of the Birmingham Six write a book about miscarriages of justice. And one day in February my agent called to say there had been an inquiry from the producers of the new BBC pan-European soap: would I be interested in playing one of the pivotal characters in it?

It would mean relocating to Spain for at least a year. I was surprised - no, shocked. When the theoretical inquiry became an offer, I frantically rang round those friends and colleagues whose opinions I respected (the very ones, in retrospect, whom I would have expected to talk me out of accepting the job).

Not one of them advised me to do anything but leap at the offer. The justifications for their unanimous advice ranged from 'soaps are the social realist drama of our day' to 'it will get your face known and your opinions will therefore be more widely heard'. My excitement grew at the prospect of doing this unexpected thing. I fastidiously made lists of pros and cons. Prominent among the pros was the argument that raising my public profile would enable me to say the many things I burn to say to the world.

It would also enable me to build up a little money with which I could buy rights to works and commission writers. I could learn Spanish . . .

On the cons list, only one item persisted: there are very few actors who have managed to shake off the second skin that is the persona of their soap character. Would Lesley Udwin, in the future, be subsumed by the character of the barmaid Joy Slater? The more I have got to know the content of Eldorado, and the breadth of vision of its creators and producers, the more this fear has receded.

Eldorado has not been conceived as any ordinary, formula- based soap; it is adventurous and bold, and complex in its view of the people who inhabit its world. The character I play is multi-faceted, to the point of embracing contradictions in an exhilarating way.

Her motto is: 'To hell with men, who needs 'em?' - yet she longs for one. She is liberated and self-sufficient but at the same time, she is dependent and conventional in her view of relationships; strong yet vulnerable; sometimes raucous, sometimes stylishly controlled.

Like most of my female friends, in fact, she is a real, rich character who can't be glibly delineated. If her persona were to stick to me, it wouldn't be all that dreadful - I like her enormously.

So I set off in April on this adventure, with my car, fax machine, word processor and paperwork for all the projects I am developing in my spare time here.

What friends failed to warn me of was quite how fluid language becomes when you're shooting a soap on the Costa del Sol. Phrases such as 'protecting yourself from the Sun' have taken on a whole new meaning.

The only campaigning I've done here so far has been on behalf of crew members, for bacon butties and Mars Bars in the Spanish on-set restaurant.

I feel alive here, and hot, and optimistic - and hope that those of you who saw the first episode will have smelt the potential that I am confident Eldorado will deliver.

(Photograph omitted)

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Business Development Manager

£25000 - £27000 per annum + Bonus: Sauce Recruitment: Within your role as Busi...

IT Graduate

£15 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are looking for an eager IT Graduate / Technology ...

Ad Director / Sales Director

£55 - 65k + 25% Y1 OTE + Fantastic Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an e...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?