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 in Burn The Floor and will soon take up the coveted role of Roxie Hart in Chicago where she will tour the UK.
Ali took time out before she started touring to talk about how she thinks dogs mirror their owners, listening to your mum, the best thing about acting on screen and on stage - and of course tell us all about her best friend, Molly.
Tell us about your dog - we'd like to know everything about her!
I have a 7 ½ month old Cockapoo called Molly. She loves to snuggle. I think she has the loving, affectionate side of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and is the best of both breeds.
She comes with me to work sometimes and whether I'm sitting in a make-up chair or in a dressing room, she's just so well behaved. She loves children as well which is great, whenever she sees them she gets so excited to play.
I think it's because at a young age I exposed her to all sorts of situations. She got used to being around children, being taken to different place and going on the tube or bus in London. She's a good city dog.
When did your interest in pets/animals begin and how long have you been a pet owner?
I grew up with family dogs. We had Danny, a rescue Labrador and he was very protective over my brother and I. He had the loveliest nature. We always had cats, fish, hamsters – one hamster got eaten by the cat actually – it just disappeared out of it's cage one day!
Animals were always a big part of our childhood which is why I always wanted a dog of my own, but it had to be in the right circumstances. Having a dog is a big responsibility and so after I had finished a job, I knew I had a few weeks at home and bit of time off coming up in the Summer. That was when I decided to get a dog and Molly came into my life.
I found a breeder near Leeds and she was lovely. I went to visit and they were lovely people. I met the other dogs and I was very happy to take Molly home knowing she'd had a good start in life.
It is funny though when you have a dog and start chatting to people about dogs. Molly's the reason I discovered all about PupAid and heard all about puppy farming. Before Molly I had no idea about it. Now I would really say to anyone thinking about getting a dog to thoroughly research it. More dogs than you probably realise in pet shops or on the Internet are bred by puppy farmers.
If you're thinking about getting a dog, look at rescue centres, or if you're looking to buy a puppy once you've researched the breed, make sure the breeder is interested in your home, your circumstances and ask to meet the parents.
You've been really lucky to become well known for playing two different characters in soaps – Becca Dean in Channel 4's Hollyoaks for 6 years from 2001, to your move to ITV's The Bill where you played Sally Armstrong from 2007. Playing those characters for such a long time in 'Soapland', how did you avoid becoming type-cast?
Well I spent 6 years at Hollyoaks and 3 years at The Bill so I tried to be as varied as possible in the characters I played. “Soapland” itself is a journey and it's really great to be able to try different characters and the story lines for each were so different.
I've really loved the two characters I've played. My character Sally, in The Bill was a bit older and more challenging. My character Becca, in Hollyoaks had an affair with a pupil so that was very different!
I loved my time on both shows, getting to work in different environments with different people, it's all good for cutting your teeth!
After those roles, you then moved onto what must be every girls dress-up dream, Strictly Come Dancing, where you had huge success and has shaped another stage in your career and very soon we'll see you take to the stage as Roxie Hart in Chicago. You must be thrilled?
I really got the dance bug after Strictly Come Dancing! I still dance in London at the studios of Karen Hardy (professional dancer on the show until 2009). After Strictly I went back to my roots and went on tour with 'Verdict', an Agatha Christie play and it was great to do something a little different for a while.
Playing Roxie in Chicago is such a dream come true.It's an exciting marriage of everything and I can't wait!
Would your success on Strictly Come Dancing encourage you to do more reality TV?
I'm not sure really. Strictly Come Dancing was something I knew I really wanted to do. I remember watching the original 'Come Dancing' with my grandma when I was a little girl and just being drawn in by the beautiful dresses. It was good family entertainment.
If you hadn't followed your heart and become an actress, what career path do you think you might have taken?
I grew up wanting to become an actor and I never veered away from what I knew I wanted to do. I think I was very lucky to know what I wanted to be so I got into it at a very young age.
Do you have a motto that you live your life by? What would you say Molly's motto might be?
My motto would be 'always listen to your mother, she always knows best.' And Molly's, well it wouldn't be that! I think I'm really lucky to have Molly in my life. She's such a lovely spirit and she's such a happy little puppy. I think hers might be something along the lines of 'live in the present, not the past'.
I think one of the best things about her and dogs in general is that they just love. They don't project onto you if they've had a bad day, or anything like that. They just love unconditionally.
If you were to swap roles with Molly for a day, how do you think she'd cope being you and what would you most love about being her?
(Laughs) I think I wouldn't be that into the food although I'd love the snoozing. I'm such a snoozy person, that would be lovely actually. Just being able to curl up and fall asleep without thinking you've got to be somewhere or do something. Although I'm not so sure about pee'ing outside!
I think she'd be absolutely fine as me, she's a bit of a drama queen and loves performing. I do think dogs soak up your energy as an owner, I'm sure there's a lot of nurture absorbed. She's very like me in that she's really clumsy too. She hits her head all of the time – and so do I!
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 celebrities and dog lovers were breeds of dogs, based on their personalities alone, what type of breed do you think they'd be...
Alesha Dixon – (Laughs) I think she'd be a Dalmatian. She's very pretty and has lovely long limbs.
Kevin Sacre (played Ali's on-screen husband in Hollyoaks) – I think he'd be a Spaniel. He's full of beans – like tigger!
Dawn Steele (plays alongside Ali in Agatha Christie's 'Verdict') – I think she'd be a Welsh Terrier. Her dog looks like her husband – in a very lovely way.
Sir Bruce Forsyth – Oh tough one! I think he'd be a Norfolk Terrier. I've no idea why but I just see that breed.
Which do you prefer and why?
Big dogs or little dogs – Definitely both! I'd love a big dog like a Bernese Mountain Dog or a St. Bernard, but I'd need lots more space than I have now.
Pedigree dogs or x breeds – It doesn't matter to me. I know some people wouldn't get a cross-breed because they'd want to understand the personalities of the breeds. I think it's great, you get the best of both worlds!
Days off or days at work – I like both. I like working because it doesn't feel right not working, but at the same time I value my time off because it's nice to have a day off and just chill out and cosy up inside.
Describe the last time you laughed out loud because of something you saw Molly, or another dog do.
(Laughs) Oh goodness, all the time. She's always doing something to make me laugh. Whether it's putting a Santa outfit on her like we did at your shoot, and her face while we're putting her legs through it – or at home when she's so excited and walking on the wooden flooring. You look at her face and you know she's concentrating so hard to sit or run, but when she's so excited she just struggles to get a grip on the flooring.
If you had the choice to arrange a dinner party taking three people (choosing from any era, past or present), who would you choose?
You know I'd probably invite my three oldest friends from school. We don't get to catch up often enough and so that would be my ideal scenario.
What is your current favourite…?
TV show – Grey's Anatomy, I'm such a huge fan of the show.
Book – It would have to be 'How To Be A Woman' by Caitlin Moran, it's such a funny book.
Film – I recently watched Hachi: A Dog's Tale with my mum. I don't think I've cried so much at a film before. I just kept thinking about Molly and how much she's like my child almost. It's not my favourite all time film, but it had such an impact on me.
Album – I really love Ed Sheeran's debut album +
If you could sum it up, what do you think is the best thing about being a dog owner?
I think the responsibility that owning a dog gives you is really wonderful If you're ready for it. It gives you roots almost, you can't just disappear off somewhere, you have to make sure your home for when they need you and it's just the nicest feeling.
I think the companionship they give you is great, they become your best friend.
Finish the following sentence, my dog is... on springs! She's the bounciest dog.
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….If Molly had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask her and what do you think that she would say?
Well my brother lives with me and we say if you look at her you can almost tell what she's thinking when she looks at you. I think she has a good level of understanding.
But I'd probably ask her if she really did like her dry food and I hope she'd say yes, or tell me what she would like instead.
Many Thanks Ali!
Ali Bastian Was Speaking With Kim O'Meara