13 December 2003: Daily Record

One's Just Not A Class Above

Her mummy's a Dame, her daddy owns an estate in Perthshire and she's been dubbed one of society's most eligible women by Tatler magazine.

But toffee-nosed? Posh? Rachael Stirling won't hear a word of it.

"I'm not posh," says the daughter of ex Avenger Diana Rigg, with the kind of accent you'd expect to hear ordering a hide of venison and a side of caviar.

"OK, I talk with a stupid accent but that doesn't make me posh.

"And yes, I went to boarding school, but I don't think that makes me posh either. Posh is a mentality I just don't have."

Fine. But Tatler magazine, on the other hand, is undeniably posh. Let's put it this way Rachael's co-nominees in last month's poll include Lady Tamara Grosvenor, Lady Honor Wellesley, The Hon Sophia Hesketh and The Hon Hannah Rothschild.

All names you're familiar with, no doubt. And, not one among them bold enough to use a glottal stop, you can bet.

A posh bird not pronouncing a `T'? They'd be hunted out the hamlet for that kind of crime. But, then again, Keira Knightley, a second-generation Greenockian whose mother came from the working class town, topped the poll.

So maybe there is something to be said for posh being a state of mind.

Keira can slip into a strong Scottish accent with the flick of a dictaphone switch. And so, it seems, can Rachael.

She says: "What a bloody stupid thing that poll was, frankly. I mean, who the hell are these useless people who make these things up, eh? It should be called Twatler."

No matter. You're not likely to know Rachael as a face from Tatler, anyway.

Those of you who watched BBC1's raunchy drama Tipping The Velvet on the other hand are unlikely to have forgotten her. As lesbian Nan, she got audiences all hot and bothered in her clinches with Spooks star Keeley Hawes.

But, as middle aged men get used to saying her name in front of their wives without feeling guilty, Rachael still can't see what all the fuss was about.

She says: "I didn't expect the reaction it got. What was a really interesting piece of work was overshadowed by a sex toy.

"That's not something I expected. I thought people would watch it because it was an original story.

"I just didn't expect the papers to react the way they did. It was a romp, a fantasy that was written for a group of friends. It was meant to be an adventure, a surreal, wonderful, funny, original adventure.

"They had 14 complaints at the BBC after episode one and 10 of them were complaining there wasn't enough sex.

"So, frankly, what the big fuss was about, I just don't know."

Well, the sight of two ladies kissing one another's breasts isn't exactly Blue Peter.

It's just as well Mary Whitehouse had moved to the big complaints department in the sky by the time it was transmitted.

Rachael says: "I expected it to be taken on the storyline and not just its sexual content, but that happens all the time.

"It happened in Young Adam, where everyone went to the cinema to see them throwing custard all over each other in that saucy sex scene. But it's just not that saucy. My mentality at the time was that if it gets people to turn on the telly then it can't be bad.

"In America, it was acclaimed, because it wasn't given much promotion there. It was viewed without any preconceived ideas. But here, there was such a brouhaha about me and Keeley."

There sure was. Not least, it was reported, with Rachael's poor boyfriend at the time, John Kycett Green.

He couldn't cope with seeing his lady in girl-on-girl action and their relationship crumbled soon afterwards.

She says: "I'd have thought it would have been a bargain basement bonus. But apparently not. Saying that though, it must be hard for anyone not in this profession to be with someone who is, because until you're part of it, you don't know quite how asexual it all is.

"When you're on set and you're naked and there's a man lighting your chin, and a woman combing your hair, it's just not sexy at all. But all you see on screen is the person you love frolicking about."

But it's not as if you would consider it for real, or anything? "The lines can be blurred, " she says. "But, having said that, I'm not attracted to women."

So what's her take on the sexuality as a sliding scale thing then? "People who can't decide on their sexuality are greedy, " she says, laughing. "Bisexuals are a bit greedy. They want a bit of both.

"Truthfully though, over the last 10 years androgyny has kicked in and women look a little more like men. But then I've never thought sexuality has ever been straight up or down."

Fine, but didn't Woody Allen say that bisexuality immediately doubles your chances of a date on a Saturday night?

"I'm young, free and single and having a whale of a time, " she says. "I'm having a total ball. I'm working hard, doing a play in the West England I don't have time for a boyfriend. They drain your energy."

And quite right too. David Suchet's on top form as the criminal mastermind, and Gillen's brilliant as a smarmy, arrogant artist with a habit for getting involved with his subjects.

Poirot will win Rachael more fans but she doesn't see the role as another step up the ladder. "It's not about pushing my profile up, it's about doing an interesting piece of work, " she says.

"I did Tipping The Velvet because it's the best job I was offered. I never take a job thinking where it's going to take me."

Her latest TV role sees her cast in the return of Poirot on ITV tomorrow, as a tragic cheated wife, hung for the murder of her husband, Aiden Gillen from Queer As Folk. And filming the hanging scene was the most terrifying thing she's done.

She says: "It was nerve-wracking. No matter how much you say to yourself that it's just acting, it's still been filmed to look as realistic and human as possible.

"Despite the fact that you're standing there thinking this is all pretend you still have your ankles strapped, standing on a trap door.

"It made me aware of how terrifying it must have been to be a woman at thatBesides, shedoesn'tneedfans not like the onesshe got after Tipping. "I got some weird mail after that, " she says. "A guy traced his penis on the back of one of the letters Igot, whichwasodd. I held that one with tweezers as I put it in the bin. Who knows what bacteria was on it.

"I got another one from a man who wrote, `I'm 5' 2", from Wolverhampton, I only work in Tesco but I do have very firm buttocks."' Despite her accent, you feel Rachael would be happier with someone who worked in Tesco than another dahling from theindustry. Providing, that is, he can cope with her snogging on screen.

She's probably more at home browsing the soft drinks aisle than she is at showbiz parties. She says: "I went to The Lord of The Ringspremier. Yougo to these things, you don't know anyone, and you findyourself sitting in the loo all night wishing you wereat home watching telly.

"It's that horrible rubbernecking thing, people pretending they're talking to you while looking over their shoulder for someone more interesting. And there never bloody is at these things. Never."

So, come the release of her new film Freeze Frame in the new year whereshe stars alongside madcap comic Lee Evans will she be huddling in the lavvy?

"I've never seen anything like this movie, " she says. "It's utterly original."

The project, with Evans as a paranoid man wrongly accused then acquitted of murder, has Rachael cast as a femme fatale.

"She's very damaged, a dark emotional girl, and I had to go to some dark places while playing her.

She thinks that she's going to the gallows for a just cause but I'm not saying anymore than that."

"Lee's character is so paranoid of ever being wrongfully accused of murder again that he films himself 24 hours a day.

"The film is basically about paranoia in the technical age. Lee is brilliant in it."

With no career plan, Rachael isn't one for goal setting, although there is one thing she'd like to achieve.

She says: "I went to uni in Edinburgh and spent a long time on the estate when I was growing up. I love Edinburgh, it's the most beautiful city on earth, but then Glasgow has the best clubs and DJs.

"We used to come through to The Arches as students to see Judge Jules, then we'd go home and end up dancing on the beach at Gullane.

"In my heart I believe I'm Scottish. I went to school there and grew up there.

"If ever the day comes when I'm rich and famous enough not to have to be in London for auditions then I'm moving to Bannockburn in the blink of an eye."

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