Despite being thrown into a world of red carpets, glamour and celebrities, Natalie Gumede has not forgotten her Northern roots.
That is according to her friend and fellow Pendle actor Muzz Khan – who is backing the former Coronation Street star and Pendle performer on her latest Strictly Come Dancing venture.
The actor, who has recently finished shooting BBC Films’ “Happy Toys”, initially met Natalie when she was a customer in his former workplace, Colne’s Kwik Save. He would also see the Burnley-born actress passing his old house, in Railway Street, when she was visiting her grandad.
But it was only when he moved to London to be a student at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art that the pair became more acquainted. They now remain in contact via Twitter.
Muzz (32) said: “Natalie still has her Northern roots. It won’t just be me rooting for her, but the whole of Nelson, Colne and Burnley. She’s still a lovely girl and not like her character on Corrie.
“I’m delighted that Natalie’s doing Strictly. I think she’s in with a shout.”
As well as following similar career paths since their time in Pendle, Natalie and Muzz also have another achievement in common – a Leader Times Stage award.
Natalie scooped the Young Performer award in 1996, while former Royal Shakespeare Company actor Muzz won the Thomas Todhunter Comedy award in 2001.
Since leaving East Lancashire, Natalie went on to study at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in 2003. She shot to fame in 2011, when she was cast as Coronation Street villain Kirsty Soames, and this year bagged three gongs at the British Soap Awards.
Now, the 29-year-old star is revelling in the glamour and glitter of Strictly Come Dancing, having been paired with former winner and Strictly professional Artem Chigvintsev.
But despite being the bookies’ early favourite and regardless of her experience at Colne’s Chippendale School of Dance, the performer is still convinced that she has a lot of hours and hard work to go.
Talking in a BBC clip following her first stint in the rehearsal room, Natalie said: “At the end of my first day training my mind is full to bursting with details that I will never remember and it’s really made me realise how far we all have to go and how much work is going to go into this journey, which is going to be long and exciting.
“Artem is literally having to place my feet, my knees, my hips, my shoulders, my arms, my hands, and it’s kind of all in this really weird position, which you’re not expecting and it’s all a bit ugly ducking. I’ve got a long way before I become a swan.”
And taking to Twitter following the arduous session, the budding ballroom dancer added: “LOVED my 1st day in the studio with @artemchigvintse - I’ve got a LOT to learn and unlearn. Dinner tonight will be scrambled brain #scd2013.”
In their first training video together, Artem and Natalie also show signs of a blossoming friendship – giggling and joking, while also working meticulously on the choreography.
Natalie said: “I would say Artem is very warm, he’s very encouraging and he’s very methodical.”
And Artem, who won Strictly Come Dancing in 2010 with actress Kara Tointon, said: “I have to say when Natalie arrived I was really really excited, because I was waiting for this moment for a couple of days.”
Viewers will next see Natalie on the weekend of September 27th and 28th when the pairs, including Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Brendan Cole, and Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev, perform their first dance in front of the judges.