My Secret Life: Emilia Fox, Actress, age 34

The house I grew up in... was my parents' holiday home in Dorset. I remember it for happy summers in the garden and surrounding fields, and for rock-pooling at the beach. It was quintessentially English.

When I was a child I wanted to be... a cellist. My parents were friends with Jacqueline du Pré and I idolised her.

The moment that changed me for ever... was getting the part of Mrs de Winter in Rebecca. I went from a student, unsure what to pursue as a career, to someone with a great passion.

My greatest inspirations... are actresses like Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren. All bewitching in what they do, they are proof that good parts for women of all ages should keep being written.

My real-life villain... is the man who goes to Chicken Express when the clubs have shut and leaves his rubbish in my garden.

My style icon... is my dad. He is always impeccably dressed, even when he goes to post a letter. No one wears a suit better than him.

If I could change one thing about myself... I'd be able to dance and sing without feeling self-conscious. I can do either as a character, but feel unbearably shy if I am at a party.

At night I dream of... When I was a child I had a recurring dream about trying to save a princess, but was chased by the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, and we all converged in a revolving room with spy bugs.

My favourite item of clothing... is a Fifties-cut dress, designed for me by a friend to change into at midnight on my wedding night. It is made of red lace, and something Marilyn Monroe might have worn.

I wish I'd never worn... an army jumper and tweed skirt to my first day at boarding school. I was teased about it for the next five years.

It's not fashionable but I like... gardening.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... backgammon.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... dealing with the sight of blood, especially if it's my own. I once fainted when someone described an accident to me. I wasn't even there but I keeled over!

All my money goes on... plants and flowers. As soon as I get off a plane I am compelled to buy flowers to make the house look lived-in and cosy.

If I have time to myself... I read. I find it hard to settle into a book when there are lots of things to do and people around.

I ride... in taxis if I can. I love black cabs and the conversations that you have in them, and it's the best way of discovering quick routes through the city.

My house is... the complete opposite to my parents'. They can live with no carpet, no curtains, no heating and with ceilings that are in dire need of repair. I like to get things fixed immediately and to make sure that the house is always warm!

My most valuable possession... is my ability to make the most of situations.

My favourite building... is the Pantheon in Rome. It literally took my breath away when I first walked into it.

Movie heaven... is supper on the sofa with Jared, at our house in LA, with a film I've never seen before.

A book that changed me... is The Ordinary Princess by M M Kaye. I loved it as a child. It is a story that says that it is all right to look ordinary and not to grow up thinking that you have to look like a fairytale princess.

My favourite work of art... is a picture called Red Carpet by Tom Hammick, and I love all bronze sculptures by Tom Greenshields.

The last album I bought/downloaded... was Mary Coughlan's After The Fall. It's not a new album, but I absolutely love her voice.

The person who really makes me laugh... is [my co-star] Tom Ward. It's hard to fake laughter when you are acting and Tom's ad-libs will genuinely make me giggle uncontrollably. Every time you see me laugh with him in Silent Witness it is the real thing.

The best invention ever... is YouTube. I was able to see the finals of Britain's Got Talent after I'd forgotten to record it.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be... looking back and thinking that I'm happy with what's happened in the past 10 years.

My life in seven words... Not yet half way through, I hope.

A life in brief

Emilia Fox was born in London in 1974. The daughter of the actor Edward Fox, she is best known for playing Dr Nikki Alexander in the popular BBC series, Silent Witness. An Oxford graduate, she starred opposite her father in the 2003 film The Republic of Love, and was briefly engaged to Vic Reeves, her co-star in the TV series Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). She met her husband, fellow actor Jared Harris, in 2003 on the West End production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The couple now divide their time between London and Los Angeles. Emilia is currently fronting Charles Worthington's Time Defy range which launches next month

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