Billie’s calling it a day on call girl Belle

Undated ITV Handout Photo from Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Pictured: Billie Piper as Belle. See PA Feature TV Piper. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/ITV. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TV Piper.
Undated ITV Handout Photo from Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Pictured: Billie Piper as Belle. See PA Feature TV Piper. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/ITV. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TV Piper.
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Billie Piper is back on the tv screens after seven months of filming the fourth and final series of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl (ITV2, 10pm) the successful show based on the diaries of real-life escort Belle De Jour.

Her performance as Belle has been applauded, but when it was first announced in 2007 that Piper, former pop princess turned Doctor Who assistant, was to play the high-class hooker, people were up in arms.

“Outraged,” says Piper. “I didn’t think it would be as shocking as it was, and I didn’t really think that me being in it would be shocking. I just thought I’m an actor and it’s just acting.”

She admits the furore hit her hard. “Yeah, it always does. It really upsets me that people go, ‘What is she thinking’? And also that they think it’s slightly distasteful and insensitive.

“There are loads of women out there who have a horrid time of it [prostitution] but in my mind, it’s a very different thing because there are women out there who genuinely enjoy it.

“Women go out and have casual sex and talk about it endlessly and Sex And The City is a really good example of that. That show’s sometimes quite shocking and yet people also applaud it, but as soon as money changes hands then that changes everything.”

It was the chance to address these double standards that interested Piper in the first place.

“To play a prostitute who doesn’t see herself as a victim and hasn’t been forced into it but has chosen to do it, I find all of that quite interesting.”

Given Belle’s profession, it’s little wonder Piper’s had to spend the majority of her time in compromising positions – as she puts it “endlessly prancing around in your knickers trying to be sexy”.

She’s now so comfortable doing sex scenes that at times she’s had to remind herself that the actors cast as her numerous clients can require a little cajoling. I have to remember to be sensitive and tactful because they don’t know the crew and I obviously know and love the crew and have a big support system,” says Piper.

As for preparing to strip off, she says she “works out a bit”, adding: “I also really watch what I eat when I’m filming so I don’t have those moments where I think ‘I can’t do this’ because I don’t feel physically confident enough.”

The final series may, as she says, be “less about flesh”, but the client requests are no less shocking, with ‘Adult Baby’ and ‘Count Dracula’ among the upcoming scenarios.

Even after three years, Piper admits to being “a bit shocked” when she first reads the script.

“I just think, ‘Well that seems a bit far-fetched’, and then I meet with the people who are telling their stories and it would be rude to go, ‘Well, that’s a bit much, don’t you think’? It’s someone’s life [so you can’t] suddenly be sitting there going, ‘I think you need to go to a doctor’.”

The sense that the series has explored all the potential client/escort avenues is largely why it’s been decided to bring Belle’s tale to an end.

“I think we’ve pretty much been everywhere with the stories and as that’s at the heart of every episode, you wouldn’t want to exhaust it to the point of just complete ridiculousness and seediness,” says Piper.

“I really like this job but you always want the story to have legs and not be that you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. I think if we go any further then we might be guilty of that.”

So what’s next?

She wouldn’t mind doing some more theatre, she says, and her name has been linked to a stage adaptation of Pygmalion.