Interview with Ali Bastian
Ali Bastian is a British TV actress best known for playing Sally Armstrong in 'The Bill' and Becca Dean in 'Hollyoaks'. Since reaching the semi-finals of 'Strictly Come Dancing' in 2009, she has gone onto take starring roles in the West End's hit show 'Burn The Floor' and she landed the role of Roxie Hart in 'Chicago'.
Ali spoke with Kim O'Meara at K9 Magazine a few years ago introducing us to her beloved Cavapoo, Molly. After recently adopting Mable, we were really keen to find out all about Mable, before the trio launch their new Pet Travel series in K9 Magazine from next month.
Tell us about your dogs - we'd like to know everything about Mable and how Molly is doing, it's hard to believe it's been so long since we first met her!
(Laughs) I know, Molly was seven and a half months old when we first spoke and she just turned four in April.
We adopted Mable, who we think is five years old, in December and it really came about because of Molly.
We got Molly from a lovely and responsible breeder in Wakefield but afterwards I started learning lots more about puppy farming and that horrendous situation, so we were lucky but it's amazing how many aren't and how many unwanted dogs there are in this country.
At that point I decided if I were to get another dog it would be a rescue, and so last year Molly and I were invited to host the 90th anniversary event for the Wood Green Animal Shelter, who I'm now an ambassador for. It was a wonderful, very glamorous evening – the kind that's also very hard to leave without a dog, although of course being a responsible rescue that's not optional anyway because they match dogs up with their owners making sure they're right for you and vice versa.
And so at the end of the evening, they told me they would keep an eye out for me for a dog coming in who would be a good fit for Molly and I, and our home.
When Mable came into rescue she was a stray so not very much at all is known about her past life, but they felt she would be a good match for us so we went along to meet her and instantly we fell in love. Her and Molly got on very well and the animal behaviourist who was there to assess also felt we were all a good match.
Mable's a very loving, well behaved girl. The rescue felt she must have gone it alone for a little while, I just can't really fathom that but hope life wasn't too difficult for her.
It's very sad and awful when people just can't cope with their animal and abandon. Some reasons you can almost understand but when people just abandon or give their dogs up as a result of lack of research about dogs in general, or their breed, it's so sad for the dogs because they end up in rescue and there's a perception about dogs in rescue that's just not true. Most often dogs find themselves there because of reasons outside of their control and there are tens of thousands of wonderful dogs waiting for new homes.
Photography by Anthony Mayatt
For me, it's been wonderful adopting. Mable's absolutely fantastic, but as a bonus to being older, she's been house-trained, so whereas you go through that whole stage with a new puppy, for us it's been really simple. It's just another benefit that people might not realise about adopting a dog.
Last time we spoke you told us that animals were always a big part of family life growing up. How did Molly adapt to having a sister?
If I'm honest I didn't fully process it in my mind because Molly had been an only dog for so long. I knew she got on well with other dogs but didn't think about how she'd feel having a sister, but she was absolutely fine and she's always been such a good girl, although I'm probably biased!
For a little while at home they spent time working out each other's parameters but I let them figure it out between themselves with positive reinforcement so they each learnt the other's boundaries. Now all they do is play all day, they sleep next to each other and they're inseparable.
I've just come back from a few days away so the girls stayed with my dad and step-mum and they've spent the time snuggled up next to each other sticking by each other's sides. They're so close now it's really heartwarming to see.
Our readers will best know you for your time in two of Britain's iconic soaps, firstly 'Hollyoaks' followed by 'The Bill', which led you onto 'Strictly Come Dancing' where you reached the semi final in 2009 and you caught the dancing bug. Are you still dancing and do you still have the bug?
(Laughs) I don't think you ever lose it to be honest. I try to keep it all going and it's so much fun and great exercise.
Dancing is wonderful for switching your mindset aswell, you can go into a class in one frame of mind and come out in a completely different mood and feel so lifted afterwards.
Thinking about it, I haven't done ballroom or latin for a little while so I might go back and have some lessons to freshen up.
So much happened because of Strictly, particularly 'Burn The Floor' in the West End and of course if you'd told me I'd have been playing Roxie in 'Chicago' at any point, well, I'd have been floored before the show.
It was such a confidence growing experience for me, I absolutely cherish it.
You obviously like being busy and having lots of different things on the go because you're now a travel writer which is great for us because from next month we'll be launching a new Pet Travel series with you and the girls! What is it about having a varied day which you most enjoy?
I absolutely love any outlet for creativity and now travel writing is another way for me to release that so I'm really loving it.
It actually started when I had a role in 'Death in Paradise' on the BBC and had to film in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. I just got so inspired by the country I thought 'I have to travel more' so that's what I've been doing.
I've spent sometime going from job to job, I spent six year on 'Hollyoaks' and three years on 'The Bill', as well as a year touring with 'Chicago' and I loved every minute of it and developing the characters I played, but it's also nice to have the variety so I can travel in between jobs.
Creatively, whether I'm doing voice overs, acting, dancing or writing, I really value what each allows me to express in shorter more intense bursts.
Molly absolutely loves travelling, she got so used to travelling around the country with me when I did 'Chicago' and when I picked Mable up the first thing I did was take her to a beautiful beach to run around because I thought she might never have done that before and I wanted her to have that experience.
We're loving hitting the road together as often as we can and we're excited for our adventures to unfold in K9 Magazine!
Without giving an spoilers away (if you can) from your first column with us, where's the most pet friendly place you've visited with Molly and Mable?
Well, actually our first column with you is from somewhere we love. From the moment the girls turned up they were lavished with treats, their own beds and lots of space in the hotel's grounds to tear around in. It was fabulous, but we'll tell you more about it in the next issue (laughs).
Great, we'll look forward to that – in the meantime Ali get ready to anthropomorphise with our next set of questions...
Do you have a motto that you live your life by? And what would you say Molly and Mable's mottos might be?
Mine is one my mum always says to me which is 'go with the flow' and it sounds simplistic but for me flow means do the things that make you happy and other good things seem to follow. That's my flow.
I'm realising as I grow older just how important that is for your own happiness.
For the girls, let me think about it for a second. I think Mable's would be 'if it doesn't move, eat it' (laughs). She eats every meal like could be her last, which might be a pointer to her past.
Molly's would probably be 'run with the wind' (laughs). She's absolutely hilarious when we go out for a walk, she'll let you walk ahead while she hangs back behind you, like she's at the races, then she'll just suddenly run forward with as much gusto as she can, then she'll hang back behind you again and repeat it pelting forward. It's so funny.
Although that said, I probably run just like how Molly looks. I think you always think you look completely different whether running or doing something like zumba, than you actually do.
Are you saying you look like Phoebe from 'Friends' when you run?
(Laughs) Exactly. I remember when I was filming 'The Bill' and I had to film a running scene. Anyway, I did it and then afterwards our lovely producer called me into her office and played it back. Oh god, I was mortified. She told me I had to have running lessons with our stunt man (laughs).
If you were to swap roles with Molly or Mable for a day, first of all who would you choose to swap with, how do you think she'd cope being you and what would you most love about being her?
(Ali thinks for a moment)
I'd swap with Mable and I think it would be good to be her for a day. It's funny how people say dogs are like their owners and I admit I do see some of myself in both girls.
But Mable has this very un-British way about her in that she'll just run up to people and she'll immediately roll over for a belly rub. She absolutely loves a belly rub. She's not very inhibited but she's very good at disarming people. If I were here I'd have to lose some of my inhibitions (laughs).
It would be interesting to see how she'd cope being me in front of the camera. Molly's first photoshoot was with you and this will be Mable's first in front of a camera as well. I have a feeling she'll be an absolute natural.
For this question, we ask our celebs to match up the following people’s personality to a breed of dog, for example, Winston Churchill = Bulldog or J.Lo = Afghan Hound, Frank Bruno = Boxer etc. If the following soap star dog lovers were breeds of dogs, based on their personalities alone, what type of breed do you think they'd be...
Kara Tointon (played Dawn Swann in 'Eastenders') – I think she'd be a sleek, beautiful Weimaraner.
Adele Silva (plays Kelly Windsor in 'Emmerdale') – I love Adele, I think she would be a long haired Chihuaha. She's very pretty and effortlessly chic.
Sarah Jayne Dunn (played Mandy Richardson in 'Hollyoaks') – I love Sarah, she'd be a Golden Retriever. Without a doubt.
Nick Pickard (plays Tony Hutchinson in 'Hollyoaks') – He's such a handsome man and he is such a loyal friend. He absolutely loves clowning around, I used to love that about working with him. I can see him as a Basset Hound.
Here are our quick fire questions, are you ready?
Which do you prefer and why?
Big dogs or little dogs – Can I say both? I've got little dogs just now but I definitely see myself with bigger dogs one day when I've got more space.
Pedigree dogs or cross-breeds – I love all dogs, but I do enjoy a cross-breed.
Days off or days at work – I've learnt to love both over the years. For a long time I always felt I had itchy feet when I had a day off and felt like I should be working, but I've learnt to embrace and enjoy my time off to do something different.
Describe the last time you laughed out loud because of something you saw Molly or Mable, or another dog do.
The girls make me laugh all the time. Mable's like a circus performer (laughs). She loves to sit on her back legs and she'll sit and beg. She sort of scoops with her front paws, it's almost like a doggy lambada. I'm going to try and catch it on film one of these days.
If you could arrange a weekend getaway party taking two other celebrities (choosing from any era, past or present), who would you choose?
Without hesitation I'd take Sarah (Dunn) and Jodi (Albert). Since our time on 'Hollyoaks' together we've stayed such good friends, we're really close and I love it when we're together.
What is your current favourite…?
TV show – I love a box set, I really enjoy starting a show and ploughing through. I'm currently watching 'House of Cards' and just recently saw the first series of 'Broadchurch'. I love a good crime drama.
Book – I read 'Your Voice in My Head' by Emma Forrest at least once a year. My friend, Ellie, from school gave it to me and I really enjoy reading it.
Film – At the moment my favourite films are 'Before Sunrise' and 'Before Sunset'. I watched them again recently and had forgotten how beautiful they were.
Album – Does a Spotify playlist count? I've been reading 'Light Is the New Black' and the author put together a playlist to listen to so I'm really enjoying that.
If you could sum it up, what do you think is the best thing about being a dog owner?
My Gran always used to say that animals gave you 'life in your home and more home in your life' and I understand what that means now. I think they teach you responsibility and I think before I got Molly, that was something I really wanted, to be responsible for someone else.
Finish the following sentence, my dogs are...brilliant, and so funny!
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….If Molly and Mable had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask them and what do you think that they would say?
Oh gosh, I think I'd ask them if they were happy. I just want to know they're happy and have everything they need. And I hope they'd say 'yes'.
Many Thanks Ali!
Ali Bastian Was Speaking With Kim O'Meara