Lucy Davis: On anorexia, binge eating and divorce since The Office
17:11 EST, 11 October 2012
17:34 EST, 11 October 2012
Battling: Lucy Davis is tanned and glowing with good health but life hasn’t always been so good to Lucy, 39, who starred in The Office as Dawn Tinsley
Lucy Davis has just got back from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, where she was filming with Ben Miller for the detective series Death In Paradise. She says it was so hot that during one scene she actually nodded off.
‘I think I must have not been getting enough oxygen,’ she says. ‘It was rather gentlemanly of Ben not to wake me up.’
She’s tanned and glowing with good health. However, life hasn’t always been so good to Lucy, 39 — the daughter of comedian Jasper Carrott — who starred in The Office as the insecure Dawn Tinsley.
For a start, she’s had to undergo a kidney transplant. It was when she was being given a physical examination for another role, in Pride And Prejudice in 1995, that she was diagnosed with kidney failure. Her mother, Hazel, immediately donated one of her own.
Then there has been her troubled time in America. When The Office finished in 2003, she moved to Hollywood hoping for instant success. It didn’t quite work out that way. She is still living there and has had a variety of TV and film parts, but her personal life has been in turmoil.
Last year, she split from her husband of five years, Welsh actor Owain Yeoman, and they were divorced. But it is her battle with anorexia and bulimia that has taken the greatest toll, making it all but impossible to work.
Now she is bravely speaking out in the hope others might learn from her experience. Tears spring to her eyes and her voice cracks as she explains: ‘The last few years have been rough, and I wasn’t able to work.
‘It’s all to do with my life-long obsession with weight and food. I’d diet for five days, then binge eat a week’s worth of food in one day. I had an insatiable craving to eat.
‘I was fortunate to have had a lively, happy childhood, but somewhere along the way I convinced myself I wasn’t wanted anywhere or by anyone if I wasn’t thin.
‘I do want to tell people about it because I believe other people have gone through things that I have gone through and we don’t talk about them. We hide ourselves in shame. But I want people to know that they don’t have to feel so bad.
‘If I can help one person by speaking
out, that will be enough for me; even though I know I will be opening
myself up for criticism. Maybe it will make someone else see there is
help out there and I won’t have to feel ashamed.’ She wipes a tear away.
There have been whispers about Lucy’s weight ever since she moved to Los Angeles and seemed to drop three stone overnight.
Hollywood heartbreak: When The Office finished (Lewis pictured with Martin Freeman in the show) in 2003, she moved to Hollywood hoping for instant success but it didn’t quite work out that way
She even turned down a role in the Cameron Diaz film In Her Shoes because she would have had to play Diaz’s fat ugly sister. But she insists Hollywood was never the problem.
As she says: ‘Yes, you do see a lot of skinny people there and maybe if I was thinner I might get more work. But the only pressure I have felt has come from here and not LA. No one comments on my weight in LA. The only time I was asked to lose weight was for a job here, not LA.
‘I have read all those things about how I look and, yes, I could be pressured by it. But now I realise it is only me allowing it to pressure me. No one is at fault for my putting on weight or losing weight except me.’
She points to a box of doughnuts by our table. ‘I had the doughnuts for lunch, although I ate salad, too.’
insists she is stronger after finding help through therapy — she
attends meetings of Overeaters Anonymous five days a week. Her
conversation is punctuated with self-deprecating jokes and she’s trying
hard to appear happy, but seems fragile.
got to the point where I realised all this suffering can be pointless
or I can learn something from it. Once I made that decision, it was
amazing how my life turned around. I am happier than I have been for
many years. Truly, I am.
Turned down: Davis turned down role in film In Her Shoes because she would have to play Cameron Diaz’s fat ugly sister, which was played by Toni Collette
‘I have come a long way and learnt a lot. I read this quote about a year ago: “Happiness must not be pursued; it must ensue.” It’s made me realise that just being married again or something like that won’t make me happy; the happiness ensues from how we live our lives.
‘For me, when I go to bed at night, I am happy that I haven’t hurt someone. And if I think I have, I will rectify it. I now refuse to give someone permission to make me feel bad about myself. They can’t make me feel bad about myself if I don’t allow it.
‘There’s this other phrase: “Keeping your side of the street clean,” and that’s what I try to do. Whatever you think of me is none of my business.
‘Things were said about me before that were unfair or just not nice, and I used to get quite vexed by it, especially if it was untrue.
‘But I have been able to understand a lot more over the past year, so now I am OK with it. I can remove myself. I suppose I am living in my own little bubble. I have some lovely friends and an amazing family and I feel very lucky with that.’
While Owain has moved on and there are reports he may be about to re-marry, Lucy admits she is only tentatively dating.
‘I find it all so awkward,’ she admits. ‘I have never fancied or been attracted to a man on first meeting him.
‘I have only ever got together with
someone through working with them or because I have known them for
years. So now if I meet a guy at a party I can appreciate he might be
gorgeous, but I have never thought: “Phwoar, I would like to bed you.” I
agree to go for dates, but in LA it is all so different — you go for a
coffee. It makes me feel under a lot of pressure and I just want to go
Divorced: Davis split from her husband of five years, Welsh actor Owain Yeoman (pictured together on their wedding day)
‘The only one who shares my bedroom is my cocker spaniel, Gracie. I cuddle up to her all night.’
is now also feeling strong enough to work again and has a new passion
for it. As well as Death In Paradise, she is in American comedy horror
film Some Guy Who Kills People, in which she is dating a man who may be a
Stronger: Davis insists she is stronger after finding help through therapy – she attends meetings of Overeaters Anonymous five days a week
It has the same black humour as Shaun Of The Dead — the
British movie Lucy made after The Office.
‘I read the title and thought it is
going to be brilliant and right up my alley or not. Fortunately, it was
the former,’ she says. ‘The humour is quite subtle and it was fantastic
fun to make.’
Lucy is also writing her own script about a madcap family and she has a regular Monday night slot at a local comedy club.
despite being a diabetic, her health is good: ‘I have friends who don’t
even know I’m diabetic,’ she says. ‘I don’t hide it, but it’s the last
thing I need to tell someone. I take my insulin with every meal and have
kidney drugs twice a day, but that is, like, habit. That’s how I deal
She still has fond memories of her
time in The Office and loves running into her former co-stars. ‘I am
still friends with Stephen Merchant, and Mackenzie Crook used to be in
the same apartment building as me when he was filming Pirates Of The
Caribbean, but I don’t get to see him so much now,’ she says.
‘But I was on the same plane as Martin Freeman [who played Dawn’s love Tim] on Monday and it was lovely to see him.’
tell her I am sorry to hear she has had such a bad time. ‘It’s been
rough but I am ok now,’ she says. ‘I don’t have my life mapped out. I am
happy to see where it goes and then hopefully I won’t be
Some Guy Who Kills People is out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on download and demand from Monday.