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March 17, 2020

Donna Air – The Spear’s Midas interview

By Anna Solomon

The Geordie actress, now starring in The Split on BBC1, talks divorce, happiness and being back on the Beeb

How much is an ounce of gold?

I haven’t got a clue… about £500, I would guess.

Are you more of a saver or a spender?

I’m very much a ‘live in the moment’ sort of girl, but I think it is also important to have contingency and risk margin. Travel is my biggest indulgence, but I would say that that is more of an investment anyway.

Where is your favourite place to holiday?

I really want to go out into the wild, to the Serengeti. I’m also very happy on a mountain – anywhere that I can hike is good for me.

You’re starring in the second series of The Split

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Yes, I play a TV star who is in a relationship with a narcissistic character who gaslights her and lies. She doesn’t really know what to do, where to turn and who to trust. It was great fun to play – there were lots of tears…

You’ve gone through some high-profile break-ups. Do you relate to your character?

The splitting of a family where children are involved is exceptionally tricky – so I was able to draw on that. This is the joy of getting older: the roles are more interesting because you have more life experience to put in.

When did you get into acting?

My first break was on the BBC. Newcastle is quite a small place and there was only one show in the village, and that was Byker Grove. The producer asked me if I would be interested in auditioning for a principal role, and I was cast for five or six years.

How was it, being in the public eye from such a young age?

I just remember thinking how great it was that I didn’t have to go to school full-time. And I remember getting my first pay cheque and that feeling of empowerment. I was ten years old.

What has been your favourite project?

Byker Grove will always have a special place in my heart, but doing The Split was a dream gig. I got to work with such talented people: Stephen Mangan, Nicola Walker, Anna Chancellor… Plus it was all shot in London; I didn’t even have to go to a desert in the middle of nowhere!

Do you consider yourself lower, middle or upper-class?

I’ve never considered myself any class! I don’t put myself into a box and don’t view people like that. I do have a very strong work ethic – maybe that is the working-class girl in me.

Do you think money can buy happiness?

Happiness definitely comes from within, but money can give you choices. You don’t need huge amounts of money to be happy. I’ve never thought that things or money defined me. I’ve been incredibly happy and sad in different times, with or without money.

What is your worst quality?

I’m probably too stoic sometimes. I think I should let people take care of me a little bit more.

What is your best quality?

I think that I’m kind, and I’ve been told I have a good sense of humour.

What is your biggest regret?

I don’t really have regrets. I think you’ve got to trust that what’s for you doesn’t pass you by. Maybe I sometimes should have put myself first a little bit more, but I think a lot of women are guilty of that – it is so easy to look after everyone else and forget about yourself.

What has been the happiest moment of your life?

The birth of my daughter. Babies bring huge amounts of joy – they’re life-changing.

Illustration by Russ Tudor

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