Emma on life from colby to holby

After a career spanning more than two decades, Emma Samms is used to doing the odd thing that might leave other actresses a little red-faced.

In her first appearance in the US soap General Hospital she was naked and in her forthcoming role as a battered wife in Holby City she says that some scenes were a little awkward to do.

"It was some of the medical things," she says coyly. "I won’t go any further than that. I just had to ignore it though because if you have even a little bit of embarrassment in you it will show in your performance. You just have to go for it."

Embarrassment is something Samms knows all about, but what should have been the most embarrassing job of her career is actually one of the most talked about moments in TV history.

As Fallon Carrington-Colby in the hugely successful soap Dynasty and its spin-off The Colbys, Samms became embroiled in soap’s most famous, and most hilariously ridiculous, storyline when her character was abducted by aliens.

"I thought it was a joke at first," she admits. "I thought it was deflecting from the real cliff-hanger of that series. And then they actually went with it.

"They did it very well though," she concedes charitably. "All the special effects were by the people behind Close Encounters Of The Third Kind so it was really well done. And I was the star of it so that was good too. If the cliff-hanger’s on you then that’s always a good thing. But we did realise they were running out of stories." Fast forward nearly 20 years and London-born Samms isn’t done with surprising viewers.

Her latest role is set to put an end to the glamorous image we’ve always associated with the 42-year-old actress as she is made-up to look very battered and bruised for her role as the vulnerable patient Elizabeth Wood in four episodes of Holby City.

"People will be surprised when they see it," Samms smiles. "It’s not a glamorous part to say the least. I look absolutely dreadful pretty much all the way through. They’ll be thinking; ‘Good God, what happened to her?’

"But in one fell swoop I’ll have moved away from Dynasty in a really big way. Then I can only improve after that, so it’s probably a good move."

What she loses in the glamour stakes, Samms has made up for in her enjoyment of the role. She is bursting with enthusiasm when she talks about the few weeks she spent filming at the BBC’s Elstree studios.

And her enjoyment was bolstered yet further by experiencing the bedside manner of fellow new cast member Art Malik, who plays Holby’s anaesthetist, Professor Zubin Khan.

Samms has worked with the True Lies star before - on her very first role in the 1979 fantasy film Arabian Adventure - but this time their characters are set to get much more intimate

"Yes they get quite close, take that however you wish," she laughs. "All I can say is that working with Art was a pleasure because he’s an absolute sweetheart and a brilliant actor.

"We’ve not seen each other since Arabian Adventure so we talked about that to some extent," she grins. "He had one line which he remembers still to this day, it was ‘Save the prisoners’." Samms lives with her husband, Dr John Holloway, and their two children - Cameron, six, and Bea, five - in a rural retreat two hours out of London.

After she became a mum, the actress cut back on her work, only doing the odd television movie and Holby City is her first return to a television series.

"I haven’t worked this hard since I had the kids," she admits. "But I had it easier than, say, Tina Hobley, whose character is looking after patients all the time. She’s in every scene virtually. At least if you’re one of the patients you’re only there if they’re talking about your story."

Despite her obvious enjoyment of her latest job, being a mother is clearly Samms’ favourite role. In many interviews up to the early 90s, Samms waxed lyrical about how she would love to have kids and when they finally came along she adapted to motherhood well.

"About the most far away you can get from being a film star is to be a mother," she says. "They’re at the two ends of the scale in terms of effort and hard work.

"In movies you can be spoilt rotten, they do take care of you very well. And then you go to the other end of the scale where you’re the mother of two babies who you have to do everything for.

"You have to put yourself second which is totally what I wanted to do and it’s been the best job, even though it’s more than a job of course. It’s been the most hard work, the most challenging and also the most joyful."

Samms was looking after children long before she had her own, however. In 1982 she set up the Starlight Foundation, a charity for terminally ill children, in memory of her brother Jamie, who died aged eight from a blood disorder. Though her involvement with the charity has become less as it’s grown, she is immensely proud of it and cites it as the highlight of her career.

Her acting career, she says, has been great fun, although, "it’s no great contribution to society".

"But I do feel that some of the things I’ve done for charity have been useful. Starlight has now grown internationally which is fantastic. To know it’s gone as far as it has makes me feel slightly less guilty about my career."

Charity work isn’t the only sideline she has from acting. Also a renowned photographer, Samms regularly does shoots for both the fashion and magazine industries. But it’s the writing strand of her career that she will be concentrating on next.

"The first screenplay I wrote was made into a film, the second one I recently sold and I’m working on the third one now," she says, proudly. "I’m going to go back to do some more writing at the moment because that’s what I’ve been spending a lot of time on recently."

With so much on the go, the actress says she feels extremely content with her life.

"I think I’ve been lucky to have done anything. For somebody to have worked as many years as I have is really unusual and I’m so grateful. I don’t know what I’ve done to get all these jobs. I’m blessed really."

Emma Samms will be in four episodes of Holby City, from Wednesday, BBC1, 8pm