Actress, impressionist and comedienne Debra Stephenson, is a busy lady and one in continual demand.
Yet, she says, people still ask her when she will ‘return to acting’, but the truth is that she has never been away, simply taking some time off from the small screen to appear on stage.
She said: “People often say to me, ‘So would you ever go back to acting?’ because if you’re not doing TV, then people think that you are not working.
“I did a play not long ago, called Red Hot Lovers, which was just great to do, because I just sometimes need to be an actress. I think that when you actually do plays, you can hone your craft a bit more. It might sound a bit pretentious, but you really need to work hard in order to keep up your skills and even just to work on your memory skills.”
In addition, she will also be featuring in the next series of BBC’s Dead Ringers, alongside fellow impressionist Jon Culshaw which will go back to its roots on the radio.
“Whether it will come back to TV again, I don’t know, but it is a great honour to be involved in it because I couldn’t do it the first time because I was too busy being involved in TV drama.”
Debra moved to Poole around five years ago with husband, James Duffield, and their children, Max and Zoe, for a taste of life by the sea.
But rather than moving quietly into the area and not mixing in, Debra has starred in numerous pantomimes at the Lighthouse Poole. She has also taken on the role of patron at two charities, Julia’s House children’s hospice and Lewis-Manning Hospice.
It was her friend, children’s TV presenter Chris Jarvis, who introduced her to Julia’s House, based in Broadstone, which offers help to life-limited children and their families across the south by offering respite sessions and care at home.
“I went to one of their fundraising dos and I just sort of struck up some kind of relationship with them. They invited me to visit the hospice and that’s when I just knew that it was going to be something important to me and that I wanted to be involved.
“I didn’t know what to expect before I went. I had been to a hospice before but never a children’s hospice. I was scared, to be honest. I thought that it would be emotional and I wasn’t sure who I might see or what I might see. It wasn’t busy on the day that I went and what I didn’t realise, or what surprised me, is that it is more respite and that it’s a very happy place for children to go and be happy.
“I was really, really impressed with the sensory room in particular. It’s amazing and a lovely place for children with special needs to feel, touch and enjoy. I was really impressed. It’s a very nurturing environment. It feels very special and the work that they do is very special.”
Asked what her favourite fundraising event has been, she doesn’t pause for long before saying: “The best thing was appearing on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
“Thanks to Jon Culshaw, who took quite a big risk with a question that we weren’t sure on, we together won £50,000 and so I was able to give half of that to Julia’s House. That’s probably just about enough to employ a nurse for a year, so I was really, really pleased.”
She said that the charity are ‘ambitious’ to make things better and better for the children, meaning that she feels some pressure to continue appearing on TV, to ‘add any weight with the charity’.
Julia’s House and Lewis-Manning have both spoken of their gratitude at her being a committed supporter of their causes.
During our chat, Debra appears sweet, unassuming, happy to talk to fans and seems blissfully unaware of her station as one of the nation’s – and Dorset’s sweethearts.