She turned 40 last month, without fanfare at a dinner with friends.
But the landmark birthday was of no concern to Keeley Hawes , because she says people have been obsessed with her age for more than a decade.
The actress says: “All anybody talks about is how old I am. People have talked about how old I am since I was about 29. Sometimes I have to stop and think, ‘I’m not actually that old’.
“I still don’t think of myself as a grown-up. But getting older is great. You do care less.
“You’re more prepared to take risks. You sort of think, ‘Well, what’s the worst that can happen really?’”
Despite her youthful looks, Keeley seems to have been around for ever.
She has been a small-screen star for two decades, after starting out in music videos for bands James, Suede and The Lightning Seeds.
Now she’s about to lead the cast of Sunday night’s new ITV family drama The Durrells, based on Gerald Durrell’s classic trilogy of Corfu memoirs, which includes My Family And Other Animals.
Set in 1935, the book recalls Gerald’s time spent on the island as a youngster.
Keeley plays his single mother Louisa, who is financially crippled and close to a mental breakdown while struggling to raise four children alone in Bournemouth.
Louise fled to Corfu, taking her family with her to start a new life.
But Keeley cannot imagine doing the same with her three youngsters – her 15-year-old son from her first marriage, to cartoonist Spencer McCallum, and her daughter, aged 11, and son, who is nine, with actor husband Matthew Macfadyen.
She was flooded with offers from Hollywood following her Bafta-nominated performance as Lindsay Denton in BBC2’s Line Of Duty , but says: “Our hearts and our families are in London.
“People do go there [to LA] and make lives there and have a great time there, but it is not for us. Our children are too grown-up to change their lives.”
Luckily, she and Matthew are both regularly offered big TV roles in London. But Keeley does empathise with Louisa Durrell, in a more emotional way.
“However many children you have got, one or five, you will relate to that part. I did when I read it.
“She says I haven’t had five consecutive minutes to myself and that never changes from the second you become a mother.
“At one stage Louisa says, ‘Nothing is about me, my life is devoured by my children.’ Anybody who is a mother will know exactly what that’s like,” Keeley continues.
“Once you’re a mother it’s not about you any more, ever again. I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are always on your mind in some way.
“You are constantly going to have someone that comes before you and that will never change. We have that in common, in as much as Louisa is such a maternal person. There is nothing she wouldn’t do, you know, lie down in the road for her children.”
Keeley chose to take on the role of Louisa having been a big fan of Gerald’s books and enjoyed filming the six-part drama in Corfu.
She says: “I was nothing but thrilled when this came up. It is so well written. I read it in the bath and just laughed and laughed and cried. I knew immediately I wanted to do it.
“I can honestly say it is one of my favourite books of all time. And just before the idea of this came up I had just been reading this to my two little ones.”
She adds: “I think my children will love this show. They have been over to Corfu and I’ve been able to fly home during breaks in filming. Usually I get to film in Bermondsey and Luton. I don’t think anyone could blame me for jumping at this and making the most of it.”
After those first appearances in music videos, Keeley went on to star in TV dramas Our Mutual Friend, Tipping The Velvet, with Rachael Stirling, and alongside Peter Firth in Spooks, where she met husband Matthew.
And she hasn’t stopped working since the success of Ashes To Ashes with Philip Glenister , which she began filming in 2007.
It led to roles including the remake of Upstairs Downstairs, Line Of Duty and recently The Casual Vacancy and The Hollow Crown on the BBC.
With filming finished for The Durrells, Keeley is now focused on the second series of BBC’s The Missing, playing a mother whose child disappears.
She’s reading the autobiography of Kate McCann, mother of missing Madeleine, for research, and she told Radio Times she is finding the preparation process “very, very dark”.
She says: “When you’re doing something like The Missing, it’s important to keep things light off set, because otherwise it would be torturous.”
Keeley, the daughter of a London cabbie, insists that despite her success, she had times earlier in her career when, like Louisa, she struggled financially.
She explains: “Yes, there has been time where I had no money. It does make you appreciate things more.
“With acting it’s feast or famine. And if you’re not very good at putting something aside for when you’re not busy then that’s that. If you’re not working you don’t get paid at the end of the month.”