Close-up: Oliver Jackson Cohen, actor

If life as a TV heart-throb doesn't work out, he can go back to washing vases
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Looking at Oliver Jackson-Cohen, one could be forgiven for thinking he has had it easy. Tall, dark and handsome, the 21-year-old is the chief heart-throb in the new BBC1 drama Lark Rise to Candleford, in which he stars alongside Julia Sawalha and Dawn French. Throw in a famous mother the British fashion designer Betty Jackson and his life must surely have been a piece of cake.

Not quite. While other budding drama brats were bundled off to Sylvia Young, Jackson-Cohen sweated away at the academic hothouse of the Lyce Franais Charles de Gaulle in London. Seeking a dramatic outlet, he attended the Youngblood Theatre Company at weekends, and at 14 landed a small part in Hollyoaks. After school and a gap year, he started a degree in French literature lasting "for about two weeks. I hated it." He soon got a job washing vases for a florist to keep him going between auditions. "It wasn't great but when you're that broke you'll do anything."

His perseverance paid off: six months ago Jackson-Cohen landed the Lark Rise... part he describes as "a cross between Mr Darcy and the gardener from Desperate Housewives". Alas for his inevitable band of female fans, Jackson-Cohen doesn't mow any lawns topless. "The raciest it gets is some hand-holding and a kiss."

Jackson-Cohen is now filming another BBC series, Bone Kickers. He has also secured a place at New York's prestigious Lee Strasberg acting school, but isn't sure whether he'll take it up. "I'll see how it goes. If I find myself washing vases again, I'll be straight on that plane."

'Lark Rise to Candleford' begins on 13 January at 8pm on BBC1