MICHELLE COLLINS is Inspector Judy Hill

Michelle Collins' daughter has promised to keep on the right side of the law - thanks to hard toilet paper.

In preparation for her latest TV role as plain clothes officer Judy Hill in LLOYD & HILL, Michelle visited Brentwood police station, accompanied by four-year-old Maia.

"We went into a police cell, and Maia really loved it. But she couldn't understand why they had such hard toilet paper.

"I told her that's what they give you if you're in trouble - and she promised to behave in future!"

Before filming began, Michelle took advice on police routine and procedure from a retired detective chief inspector.

"He really loved his job and had been in the force all his life. He then introduced me to a plain clothes female detective, who taught me a lot.

"The first thing that struck me was how glamorous she was - she had on the shortest skirt I've ever seen.

"When I talked costumes with her, I said that I wouldn't be wearing skirts because of all the running around I've got to do.

"She disagreed, saying 'Oh no, I've got to let them know who's the woman around here; there's far too many masculine women in the force these days - I'm going to show my femininity'.

"In Jill McGown's books, Judy Hill is quite glamorous and I also wanted to go against the stereotype of the 'hard bitch' policewoman. Even though it was fantastic, in Prime Suspect, Jane Tennison was still hard-nosed. "

"But in the end short skirts and high-heeled shoes were out for me - I did have too much running around to do!"

LLOYD AND HILL marks Michelle's first appearance as an upholder of law and order.

"I've always been on the other side of the law since a very early appearance in The Bill, and it's been very exciting.

"But I thought it would nice to be a police officer for a change!"

But Michelle, one of television's most versatile actors, agrees that it was probably only a matter of time before she was cast in a police drama.

"I think it is inevitable that most actors play a police officer at some point in their career, because there is so much on television and film about the police force.

"We seem to be a nation obsessed with the police, hospital dramas - and animals!

"At the end of the day, plain clothes policemen and women are normal people doing a different job. When there were stereotypical plain clothes officers, you once might have been able to pick them out in a crowd, but I couldn't do so now."

But filming in Hemel Hempstead reminded Michelle of a time when she did break the law - for the sake of her art, in ITV's Daylight Robbery.

"We drove past a video shop which used to be a building society, where we had filmed, and I shouted out 'I've robbed that bank!'"

Discussing the history of the two protagonists, Michelle explains that Judy and Danny Lloyd were lovers years ago who broke up because he was married.

"They were both career people, and she realised that he wasn't going to give up his wife for her and she didn't want to be involved with someone who was married."

"She probably married her husband Michael pretty quickly to get over Lloyd, and the two men in her life are poles apart.

"She's never forgotten Lloyd, so when she is back working with him, it's difficult for her - but she's not going to let that show.

"She's in love with her husband, and as far as Loyd is concerned, it's 'Out of sight, out of mind.'

"But suddenly seeing someone can trigger that emotion of 'Oh my God, that feeling is still there.'

"Throughout the whole story, she tries to avoid being in intimate situations with him for fear of what might happen.

"The situation of 'will they, won't they?' reminds me a little of Moonlighting and The X Files. The sexual chemistry and the frisson will keep viewers on their toes."

Working opposite Philip Glenister was a first for Michelle, though she had met him socially through his partner Beth Goddard, one of her gang in Daylight Robbery.

"Philip is very good to work with, because a bit like me, he works very instinctively, and he has a great sense of humour."

A recent brief break back in London from Michelle's current filming of 2,000 Acres Of Sky in Scotland was timed to coincide with daughter Maia's first days at junior school.

"Her first day at school was horrible - for me. I cried, but she was fine; she just said 'Bye mummy' and went in.

"She's a home bird, and when I'm back in Scotland, I'll miss her more than she'll miss me!"

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