26/12/2011 14:38 GMT | Updated 26/12/2011 14:42 GMT

Great Expectations: Star Vanessa Kirby Defends 'Young Estella In First Love - We've All Been There'

What a Christmas for one pair of London flatmates! While the rest of us fight for the comfiest chair to watch TV, these two will be fighting for prime position behind the sofa, as everyone else watches them.

While Jessica Brown Findlay causes hearts to soften as Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey (with rave reviews for the Christmas Day two-hour bonanza), her housemate Vanessa Kirby will be casting a cooler sheen as the haughty, enigmatic Estella in the BBC’s big-budget Great Expectations, kicking off a three-part adaptation tomorrow evening.

While Estella is a harder person to love than the openly passionate Lady Sybil, Kirby is quick to defend her:

"It's just a case of first love which, as everyone who's experienced knows, just takes over your life, it's so intense. The feeling is all there for both of them, but Estella's been programmed that these feelings will ultimately result in death or at least degradation. So she's disciplined herself not to feel these things. She's perfectly human, she's just been horribly trained."

And she makes the excellent point that we only ever see the distant Estella through the eyes of a young infatued Pip:

"I noticed early on when I was re-reading the book, that you don't see her on her own, you're not ever inside her head, you're only seeing her through Pip's infatuation and adoration of her. So, anything that she does, he's hypersensitive to, whether she's flirting or really cold, it's all times ten for him."

Although Kirby is well aware of the dozens of Expectations that have come before hers, she's not overwhelmed by the thought of any comparison:

"I tend not to watch anything that's come before, because I don't want to imitate anyone, or copy their ideas. I've always found it better this way, to do all my own work. Plus, you're not having to make anything up - it's all in the book."

Kirby is right to be confident to stand on her own feet ideas-wise, from the sound of things. Tagged as a hot young screen talent to watch, she's just completed working for Ridley Scott in South Africa, taking the lead role in the television version of Kate Mosse's spooky bestseller Labyrinth.

"It's been really intense, it's very epic," is her description of the workload. Sounds like it's time for a holiday rest and a Christmas drink with an equally talented, and understanding, flatmate.

Great Expectations - the first part of a three-part series is on Tuesday 27 December at 9pm, BBC1. See our Slideshow of images from the series below: