Tamzin Outhwaite on her mum, husband and family

Former EastEnders actress Tamzin Outhwaite (51) opens up about finding happiness after a heartbreaking divorce and the special bond of her new blended family

Tamzin Outhwaite picture

by Alison James |

Actress Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Mel Owen in EastEnders and is a successful star of both stage and screen, tells us how her late mum Anna’s wise words will stay with her forever, talks about the menopause, and her new, blended family.

It’s far from a given that children of any age will happily accept the situation when a single mum – or dad – brings a new partner into their lives. But Tamzin Outhwaite has no worries on that score. She says her two girls, Florence (13) and nine-year-old Marnie Mae – whom she shares with former husband, actor Tom Ellis – are blessed that her current partner is part of their family set-up and has fully embraced the role of stepfather.

“He’s a dream stepdad,” Tamzin says. “My kids sometimes give him a hard time as that’s what kids do to step- parents, but deep down they know he’s kind, he cares and loves them. They adore him.

“They take the mickey out of him and he takes it very well. They’re strong girls and a force to be reckoned with when they get together and gang up. I’ve taught them well!" Tamsin has been open in the past about Tom’s great relationship with her girls and praised him for stepping up to the role, saying “It takes a really special human to come in as a stepdad with two young girls – to be able to sort of politely back me up with them and stay stuff like, ‘You can’t speak to your mum like that’.

And while Tamzin has admitted her daughters can give Tom ‘a tough time’ she’s always stressed how fortunate they
are to have such a loving stepdad, saying “Deep down he is kind, he cares and loves them deeply, and I know how lucky I am.”

Tamsin’s world came crashing down when her marriage with Miranda actor Tom Ellis broke down in 2013. The pair were divorced the following year and Tamsin took a break to heal and spend time with their two young daughters, hinting at her devastation over the split when she shared a social media post about being ‘brutally broken’ as Tom announced he was set to remarry.

Now the actress happily tells Yours that she’s settled with a partner who is ‘loyal, fun and feels like home’ after she started dating actor and documentary maker, Tom Child, in 2018. And while at 29, he’s more than 20 years her junior, she insists the age difference simply isn’t an issue for either of them.

“Nobody ever says anything about older men being with younger women, do they? Many women are with younger men, these days. There’s Joan Collins and Helena Bonham Carter for a start, so I’m in good company.

“Tom’s very good for my mental and physical health. He reminds me to just breathe if I’m not having a great time.

“He’s incredibly loyal, bright and fun and feels like ‘home’ but he’s also an adventure. He’s got my back, and that’s a lovely thing.”

Speaking of lovely things, she regularly posts images of her stunning home on Instagram.

“I’m totally obsessed with upcycling furniture and going to vintage fairs and boot sales,” she laughs. “I like to strip furniture back or paint it or change it – even if that only means putting new knobs on drawers. I like the life that old furniture has – the history. The fact it’s not disposable like so much of modern life.

“Doing stuff up is a creative outlet for me plus it's great for the planet. I get such a thrill from finding unusual items and customising them. I’ve had quite a few items handed down to me which is the way it used to be. I’d love a little shop and if ever I stop acting, that’s what I’ll do.”

There’s not much chance of that. She’s currently starring in BBC1’s Freeze the Fear, where a group of celebrities take on a series of sub-zero challenges, and appears in an episode of psychological thriller, We Hunt Together on Alibi TV streaming service – while her latest film, Bull, was released last month.

“It’s not an easy watch as the film is about an Essex-based criminal who sets about getting revenge on those he feels have wronged him,” she explains. I play an Essex matriarch called Sharon. I’m an Essex girl born and bred, and while we weren’t the toughest family on the block, I knew some that were. Sharon is not based on any one character but she does remind me of my nan’s neighbour.”

Tamzin plays these gritty, raw characters very well. How does it feel to have to deliberately look her worst?

“I’ve always been about the lack of hair and make-up, so it’s liberating. I love inhabiting and exploring the extremities of a human being’s personality. It’s very cathartic.”

Like many of us – regardless of age – there are times when she’d love the benefit of her own mum’s advice. Sadly, it’s two-and-a-half years since Tamzin’s beloved mum Anna died.

Luckily, though, she had such a close relationship with her mum that whenever she’s worried, in doubt or questioning something, she can still hear Anna’s voice in her head.

“I think I always will,” she says.

Tamzin Outhwaite and her mum

“I miss my mum so much but it is a real comfort to instinctively know what she’d say to me in certain situations. In August my car was broken into and a suitcase full of clothes stolen, including a coat that had belonged to Mum and which I always think of her wearing. I was devastated but I know she would have said, ‘Tam, they’re just things. Possessions. Don’t worry’.

"I hear Mum, too, when I occasionally consider getting botox, fillers or whatever. ‘What are you thinking about that, for?’ she says in my mind. ‘Just have some apple cider vinegar and drink a glass of warm water!’ Mum believed in being natural. She taught me so much and I constantly strive to be like her.”

When it comes to looking and feeling good, Tamzin – like her mum – prefers the natural approach.

“Work from the inside out,” she says. “I feel my best when I eat a plant-based diet, ditch alcohol and dairy, and regularly do yoga. I did that for a month in August with the result that I looked and felt better than I’d done in ages. It really does work but when you start, it is undeniably tough. However, get past the first week, and you’re OK.

"I get yearnings for a glass of Prosecco but I just tell myself no and find something else to do. Getting lots of sleep is also very important to looking and feeling good but I’m not a great sleeper, unfortunately. I often wake in the early hours and can’t get back to sleep. Maybe it’s something to do with the menopause.”

The ‘change’ as it used to be called was one of the main subjects of Dun Breedin a comedy drama filmed by the actors at home during the lockdown about a group of mid-life women. Tamzin plays one of the main characters. It was conceived and written by Benidorm actress – and Tamzin’s good friend – Julie Graham.

The menopause just isn’t really documented when it comes to drama and comedy on our screens,” Tamzin explains. “Occasionally, the subject comes up but the menopausal women themselves tend to be the butt of the joke. But the truth is that women going through the menopause and beyond can still be sexy and very, very funny, not just dithering messes.

"In Dun Breedin Julie wrote about the realities of this life change in a very brave yet humorous way which I think many, many women can relate to. The hope is that we’ll make a TV pilot of Dun Breedin as there has been some interest. I haven’t had that many menopausal symptoms yet – apart from the insomnia, that is. I remember my mum telling me she didn’t really notice anything, she was just a bit grumpy. So, I’m thinking genetically I’ll probably have a similar menopause.”

You can watch the lockdown-filmed Dun Breedin on YouTube__.

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