WHEN it comes to touring, Jodie Pregner, who is starring in Fat Friends – the Musical at the Cliffs this month, is something of an old hand.

After winning of BBC TV series I'd Do Anything in 2008 to play the role of Nancy in a West End revival of the British musical Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, she’s basically been on stage ever since.

But it turns out she really misses home…

Is being away from her fella tough? I sympathise.

“Er. Well,” she starts. “One the thing I never get used to is missing my animals.”

Hang on. Your animals, I ask?

“I do miss pet my cows and my chickens and my dogs,” she confesses with a giggle.

“It sounds terrible, but I can speak to my mum, I can speak to my fella on the phone, I can Facetime them and stuff like that, but I can’t go and stroke my cows or walk my dogs or feed my chickens. That’s what I can’t do on the phone, so that’s what do really miss, and I do find it hard.

“And people have judged me when I’ve asked my fella to Facetime me chickens, because I just want to see them! I’ve always been a home bird in that regard.”

So, what is it about musical theatre that sees her keep taking on roles that keep her away from those animals?

“I just love. It just doesn’t feel like work,” she reflects. “I shouldn’t really say that, should I? But for me it’s like a playground out there.”

It’s been almost ten years since she won the show that set her firmly on this path, does it feel that long ago I wonder?

Echo: Fat Friends - Jodie Pregner

“It feels like it was forever ago, and it feels like it was just yesterday,” she muses. “And you know, you’re so grateful for those opportunities and I’m really hoping that they do another show, because it gives people real opportunities.

“I would never have been able to fulfil my dreams, I would have never have had that, without the show. It sounds so corny, but it does make people’s dreams come true. It really does change people’s lives and it changed mine. It just gave me everything I could have ever wanted. I do love what I do, though it’s hard work don’t get me wrong…”

Prior to being on our screens in I’d Do Anything, Jodie won the second series of The Biggest Loser in 2006, making her the first female in the world to win the show.

She started the show a size 22, weighing 18.1st and during the series lost more than 8st. When the show finished, she weighed 9.6st and had slimmed down to a size 10, before eventually settling at a size 14/16. That same year she was also featured on Charlotte Coyle's Fat Beauty Contest on Channel 4, where Coyle searched for plus sized models for a beauty pageant.

Did her role in Fat Friends – the Musical feel closer to home than some of the other’s she played, I ask?

“Oh totally,” she laughs. “It’s just the way Kay Mellor writes, I just feel like I’m actually singing about my life! It feels very, very real to me this.”

So, was that the appeal of the show?

“I watched the film, that was a given, and I loved it and then there’s a part of the show when I can relate to every single bit of it.

“It’s really fun, and you get to work with Kay Mellor so it’s kind of the opportunity of a lifetime really, so it was a no-brainer for me from the get-go.”

Does she have any regrets, or any opportunities that she wishes she’d been able to take?

“I think there’s definitely been opportunities when I’ve been on tour or been in the West End, regarding television shows that have come knocking on my door, like comedy series and stuff, that’ve I’ve gone, ‘oooo I wish I could have done it’, but the thing is you tie yourself up in contracts…

“But like my nan always says, if it’s meant for you it won’t pass you by and I stick with that.”

Before she goes on stage at the Cliffs Pavilion, in Station Road, Southend, on February 19, will Jodie carry out any pre-show rituals?

“Of late, that’s slowly died off,” she reflects. “I used to be terribly ritualistic. I remember with Nancy I literally had almost this Haka dance before I went on and with Spamalot I had to twiddle my ribbons a certain way. I haven’t got one with this, but I feel one will develop, it’s really weird like that. When we did Calamity Jane, myself and my friend Bobby Delaney had to do this kind of turn around and if we did it wrong we’d have to do it again. It’s so ridiculously stupid. And you realise you’re so stupid while you’re doing it, but you think if you don’t do it, you’re going to have a terrible show. How mad is that? It’s so weird!”

And what can audiences expect from the show?

“It’s fabulous, and relatable it’s got a very strong message,” she enthuses. “It’s actually kind of summed up in the finale song which is Love Who You Are. It’s lovely to have that message on stage. We’re all tied up in watching these people on TV or seeing these airbrushed images and it is genuinely about loving yourself for who you are.”

Fat Friends - the Musical is at the Cliffs Pavilion, Station Road, Southend, from Monday, February 19-Saturday, February 24. For tickets, call the box office on 01702 351135.