Laila Rouass nearly rejected wild Ronnie OSullivan as he wasnt stepdad material – Mirror Online

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She shot to fame in Footballers’ Wives, the noughties drama whose storylines were so ludicrous it became a cult hit.

Laila Rouass played glamorous bisexual Amber Gates, whose baby was swapped at birth by a midwife who had been bribed by her rival, found out husband Conrad had been cheating on her after finding the letter T scratched on to his buttocks and faked her own kidnap to get back with him.

But the actress believes that rather than being hilariously far-fetched, the show she starred in for two years was actually ahead of its time.

Laila, who joined the show in 2004, says: “Some people said it was outrageous, but when you read now what footballers have been up to, you realise that we were tame. My cat fights? Look at Rebecca Vardy and Coleen Rooney!”

The series was known for its raunchy sex scenes but Laila had insisted on a no-nudity clause in her contract.

Laila Rouass
Laila recalled her time on the cult show
(Image: Roland Leon/Daily Mirror)

She says: “I wasn’t going to show my baps off, but I still had plenty of embarrassing scenes. Once I brought out this massive dildo and said to my husband: ‘You have been a really naughty boy…’”

Success on the series, followed by coming fourth on Strictly Come Dancing alongside Anton Du Beke in 2009, led to Laila landing her biggest part yet, as sassy registrar Sahira Shah in Holby City.

Again she quickly became a fans’ favourite, but just a year later, in 2012, Laila disappeared from our screens.

She had struggled with juggling the demands of acting in the hit hospital drama with being a single mother to her four-year-old daughter Inez.

Footballers' Wives
Footballers’ Wives was a cult classic in the Noughties
(Image: ITV)

Laila, 49, returned to the BBC drama earlier this month and credits her comeback in part to a man she at first doubted would be “step-dad material” – snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.

She met the six-time world champion in 2012 after going to view his Essex house on an estate agent’s viewing.

Laila admits bringing two families together has not been easy.

While Ronnie, 45, is stepdad to her daughter Inez, now 13, he has three children of his own, Taylor-Ann, 24, Lily, 14 and Ronnie, 13.

Laila says: “It’s a lie if people tell you that blended families are easy. He’s struggled with it, I’ve struggled with it and Inez has struggled with it. It takes hard work and you have to be honest with yourself and each other.

Laila Rouass in Holby City
Laila landed a role in Holby City
(Image: BBC)

“That’s what we’ve had to do over the last nine years. We’ve had to work through things and now it’s much smoother.

“Initially I thought: ‘This guy is not step-dad material.’ He’s a fantastic dad to his kids, but he was struggling with his own relationship with his family. I thought he had too much on his plate, but now he and Inez have got the best relationship.”

And she says Ronnie is nothing like his hell-raising reputation.

“He comes home, has a cup of tea, puts the TV on, watches the news and falls asleep on the sofa. That’s as glamorous as our life is!”

Her shock return as Sahira has excited fans of BBC drama Holby.

Laila Rouass and Ronnie O'Sullivan
Laila and Ronnie lead a blended family
(Image: Getty)

Holby’s cast diversity was a big factor in her return. She explains: “One thing I love is that Sahira’s ethnicity is never mentioned, even I’m not sure what it is.”

Born to an Indian mother and a Moroccan father, Laila encountered daily racial abuse as a child growing in Stepney in London’s East End.

“I got P*** thrown at me every single day,” she reveals.

“Just a couple of months ago some guy cut me up in his car and shouted: ‘F*** off, you f*****g P***.’

“It’s terrible. If you tell people they don’t believe it happens so often.”

In 2017 Laila, with daughter Inez, was caught up in the Barcelona terror attack in which 13 people were killed and at least 130 injured.

The petrified actress, who was in a restaurant, hid her daughter in a freezer and then penned a note saying where she was, in case Laila herself was then killed.

Coleen Rooney
Real-life footballer’s wife Coleen Rooney
(Image: Getty)

“It was terrifying,” Laila recalls.

“All of a sudden I heard gunshots and people screaming and shouting.”

Laila was still feeling the effects of the attack a year afterwards. “If I went into a restaurant I would have to sit by an exit and I would worry about loud noises or anything out of the ordinary,” she says.

“I remember taking Inez to the cinema.

“It was a kids’ film and there was a guy behind us. I thought: ‘Why would an 18-year-old be watching a cartoon on his own?’ I said to Inez: ‘We’re going’.”

Incredibly it was the second time that Laila had been caught up in a terrorist attack. In 1993, when she was 21, she was in north-west London’s Camden when the IRA set off a bomb, injuring 18 people.

Rebekah Vardy
Rebekah Vardy
(Image: Getty)

She says: “I’d left my little sister and aunt in McDonald’s and gone to do some shopping and all of sudden there was pandemonium.” She found shelter from the crowd stampeding away from the explosion in an alcove in a bank’s wall, explaining: “I shoved my little sister into there and stood with my back to everyone, otherwise we’d have been trampled.”

As she is someone who has fought hard to find her own sense of peace, she has also just set up her own wellbeing platform –
@wholeandthensomeuk – after studying a wellbeing and happiness course at America’s Yale University, based in Connecticut.

She says: “I set it up because I felt I was chasing my own tail. It’s about building your happiness from a scientific perspective.

“I’ve done talks about philosophers and I’d eventually like to start seminars and workshops. I’d love to give people the tools to find happiness, peace and self-compassion themselves.

*Holby City airs on Tuesdays at 7.50pm on BBC One.

 

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