SITTING in a lonely hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, 8,700 miles away from her husband Mark Wright in Hollywood, it’s clear it has been a difficult few months for Michelle Keegan.
During a gruelling nine-month shoot for BBC1 Army drama Our Girl she has faced a near-constant onslaught about the status of her marriage to the former Towie star turned US TV presenter.
Those rumours are sexist, she believes.
Yes, she’s putting her career first for now — but why shouldn’t she?
Babies will come, but for now they can wait as she establishes herself as one of the few soap stars to transition into a leading lady of TV drama.
In an exclusive interview, the 30-year-old says: “It’s been hard enough being away anyway, but then to contend with all that.
“It just comes from nowhere.
I don’t understand how a couple can’t have their separate careers, and why can’t a newly married woman go off and do her job and a husband go off and do his?
“I don’t understand why that’s a negative. It should be celebrated.
“I’d say there is a slight degree of sexism to it. I always think it’s good we’ve got our own careers.
“He’s put all his effort into that and I’m putting all my effort into this.
“And for me, I just find it really exciting that we’re working so hard separately, for our different careers.
“Then, when December comes, when I can have a break, I’m going to go straight over and see him. I find it really exciting.”
Michelle has shot in Nepal, South Africa and has nine more weeks in Malaysia before wrapping in December, possibly for the last time on the series if rumours are to be believed.
At that point she plans to jet to America to be with Mark, 30, who has just signed a lucrative one-year contract to host NBC’s Los Angeles-based entertainment series Extra.
And at some point starting a family will happen.
Michelle reveals: “We always say we both want to have kids, definitely, start a family. But when the time is right.
“We’ll know when the time is right, definitely.”
Michelle intends to spend time in the States with Mark the moment filming wraps, but she’s not committing to a full-time move.
She explains: “Mark’s out there for a year now, I’ll definitely be going out there to see him. He absolutely loves it already.
“I’ll try to split my time between both because I’ve got family that I’m really, really close to and obviously I’m missing them lots as well.
“I’m a real home bod, aren’t I? I don’t think I’d move to America.”
That said, like most British actors, the lure of the big time in Hollywood, possibly even in films, remains an exciting prospect.
She admits: “Oh my God yeah. That’s my dream — to do an amazing film.
“I have an American manager who I went with two years ago, so I’m sure I’ll go for meetings.
“Not saying anything will happen, but if a job ever did come up in America I’d jump at the chance.”
For the moment she’s using technology to keep a relationship going with her husband, who she married in May 2015 after a three-year relationship.
She explains: “Don’t get me wrong, we miss each other so much but we are in constant contact with WhatsApp and FaceTime.
“It’s actually worked out quite well, where he has been in America working hard doing his thing and I’ve been here.
“So it’s not like one of us has been at home for a long period of time without the other.
“It is tough. It’s a long run. We’re working six days a week over 12 hours a day in the heat.
“However, I know how lucky I am. And sometimes, if I’m feeling tired or I’m missing home, I remind myself of that. It’s not for ever.
“I’ll be home in December and I’m going to have a little bit of time off. So I just need to go for it now.”
She’s certainly been going for it filming the third series of Our Girl, the BBC’s military drama where she plays gutsy army medic Corporal Georgie Lane.
The hit drama will run for 12 episodes, made up of three separate “chapters” of four parts, the first of which starts on October 10.
The shoots have been gruelling, with a crew member even suffering a near-deadly spider bite while in Malaysia.
She says of the risks: “I’ve been stung by a wasp and that absolutely killed. The wasps out here are four times the size of a normal wasp.
“I’m constantly getting bitten, by the way, I’ve got mosquito bites all over my body.
“We’ve got medics around us. We’ve got a snake wrangler always with us too, so I do feel very safe.”
The conditions are about as far away from the Corrie make-up room as possible.
Michelle explains: “I quite like the fact you’re not in make-up for hours or you’re not having your hair done for ages.
“It’s quite liberating really. Normally when I do shows you get made up so your skin’s not shiny. Whereas here you can’t keep on top of that. The shinier the better, the sweatier the better.”
Filming takes “the whole year basically”, mainly on location.
The first chapter of four episodes kicks of in Nepal, where Michelle spent two weeks filming in a village near Kathmandu.
She recalls: “It’s in the middle of nowhere and the locals don’t leave the village.
“That’s their life, they kill for their food and you’ve got kids walking round with no shoes on.
“It was weird because you come away with a totally different perspective on life.”
There is speculation Michelle may not return for a potential future series next year, given the gruelling filming schedule.
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Could she be killed off?
She says: “We don’t know what’s happening. We’ve only just got the scripts for nine and ten and I know that 11 and 12 haven’t been written yet. So it could be a possibility, we just don’t know.”
With her career flying high, Michelle is happy with the decision to be killed off from Corrie in June 2014.
She says: “I’ve never regretted the decision, ever.
“For me, I went into acting as a risk. I thought to myself, ‘If you don’t leave now, I just never will’.
“It was a bit of a panic but I have never looked back and I feel very, very lucky to be in the position that I am, definitely.”