In the exclusive video, the actress and I’m A Celeb star sat in the hot seat to talk all things showbiz, from her dream celebrity to work with on a TV show, to the next reality show she would go on.
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The 28-year-old was first in the spotlight as a member of girl band Neon Jungle, but later found fame in her role on the popular soap, EastEnders.
After spending the day with us on her exclusive shoot with adorable four-year-old daughter Noa, Jess opened up on her time in Albert Square.
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The actress revealed exclusively to OK!: “One thing that a lot of people don’t know about the behind the scenes of a soap is that the set is not real.
“I was heartbroken when I went into the Queen Vic and realised the walls were literally cardboard.”
The star, who recently took part in I’m a Celebrity, also told us which reality show she is eager to do next – but admitted she would have a lot of learning to do.
“If I could do another reality TV show it would probably be Strictly so I could learn how to dance because I’ve got two left feet,” she said.
After recently teasing her return to the big screen, the TV star goes on to tell OK! that her ultimate dream actress to work with in the future would be non-other than Killing Eve bombshell, Jodie Comer.
Jess confessed to not only admiring her work as Villanelle in the drama, but that she is also her “ultimate girl crush.”
To hear more of Jessica’s juicy confessions, watch the video above!
Here, Jessica tells us about life after leaving the I’m a Celeb castle, her strong bond with daughter Noa and what is next for her in the entertainment industry…
How has life been since leaving the I’m A Celeb castle, Jess?
I don’t think I appreciated how nice it was to have that human interaction! I struggled those first few weeks of January. It was the first time I’d done homeschooling because Noa was at nursery during the first lockdown [she’s now in primary school].
Teachers are heroes! I used to be a teaching assistant, but when it’s your own child it’s completely different. Having that as an added pressure on top of everything I needed to do for myself was hard.
In the end myself and Noa’s dad decided we weren’t going to homeschool. We’re doing learning from home but we’re not necessarily following a structure given to us by the school.
It was causing more negativity than positivity. Now we’ve found our little rhythm and it works for us. My fear was that my stress might rub off on her.
Has your approach to homeschooling made things easier for you?
Definitely. Noa’s teachers have been really supportive and understanding. With all the assignments that are sent home, they say they’re optional.
Before, we’d have a really stressful day and I’d be looking at the clock thinking, “When is it seven o’clock? When will it end?”
And then, as soon as she went to sleep, I’d be like, “Oh my goodness, wake up, I just want to give you a cuddle.” Mum guilt is the worst guilt in the world.
Do you miss Noa when she’s at her dad’s?
Yeah, maybe more so now during lockdown because we’re in each other’s pockets. We sleep in the same bed.
I can’t even pretend it’s because she gets into bed with me, I just put her in my bed. I’m more than happy for her to stay there until she wants to leave.
Sometimes I will wake up when she’s at her dad’s and have a panic at 3am and think, “Where is my child?”
Are there parts of being a single parent that you find especially tough?
Yes. Ideally when you have a kid with someone, you don’t plan to be separated.
Getting my head around that was tricky. But the things that are hard are also what is making it so rewarding and why we have such a strong and special bond.
How has Noa adapted?
We’ve never had much routine in our lives, because of our jobs, so she’s been brought up to be adaptable.
She is the happiest little girl and that’s the most important thing. Our focus is on Noa and that she’s being brought up in the way we both want.
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What is she into?
It’s funny because I tried to bring her up really gender neutral. I didn’t force the girlie toys on her, just so she could make up her own mind, but she is the biggest girlie girl in the world.
She loves make-up, nail varnish and anything purple that glitters, but then again she’s obsessed with Spider-Man and Batman.
Would you like to have more children one day?
I’d love to. I grew up saying I wanted five children. I definitely don’t want five any more, but in an ideal world I would love for Noa to have a sibling to grow up with.
But at the same time I would be OK if it was just us. I can’t imagine loving another child more than her, so maybe it wouldn’t be fair to have more kids.
I was 23 when I fell pregnant and she wasn’t planned, but I think there was a part of me that thought I wouldn’t be able to have children because I’d been diagnosed with PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome], so I wasn’t using the best protection in the world. I was self-sufficient way before 23, but being responsible for a baby was a lot for me at the time.
I struggled a lot at the start because I didn’t have any friends the same age with kids.
Are you dating anyone at the moment?
Right now my head isn’t in the dating world at all. My career is in a really exciting place and I’m enjoying loving myself a bit more. Now that I’m finally approaching 30, I’m concentrating on loving myself.
What qualities do you look for in a partner?
I know it’s a cliché, but you really can’t offer yourself to anyone unless you love yourself, and I would need to recognise that in someone else.
I don’t want to take on the responsibility for someone else’s happiness. I also want them to love their job and be hugely ambitious.
How much did you miss Noa during I’m A Celeb filming?
I’d have really morbid thoughts, like, “What if she eats a grape in school and it’s not cut properly and something happens?” But I don’t think she even really missed me!
She was with her dad and she coped fine. In my head she was crying herself to sleep, but I’m so glad that wasn’t the case.
It seemed like you and Giovanna Fletcher really bonded on the show…
She has an energy about her that just draws you in. She has a really gentle nature and she makes you feel safe. I’m the opposite. I get quite antsy, I’m an overthinker and I worry about things.
As a fellow mum it was also nice to get that level-headed reassurance from her that everything was going to be OK. She was my rock. We’ll 100% get the kids together when we can.
We all have a group WhatsApp and it’s always going off. Shane [Richie] is always posting memes and Jordan [North] is talking about football.
Vernon Kay has said he still hasn’t put the weight back on that he lost in the castle. Did you lose weight?
I only lost 1kg! But I’ve put that back on in lockdown, and some – I feel so much better for it. I feel like I was starting to look like a lollipop!
We loved you on EastEnders. Would you like to have stayed on it?
I do think it was the right time to leave. I love doing things and then moving onto something else. I love EastEnders and if they called tomorrow and said, “Come back,” I wouldn’t be able to turn it down.
But I’m happy I left in the way I did and the storyline I did. Being involved in that was huge.
I’m still in touch with the crew and Zack [Morris], Stevie [Basaula] and Diane [Parish] call me occasionally. And Roger [Griffiths] will send me random presents in the post. He’s such a dad!
Have you ever experienced discrimination in the industry?
My mum is white and I have privilege because my skin is lighter, but I feel like I am definitely stereotyped, not necessarily in my career, but just generally. I feel a pressure to not be judged in the wrong way and I think that’s just ingrained in me systemically and the way I was brought up in school.
But I feel like after the Black Lives Matter movement a lot of people have woken up to the fact that change should be happening.
What’s next for you?
When I was at EastEnders it was perfect because it was the closest thing to a nine-to-five you can get.
I want my future work to still allow me to focus on Noa as much as I can.
My dream is to look at more TV and film roles, saying yes to things and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone like I did with I’m A Celeb.
But right now I am enjoying the time I have at home with Noa and I’m just concentrating on getting through this awful pandemic.