Skip to main content

‘I owe everything to Jamie Oliver’: EastEnders’ Danielle Harold on her lucky break

(Image credit: BBC/Nicky Johnston)

Everywhere she goes, EastEndersDanielle Harold turns heads - but not, she insists, because she’s one of soap’s most glamorous stars.

“I get a lot of attention because my hair’s so bright - I’m like a human light bulb,” laughs the bottle-blonde actress, who plays loudmouth single mum Lola Pearce. “I’m really not sexy at all.”

Oh? Danielle’s been nominated for Sexiest Actress at next month’s British Soap Awards.

“Oh, can we not talk about that please!” she blushes.

“It’s so embarrassing. I’m at work so much I can’t get my nails or hair done, and my roots are now down to my ears! When I heard I’d been nominated I just laughed.”

Danielle insists landing her “dream job” in the soap, let alone being nominated for awards, is remarkable.

After missing much of her final year at school due to a serious bladder illness, and ending up as a waitress, the 21-year-old Londoner admits her lifelong acting ambition seemed to be slipping away.

But Danielle had a slice of good fortune when she spotted an advert asking for volunteers for a new Channel 4 show, Jamie’s Dream School.

The documentary series, which aired in 2011, saw Jamie Oliver enrolling struggling teens into a very special school. Lessons were taught by celebs such as Dr David Starkey (history) and Simon Callow (English).

Danielle applied and was accepted. “It was either continue waitressing or do Jamie’s Dream School. I worried quitting my job would be a mistake but it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made,” Danielle told The Daily Mail. “Jamie was lovely.”

Danielle thrived on the show and won scholarship money to further her career, which she spent on a drama teacher. An introduction to an agent led to her first audition... for the role of Lola in EastEnders.

“I was terrified,” she recalls. “I didn’t have a clue how to do an audition. I didn’t think I’d get the part, and I was just happy being on set.

Afterwards I cried because it was such a relief to get it over with. And when I heard I’d got the job I couldn’t believe it.”

A year later, Danielle was at the centre of EastEnders’ 2012 live episode, when Lola gave birth. And on Thursday, April 10, she’s in the thick of the action again when Lola is run over by Ronnie Mitchell. Soon after, Lucy Beale, sister of Lola’s boyfriend Peter, will be murdered.

“We’re all trying to figure out who kills Lucy,” Danielle reveals. “Even the person who does it doesn’t know. I thought people would be worried about it being them, but everyone’s just really excited.”

Click here to vote on The British Soap Awards