Thaila Zucchi is famous for trying to fake it as an Aussie on 'Big Brother', but the actress is actually half Italian, and proud of it, says Dan Poole

You're Italian-English aren't you?

My mother is English and my father's Italian, from a small village near Parma. He moved to London at the age of 20 in search of better job opportunities.

Do you ever go back to Italy?

I try to visit my Italian relatives once a year: grandmother, uncles, aunties and cousins. As I'm an only child and my dad isn't around, my extended family is really important to me. I've been back twice this year because my grandfather passed away, so I've made more of an effort to speak to people, especially my grandmother.

What do your Italian roots mean to you?

I love Italy. Apart from having family there, I lived there as a baby so I have a strong affinity with the country, it's culture and people. It's very important for me to visit my family and friends to spend some quality time with everyone, usually round the dinner table eating copious amounts of food!

Can you speak Italian?

Unfortunately I only speak very basic Italian, as I was brought up speaking English. Apparently I spoke the lingo a lot as a child, so that explains why I still remember the odd word or sentence. Nowadays, I understand enough to get by.

When did you first decide you wanted a career in the performing arts?

I've always been a creative person and enjoyed performing since an early age. From the age of 11, I studied at the Arts Educational Schools in London, which dedicated half the day to academic studies and the other half to the performing arts. After that I spent three years training in musical theatre and graduated in 2000.

What was your first big break?

Towards the end of my training I auditioned for a couple of pop groups and was offered both jobs - I was delighted. I accepted the job that had a guaranteed kids' television show, which meant I'd be able to act as well. It's not often a girl gets an opportunity like that, especially a first job. The show became known as STARStreet, which ran for two series on SMTV (back in the Ant and Dec days!) and the band was allSTARS*. Although we were very busy for over two years, I had an amazing time and will always cherish the experience.

How has your career progressed since then?

Acting isn't the most stable career choice! However, I've been very lucky to have worked on loads of fabulous jobs that have allowed me to travel all over the world, meet inspirational people, play a variety of characters and learn a lot from every experience. I'm really enjoying the comedy roles at the moment - it's so much fun working on programmes like Star Stories. I get to play a variety of roles, dressing up as iconic celebrities, wearing fat suits, silly wigs and ageing up.

I've also had the opportunity to work alongside some actors I really admire, such as Nick Frost - Shaun of the Dead, which he stars in, is one of my all time favourite movies - and Paul Kaye in the second series of Strutter for MTV; he's a very talented and lovely man. Most recently I worked with that television legend Des Lynam for a commercial.

What was it like appearing on Big Brother?

The whole experience has been very surreal as it happened so quickly. I'd just finished shooting a commercial when I got a call from my agent saying the producers of Big Brother wanted me to go into the house as a fake contestant. I was shocked!

We began the process on the Wednesday deciding that my character would be Australian; by the Friday I had to appear on television in front of the nation as Pauline. I've never been to Australia, so my biggest concerns were keeping up my accent and retaining Australian facts. My Australian accent changed the moment I walked in to the house - I think it was through fear of sounding too over the top or slipping up that the accent just toned down!

What's your favourite medium out of the acting, presenting and singing work you've done so far?

I'm most comfortable acting, but they all give me a different kind of buzz. I'd love to do some theatre work in the future, but as long as I'm working - and preferably getting paid for it - I'm a happy bunny!

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