Random Question for Amber Anderson No.6: What scares you, Amber? “It’s when you can feel your life is going into a new chapter and you’re ready for it and excited about it and you know it’s coming and it’s all good … But it’s also kind of terrifying.
“I’m weirdly scared of the exciting things.”
She pauses and looks up. “But I’m also scared of heights …”

Amber Anderson is standing against a brightly coloured wall. She is wearing a tight top, tight jeans and smoking a cigarette. If you walked past you would definitely look twice. Maybe you would think you recognise her face. Is she a model? Is she an actor?
Amber Anderson is sitting in the bistro of a Notting Hill hotel. She is talking about her days modelling and acting. And she is talking about all the kind of terrifying but exciting new things that have been happening in her life. And all the old, bad things she has left behind.
Amber Anderson is 25 years old, grew up in (among other places) Inverness, lives in a flat with her boyfriend and her cats around the corner from where we are sitting, wears a diamond ring shaped like a cross, and is worried that I won’t be able to hear her over the bistro’s soundtrack of early 1990s R&B.
She is loud enough, though, for me to hear that she has lost her Scottish accent. “When I’m drunk my accent comes back. I had an accent until I was 16, 17. But the Invernesian accent is quite light.”
Until now Anderson is possibly best known for appearing in ads for Kenzo and on the red carpet with her ex, a certain Paolo Nutini. But right now it’s Anderson the actor who is moving front and centre. Maybe you caught her last Christmas opposite Rowan Atkinson in ITV’s Maigret special? (She watched it at her gran’s in Dorset surrounded by friends and family, which was, she says, “excruciating”).
Later this year she will turn up alongside Natalie Dormer in a new film, In Darkness, a psychological thriller in which she gets to put all those years she spent at music school to good use by playing the violin.
But more pressingly there is her role in the BBC/HBO drama Strike. The Cuckoo’s Calling is the first adaptation of the Cormorant Strike detective novels written by Robert Galbraith (or, as she is better known, JK Rowling). Anderson stars opposite Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke. It is, no doubt, something of a step up.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is set in the world of supermodels. There’s been a murder, you won’t be surprised to hear. Anderson plays the best friend of the victim.
It is the first time she’s agreed to play a model rather than just be one. “I’ve always turned down model roles. I started modelling and acting at the same time. It would be very easy to always play models. I’ve turned it down a lot.” This was different, though. “JK Rowling, BBC, HBO. It’s the right thing. And it’s good.”


Amber Anderson in Strike - The Cuckoo's Calling

If nothing else, the drama’s portrayal of models is a world away from the vacuous cliche usually spooned out by TV and film. Anderson’s character is three-dimensional and, she adds, has a brain. “Actually a lot of people [in the industry] do,” she points out.
There was a time when “actor-model-whatever” was a dismissive tag. Things are changing. Anderson is hoping she can continue to do both.
“Acting takes a lot longer to build up momentum. I’ve been lucky to have modelling because it’s meant I was able to move to London and become financially independent quite young and not have to necessarily compromise too much or work two jobs or do things a lot of my actor friends have to do.”
The official Anderson CV goes like this. Scouted at 14, came to London when she was 16 for two months in her summer holidays from music school and picked up an acting agent. Did her first audition for Tim Burton for Alice in Wonderland. She didn’t get the job but she quickly established herself as a model working for Chanel, Kenzo and Agent Provocateur.
“Erin O’Connor became a friend when I was 16 and she still is my friend and she taught me a lot. She took me down my first red carpet. Literally. By the arm.”
The acting took longer to take off but after parts in Your Highness, The Riot Club and Black Mirror things are ramping up.
Presumably, Amber, modelling and acting require very different skill sets? “Very. As a model you have to develop an unbelievable sense of self-awareness. You have to know what every angle of your body looks like at all times because that’s your job. It’s almost like you develop this third eye which is watching yourself from above.
“For an actor you cannot have that exist. So it’s knowing when to turn that off. I think to act you have to be able to put all your focus on to the other person [in the scene] and not have any self-consciousness.”
And you can do that? “I had to teach myself. Funnily enough, my acting agent and I were talking the other day and she said to me that when I was 18 you could see I was a model. There was a slightly held, posed element to it.”
The other thing that’s different is the nature of rejection, she says. “You have to be really thick-skinned to be a model. I find acting rejection easier to deal with when compared to modelling rejection.”
Acting rejections are about someone deciding you don’t fit for the role. Modelling rejections are more personal. “You will have moments where people look you up and down and say that something is wrong. It’s not personal, but it can feel personal.
“It can literally be: ‘No, her ears are too wide’ or ‘her boobs are too big’ or ‘her arms are too long’. And that’s weird.”
Well yes, especially when you are a teenager and you are coming to terms with your physicality.
Then there’s the baggage of personal biography. “I had a very tumultuous childhood. I was badly bullied. This is not a sob story – I’m just trying to paint a picture.
“I grew up in the Highlands where literally all I wore was welly boots and knitted cardigans. Suddenly I was in London being told I had a set of features that meant I could do a particular job based on people’s idea of beauty and that blew me away because it was never how I saw myself.
“Nothing in my childhood was based on image. I was Steiner educated. It was very hippie and very New Age and not very connected to the outside world. And then to be in situations where the only way you’re being described is from an exterior surface … It was an interesting shift.
“But I also think you can just be in work mode and you can leave that at the door.”
She has no modelling sob story. If anything, she says, it helped give her confidence. “I’m 25 and I only feel in the last couple of years I’ve been really happy and like I can leave bits of the past behind and come at life from a really adult perspective. Well, not adult, but grown up.”

Random Question for Amber Anderson No.9: What do you believe in? “People and growth. Personal emotional growth.”

You have a cross on your finger. Is that a symbol of a belief system? “No. This is really important, this ring. It’s the first really expensive thing
I bought myself …”
She looks around. “I possibly shouldn’t say that too loudly. I bought it for my 22nd birthday in the Liberty jewellery hall. I just thought it was beautiful. Despite my history I am incredibly unreligious.”

Amber Anderson is talking about her childhood. She was born in Shepton Mallet outside Glastonbury and lived in Somerset and Wiltshire until she was six, when she moved to Scotland. Her parents Nick and Angela were, she says, “1970s hippies”. They separated when she was a toddler and childhood was a case of moving around, dropping in and out of various religions.
Her mother travelled a lot so she stayed more with her father in Inverness. At 10 she attended a Steiner school. At 11 she went to Aberdeen to board at a music school. Bullying, it seems, was par for the course.
“I was bullied at the Steiner school which was almost unheard of because it’s a peaceful, New-Agey thing.”
Why were you picked on? “Bullies know who to bully. They pick up on some kind of resistance to confrontation. I was very shy, quite withdrawn. A lot had happened to me by the time I was six and I had folded into myself.”
Your parents separating, you mean? “My parents had separated, we’d moved around, been in different religions. We’d moved to Scotland partly because of the millennium bug. It was all quite colourful. But I’d folded into myself and they’d probably picked up on that.”
At secondary school her Englishness was probably a trigger too. “I think I was the only English kid. They picked up on that, which we all know is a very tough thing in Scotland.”
Plus, she was a student at a music school that was attached to a comprehensive so she stood out because of that. “Automatically you were the music-school geek. And if you’re turning up in welly boots and a woolly jumper and carrying a violin case … It’s kind of a walking target.”
At the same time, after years of moving around music school represented a form of consistency. She was boarding so she was in one place surrounded by friends. And music itself was a security blanket and an escape. “Acting can represent that too. Something you can throw yourself into – not disappear into but lose yourself in.”
Have you ever lost your way in life? “Yes, briefly. I moved to London when I was 17 and had a very tumultuous first year which in some ways I now see as the making of me. I ran out of money after two months and was homeless. I would sit in the Covent Garden piazza and look through my phone every day and try to find friends whose couches I could sleep on. I fell into the wrong social circles and had a couple of weird boyfriends. Quite normal 17-year-old, finding-yourself stuff.”
Hmm, that’s possibly not everyone’s definition of normal, Amber. Did you think of going home? “I went back to Scotland after eight months. I had to because I didn’t have a place to live, I had no money and my dad could only afford to lend me 40 quid a week which at that point could buy an Oyster card and frozen veg and rice.
“So I went home and started commuting on the night bus. And then, sod’s law, suddenly work got really busy. There was a week where I was on four night buses between Inverness and London because it was actually cheaper to get a £20 night bus than it was to stay in London.”
It was worth it. One morning she got off the night bus and went for an audition for an advert for Match.com. She sang an Amy Winehouse tune at the audition and got the job. The ad featured a couple singing a duet in a music shop. It was meant to run for three months and ended up running for 18. “By the end of those 18 months I was modelling a lot. Thank God for Match.com.”
Her modelling career took off. Now it’s the turn of her acting career. And like she says, there’s a new romance too.
Amber Anderson is most definitely not talking about Paolo Nutini. When I mention his name she purses her lips. Is that your only comment, Amber? She purses her lips tighter. Well, can we confirm that relationship is history? “No bad vibes, but history, yeah. I have a new boyfriend.”
“Oh yes, that’s … the guy from Rizzle Kicks,” I say, showing up the fact that I’m not quite down with the kids. She graciously overlooks the fact that I can’t remember Jordan Stephens’s name.
Romance and work. All is good. Amber, are you winning? “Um, I think getting this job [The Cuckoo’s Calling] is big. And do you know what? Getting my flat. Until recently I’ve lived in it on my own. I have two cats and it has a garden.”
Given that you’ve moved around so much, I say, I guess the word home must have an extra resonance. “For ages home was my friends or music. But I’ve managed to somehow manifest an actual home. That felt like winning, moving into that flat.”
Two final random questions for Amber Anderson.
What is the question you most ask yourself? “’How are you?’ Probably a couple of times an hour.”
Love is …?

Amber Anderson goes to therapy every week. Amber Anderson loves cooking. Amber Anderson is ambitious and driven. Amber Anderson is someone, I suspect, we will all be looking at more than twice.

Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling begins on BBC One tomorrow at 9.05pm