Interview with Secret Diary of a Call Girl star Gemma Chan

British actress and face of the Investec Derby Gemma Chan talks to Alex Dymoke about her favourite film, her famous boyfriend and meeting Ryan Gosling.

At the Soho Hotel, Gemma Chan is talking about shooting her first major Hollywood movie. “Everyone keeps on asking me what it was like to work with Kevin Costner. The first scene I filmed with him we get shot at and there’s an explosion. He has to grab me and pull me down to the deck. My inner 13-year-old girl is thinking ‘oh my god I’m in The Bodyguard’. It’s surreal but you have to get on with the job.”

Chan is adept at getting on with the job. The daughter of second generation Chinese immigrants, she studied hard, got into Oxford and won a coveted training contract at Magic Circle law firm Slaughter and May. Standing on the precipice of a lucrative career as a lawyer, she dropped everything and applied to drama school. Her parents were, to put it mildly, a bit miffed.

“They don’t come from a showbiz family. They’re very down to earth, practical people – my mum is a pharmacist and my dad is an engineer. They support me now but they were very worried at the time. My dad didn’t speak to me for three months.”

With countless high profile TV roles, it’s not surprising her parents came round. What is her ultimate ambition?

“In an ideal world I would go between big studio films and smaller independent stuff.”

Is “smaller independent stuff” what she likes? I ask her what her favourite film is. She’s stumped. “Oh gosh what films have I seen recently..?” She racks her brains. Eventually, in a slightly faltering voice, she says,“I watched Ratatouille the other day. It’s a brilliant film. I think those Pixar movies are brilliant. They are so charming and they make it seem so effortless.”

Five minutes later she interjects, “I can’t believe I just said my favourite film was Ratatouille.” She racks her brain for some more worthy candidates. I realise it’s a cruel question and decide to help her out. The best movie I’ve seen recently, I say, is new Ryan Gosling film The Place Beyond The Pines. Her eyes light up. “I haven’t seen it, but I did meet him once.”

What was he like?

“He was really really lovely, the nicest man you could ever meet. I had just finished Secret Diary of a Call Girl and he asked me what I had been working on. I said ‘it’s an English show, you won’t know it’ and he said ‘no seriously, tell me what you’re doing,’ so I said it’s this show called Secret Diary of a Call Girl and he said ‘Oh my god! I love that show! I watch it on Showtime On Demand!’ I nearly died on the spot... Probably the most amazing moment of my life was Ryan Gosling saying he was a fan of a show I’m in.”

Chan returns to the small screen in a couple of months with Dates, Channel 4’s summer season flagship series. On the subject of dates, I ask about her boyfriend Jack Whitehall. Is it hard walking out of a restaurant and being papped?

“That occasionally happens but in general it’s not been too bad, touch wood. We just keep a low profile.”

With Hollywood knocking at the door, she should savour the low profile. It’s not going to last.

• Gemma Chan is the face of the Investec Derby, one of the highlights of the racing season. It is the richest race in the calendar and the most prestigious of the five classics. Ladies’ day is on 31 May and Derby Day is on 1 June. Audemars Piguet is the official timekeeper of the event. For tickets log on to epsomdowns.co.uk.