This life in lockdown suits me says Daniela Nardini

By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland

  • Published
Daniela rose to fame playing Anna in This Life in 1996 (with jack Davenport)
Image caption,
Daniela rose to fame playing Anna in This Life in 1996 (with Jack Davenport)

Daniela Nardini is best known for playing the feisty Scots lawyer Anna in 90s TV show This Life but in recent years she stepped back from acting after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She says spending time in lockdown at her home in Glasgow, with her 13-year-old daughter Claudia, has helped her focus on two new pursuits - painting and training as a mental health counsellor.

Daniela says: "It's always been a hobby and I have painted for a few years, sometimes with my daughter. I'm one of those mums who likes to get involved in every project.

"The lockdown made me commit to it and start painting every day, and I started to produce work, really quite quickly."

Her images are all of women. She works in acrylic, and paints over anything she's not happy with.

They are vibrant, colourful, and strong.

One is quite clearly a self portrait, following her treatment. She says she has taken to naming them after women in her own Scots Italian family.

Image source, Daniela Nardini

"Things come to life when I put colour on the canvas, and it's definitely women," she says.

"That could be because I was ill with breast cancer.

"The images are quite tribal, they're tattooed and pierced and I'm not sure where that's coming from."

Daniela, who is now 52, grew up in Largs, on the Ayrshire coast, the only daughter among three brothers in her branch of the Nardini family, who ran the town's seafront restaurant and ice cream parlour.

Image source, Daniela Nardini

She says she had no particular interest in acting until she was 14 when started taking drama lessons.

That led to her studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow but she struggled to find work when she first qualified.

She was considering teaching at the point she got her big break, aged 28, in the TV show This Life.

"I'd heard on the grapevine they were looking for a Scottish actress to play this part in this new drama," she says.

"Liz Lochhead was a friend of the casting director and she asked Liz if she knew anyone who would be good for the role and she recommended me.

"I went to London, read for the part, and two or three days later the part was mine."

The show which began in 1996, and ran for two seasons, centres on the lives of 20-something law graduates sharing a house in South London.

Image caption,
Daniela in Scots comedy Two Doors Down

Daniela played Anna Forbes, a young Scottish lawyer, who was both feisty and vulnerable.

"I knew it was fresh and daring and different but I had no idea it was going to become this cult classic TV series," she says.

"It became, overnight, a huge success and we were all famous, recognised, and being asked everywhere. It was heady, strange, intoxicating, and scary."

The show was a launchpad for many of the actors, writers and production team and its inspiration can be seen in many TV shows since but Daniela found the character of Anna hard to shake off.

"I don't think I've ever really shaken it off," she says.

"That character made such an impact. We hadn't really seen many young women like that portrayed on television. I don't think people of my generation have ever really let go of that."

She did go on to work in plenty of other roles, on screen and on stage but having been forced to step back from acting because of ill health, she says she is in no hurry to return.

"A few friends have said lockdown seems to be really working for you," she says.

"It has focused me. I'm not saying I don't want to act again, I just have other things I'd like to do at the moment, like painting, and training to be a counsellor."