My secret life: Nina Wadia, actress, 39

The home I grew up in... was a one-bedroom, ground-floor space that regularly flooded during the monsoon season in Mumbai. My brother, sister and I squeezed together on the bed and my mum and dad slept on a mattress on the floor. Aged nine, we moved to a two-bedroom flat in Hong Kong. It was like moving to a mansion.

When I was a child I wanted to be... a barrister. My mother drilled the idea into me in the hope that I might actually become one.

The moment that changed me for ever... I flipped my car on a rainy day and passed out thinking, "Oh well, I've had a good life". Then I remembered I was three months' pregnant. I thank God every day that she was OK and that I walked away with just cuts and bruises.

My greatest inspiration... was my mother. She wanted her children to be independent, successful and loved.

My real-life villain... is cheese, for reasons far too sinister to reveal here.

My style icon... is Betty Boop. She's curvy, sexy and has an unusually large head.

At night I dream of... loved ones, but they are always mixed up. I wake up feeling exhausted, like I've lived another life during my sleep.

What I see when I look in the mirror... a tiny smudge; then I start cleaning the whole house.

My favourite item of clothing... is my son's Babygro, which says "Mothersucker".

It's not fashionable but I like... jumping off mountains, and hand-gliding.

I wish I'd never worn... a Delhi-tubby suit (I know) in an episode of 'Goodness Gracious Me'. I practically passed out after jumping around in it for two hours and being crushed by the other cast members at the end of the show.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... cricket, netball and volleyball. I was a real tomboy at school.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... seeing things at a great distance. I'm quite short-sighted and would love to get my eyes lasered so people don't think I'm ignoring them. The truth is I can't see them unless they are three feet away from my face.

All my money goes on... my kids. Ridiculous stuff that I think will look cute on them.

If I have time to myself... I would sleep for a hundred years. I haven't had a good night's sleep in about five years and apparently now that I'm a parent I never will again.

I drive... any type of car. I was a part-time valet while desperately seeking acting work and once scratched the life out of a Bentley.

My house is... the first house I have ever owned or lived in. I've only ever lived in flats when growing up so this is a real departure.

My most valuable possession is... my husband. He is my rock, my love, my all.

My favourite building... is the Theatre Royal in Stratford East. That place has brought me a lot of luck and I feel deeply connected to it

Movie heaven... is action and humour combined. I recently saw 'Ong-bak', a Thai chop-socky film. Loved it. I'm a sucker for the Die Hards and Indiana Jones movies. I also have a weakness for idiosyncratic comedies with actors like Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller.

A book that changed me... 'Autobiography of a Yogi'. I've always been interested in spirituality and this made me sit up and take notice.

My favourite work of art... is on my fridge. It's a drawing by my four-and-a-half year old of what looks like four potatoes with stick-like arms. When asked why she drew potatoes she replied, "Silly mummy, that's our family. You are the one with the hair."

The last album I bought/downloaded... was so long ago I can't actually remember. But I have an actor friend, Shaun Dooley, who makes us the coolest Christmas albums.

The person who really makes me laugh... is Ross Noble. The first time I met him he told me a joke about a man who had half a face that was an orange. I could not breathe for laughing.

The shops I can't walk past... are any that have the word "Sale" in the window. I'm a sucker for a bargain.

The best invention ever... is the 3G video phone. I got to see my children and talk to them every day when I was working. I could kiss the person who invented it.

In 10 years' time, I hope to... be working. I don't think I ever want to retire from this job.

My greatest regret... is that I never got to hug my father goodbye before he died.

My life in seven words... May I never live in interesting times.

A life in brief

Nina Wadia was born in India in 1969. Currently starring in EastEnders, in which she plays Albert Square's postmistress, Wadia has many television credits to her name, including Goodness Gracious Me, Waking the Dead, Skins and the four-part TV adaptation of Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth. She is married with two children and lives in west London. Tune into EastEnders on BBC1 at the end of the month for her character's biggest storyline to date

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