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Doctor Who favorite Billie Piper’s new series I Hate Suzie, which she co-created with her The Secret Diary of a Call Girl collaborator Lucy Prebble, debuts Thursday on HBO Max. Piper plays a former sci-fi actress who has to contend with any celebrity’s worst nightmare: photos of her in a compromising position leaking online.
It’s another bold and challenging project for Piper, who began her career as a pop singer before reinventing herself as an award-winning and hugely popular actress. After her breakthrough role as Rose Tyler in in BBC America’s Doctor Who came the envelope-pushing The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, cult horror show Penny Dreadful, and acclaimed BBC miniseries Collateral, plus some highly acclaimed stage appearances. To whet your appetite, here are 10 things you might not know about the 38-year-old Brit.
1. Billie Piper isn’t technically her birth name.
Her parents originally called her Leian, but changed their minds around six months later and renamed her Billie Paul Piper.
2. She learned her craft at London’s famous Sylvia Young Theatre School.
The school has an impressive track record: fellow alumni include singers Dua Lipa and Amy Winehouse, and actors Nicholas Hoult, Alex Pettyfer, and Keeley Hawes.
3. She has a bit-part in the 1996 movie adaptation of Evita.
She appears very briefly as a young girl who asks for an autograph from Argentinian President Juan Perón, played by Jonathan Pryce.
4. In 1997, at age 14, she appeared in TV ads for U.K. pop music magazine Smash Hits.
And she made such a strong impression that she landed a record deal off the back of it.
5. The following year, at age 15, she became the youngest artist ever to debut at number-one on the U.K. singles chart.
Piper’s debut single “Because We Want To” was the first of three U.K. number-ones she scored during her music career. The others were 1998’s “Girlfriend” and 2000’s “Day and Night.”
6. She quit the music industry in 2001 and has basically never looked back.
Ruling out a return to music in 2010, Piper told Digital Spy: "It reminds me of a time that was quite tricky. I was a bit messed up! I'm slowly coming out of it, though – I'm reaching that point now where it doesn't make me cringe as much. I'm able to remember the fun side of that job as opposed to the parts that messed with my head.”
7. She’s spoken candidly about suffering from an eating disorder and mental health issues during her music years.
Describing this period of her life as “the oversexualized years,” she told The Sunday Times in 2018: “I think that’s why, for so long, my desire to hide my body in baggy clothes took hold. I like girl’s clothes now because I feel in a better place, but the hangover from that time lasted a while.”
Happily, she added in the same interview: “I think I’m in a good place now, or, at least, a juncture.”
8. In recent years she's realized that she has always suffered from anxiety.
"I didn't think I had anxiety until seven years ago," Piper told Glamour earlier this year. "I always remembered myself as quite a chilled child, and maybe that was true – my mum says that I was a sort of sunny, happy child – but I think I'm just coming to terms with the fact that I actually have quite acute anxiety, and I know I managed that as a kid. Also, nobody was talking about it, so you couldn't name it, and therefore it can often go unnoticed. I was like an obsessive cleaner when I was a kid, in a way that's beyond normal."
9. When she divorced her first husband, former Top Gear presenter Chris Evans, she declined a financial settlement.
As the BBC reports, Piper told the Radio Times in 2007: "I'm not taking a penny from him. I think that's disgusting." She also said that she and Evans, who were married from 2001-7, had "saved each other from our worlds of madness."
10. She’s the only actor ever to have won all six of the U.K.’s top theater awards for a single performance.
Piper completed her clean sweep for her performance in a 2017 London revival of Yerma, a harrowing Spanish play about a young woman who is so desperate to become a mother that she commits a horrific crime.
Do you have a favorite Billie Piper moment or performance?