It was all very weird and dream like. I was sitting in a large room, opposite a luxurious golden bed on which Linda Lusardi was sitting with her husband, Sam Kane, and she was telling me that she thinks perhaps The Sun’s page 3 image has had its day.
But I wasn’t having a dream, I had actually dropped into the Royal & Derngate’s rehearsal room, where the theatre was hosting its press launch of this year’s panto, Sleeping Beauty.
And the strikingly beautiful husband and wife team, who this year make their return to the Northampton stage, having appeared at the Royal & Derngate in panto four years ago, had plenty to say about the show and thoughts on their careers in general.
I really threw the question about page 3 into the interview as an afterthought.
Aware of the growing online campaign against The Sun’s page in which young girls smile and bare their breasts, I was expecting Linda to stand up in the paper’s defence.
But when asked for her thoughts on the anti-page 3 campaign, Linda – once voted the best page 3 girl of all time – spoke seriously, saying: “I think it has been around for so long, and perhaps it has had its day really. Things have changed so much...”
Talking to Linda, it is obvious that many things have changed in her life since those glamour modelling days of the 1980s. As opposed to disappearing into the mists of obscurity, she has remained a household name, keeping in the public eye through a string of high-profile acting and presenting roles.
That is before we even start to think about the other strings to her bow: Her own skincare range, a new clothing line for which she has been the associate designer, and her Linda Lusardi Photography business.
She is also a mother-of-two, happily married to actor Sam, who will be playing a henchman and taking on the role of panto director in Northampton, while Linda plays the evil character, Carabosse.
Panto has a special place in their hearts as they first met while performing in a traditional festive show.
Shooting an affectionate glance at Sam, Linda said: “Whenever we do panto it is always the anniversary of when we first met 18-years ago in Darlington.”
Both Sam and Linda are now panto veterans (Sam has been appearing in pantos for 25 years). He said: “It is so much fun to do. It is only a short run these days, but when you are working for the best company in the world, it makes life a lot easier, with all the bells and whistles all around you.”
Linda said: “It is hard work. I think we are the only people who lose weight over Christmas; with two shows a day you have to give it 100 per cent and you have full houses and kiddies coming for the first time.”
It does seem that panto has come a long way. As well as seeing the actors on stage, Sleeping Beauty audiences will also be greeted with the vision of 3D images shooting out at them and special viewing glasses will be available so visitors can enjoy this to the full.
Sam said: “It does take it that step further, technology moves on so fast and it is getting so much bigger in the expectations the audiences have.”
Linda said: “The old view of panto with wobbly sets and animal costumes has gone, they are like big extravaganzas now with millions spent on them.”
On TV, Linda is perhaps best known as having played Maggie Lyons in The Bill and Carrie Nichols in Emmerdale.
She has fond memories of appearing in Emmerdale and confesses she would love to appear in another soap, but perhaps one that is London-based and closer to home.
She said: “I absolutely loved Emmerdale, it was really just the geography of it. At the time it became too difficult for mummy to be away for such a long time. It was really for six days a week and there wasn’t time to return from Yorkshire on a Sunday. I loved every minute of it and I would go back short term if I was asked.”
She said: “I think everything in my life has been accidental. It has all been offered to me along the way, and I have taken opportunities when they have been there, none of it has been planned.”
Linda has also made appearances in shows such as Celebrity Masterchef and Dancing On Ice. The latter proved a bit of an ordeal as she broke her foot in training, although she still managed to compete until week seven. She then joined the national tour around the country with Torvill and Dean. But would she consider appearing in BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing?
Linda said: “I don’t think they ask people who have been on Dancing On Ice, but if this is Dancing On Ice’s last year, hopefully they would consider asking me in the future.”
Sam is also no stranger to the trauma-filled world of soap, having appeared in Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Brookside and Coronation Street. But he has also been making his mark as a director and this year he directed the new play, Kiss Me Honey Honey, at the Edinburgh Festival, which went on to win a Fringe First Award.
Born in Liverpool as one of eight children, Sam left school at the age of 16 to study performing arts at The Liverpool Theatre School, where he graduated with honours.
He landed his first TV role as a producer on Bread and his first stage role was on a UK and Japanese tour of South Pacific.
He is perhaps best remembered as having played the loveable hairdresser, Peter Phelan, on the soap opera, Brookside.
But what is it like to direct his own wife on stage?
He said: “It is easy. Linda is a great actress and great actors and actresses don’t need a lot of direction.”
Sam said: “Acting and singing has been my calling since I was a kid.
“It is all I ever wanted to do and fortune has popped its head up now and then and I have grabbed hold with both hands. It takes you to some strange places, showbusiness, and we have ended up in some happy places, which is great. I do love directing and directed my first play outside panto this year; that was a lovely thing to do.
“I thought it was going to be more difficult than panto, but I was wrong, panto is a big task because of so many different genres on the stage and it is basically getting a huge production on in 10 days. It is no mean task.”
Sleeping Beauty, produced by Qdos Entertainment, will run from Friday, December 6 until Sunday, January 5. See www.royalandderngate.co.uk. This year’s panto is being sponsored by the Northampton Chronicle & Echo and Heart.