Most Popular Newcomer? Not me! - October 23, 2004; Daily Express Saturday Magazine; Neil Bonner

Foyle's War star Honeysuckle Weeks can't believe she's a nominee at this year's National Television Awards.

Photograph: Clive ChaliceBeing nominated as Most Popular Newcomer in this year's National Television Awards is a career highlight for Foyle's War star Honeysuckle Weeks. But her excitement at earning a nod in the category, which boasts Tamzin Outhwaite and Jessie Wallace as previous winners, has been marred by a serious case of the jitters.

Not only is Honeysuckle up against stiff competition from Patsy Kensit as Emmerdale schemer Sadie King, EastEnders' Tracy-Ann Oberman (Den's wife. Chrissie), and 12-year-old Coronation Street star Sam Aston - who has already won a clutch of awards for his role as Chesney Brown - she will also be rubbing shoulders with the cream of TV talent at Tuesday night's ceremony.

"It will be nerve-wracking to suddenly be in the spotlight myself, with the cameras on me, especially when they announce the winner," admits the amiable 25 year old, who plays Michael Kitchen's faithful driver Sam, in the ITV1 period drama which returns for a new series tomorrow night. "I'm not used to all this attention, but I have decided to just go and enjoy it. I expect I'll be a bit starstruck, especially being among so many famous faces like Sir Trevor McDonald and Patsy Kensit."

So how does she rate her chances of walking away with an award?

"Oh, I don't hold out much hope of winning," she laughs dismissively. "It's mad enough to be nominated!"

Modest Honeysuckle is so sure that she won't win, that she hasn't even prepared a speech. "I'd definitely thank my mum, Susan, but I hadn't thought beyond that."

Honeysuckle will have to work the red carpet before she joins the party and pose for the bank of photographers waiting outside London's Royal Albert Hall, where the event is being held. It goes without saying that soap babes will go all out to grab column inches in flesh-flashing outfits and barely-there dresses. But that's not Honeysuckle's style. "My Foyle's War character, Sam Stewart, looks very crisp in her uniform with her hair pinned up in a 1940s style, whereas in real life, I am so scruffy. I suppose I'm a bit of a tomboy. A year ago, I set off for a party in a pair of wellies and my mum stopped me halfway down the drive saying, 'You can't go wearing those'. I'd come from mucking out horses in the countryside."

Honeysuckle will be escorted to the awards by her boyfriend Lorne, an art dealer she has been dating for almost two years. Before then, the actress was linked romantically to Hugh Grant, but she insists they were never anything more than friends.

"People always ask if I went out with Hugh, but I was never his girlfriend," she says.

Has he passed on any tips for the awards? "I see him socially," she replies, "but he probably doesn't know I'm nominated, so he hasn't. If only! He seems very happy with his life, though, as I am with mine."

Honeysuckle's current contentment is due, in no small part, to her flourishing career. While she may not be joining her pal Hugh in Hollywood any time soon, she's well on the way. Having attended Roedean for five years, before going on to study English at Oxford, Honeysuckle opted to follow her parents, Susan and Robin, into acting.

"I didn't have this burning ambition to act but, as a child, I did always want to be the centre of attention," says Honeysuckle, who was named after the heady scent that was in the air when she was born.

Since the mid 90s, she has been working consistently in television, including parts in Catherine Cookson and Ruth Rendell dramas. But it was landing the role in Foyle' s War that got her noticed. Which brings us to those vintage cars. Does she really drive them?

As Sam Stewart driving a vintage 1936 Wolseley in ITV1's Foyle's War"You bet!" she cries. "I usually get about 20 minutes tuition before the cameras roll, but they do get knocked about a bit. I've had lots of scrapes in them but nothing too spectacular - banging into sandbags, that sort of thing."

Honeysuckle has become the envy of millions of female viewers for working alongside Michael Kitchen. But is he as charming as he seems, and what of his reputation as being somewhat spiky?

"Michael's wonderful and I love him to bits," she enthuses. "He likes his privacy, but despite what people may think, he's not at all serious - he's forever making jokes and loves to let his hair down. Last summer he took me to a Rolling Stones concert at Wembley."

Michael won't be at the awards, but like the actress' family and friends, he will no doubt be rooting for her. And if she triumphs, he can be sure his grounded co-star won't let success go to her head.

"If I am lucky enough to win, it will be because the viewers really like my character Sam, rather than me personally," she reasons.

"Hopefully, this won't be the last role I play that captures the public's imagination."