25/07/2012 11:47 BST | Updated 24/09/2012 06:12 BST

Michelle Ryan - How Filming The Man Inside Made Her Feel Sad...

Fans of Michelle Ryan are used to seeing her looking rudely healthy, often on the front of magazine covers, never anything less than sun-kissed and brightly blue-eyed.

Michelle Ryan in The Man Inside - not how we're used to seeing her...

They’ll have a shock when they watch her in The Man Inside – pallidly made up, stark brutal makeup, it is an overall look shocking to the eye that ended up upsetting even Ryan herself when she had to film it…

“When they put the blue makeup on me, I actually found it too harsh. I felt very sad wearing it. They gave me red stuff to put on, and that was much softer.”

Ryan plays gothic outsider Alexia in the thriller, co-starring Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur) and David Harewood (Homeland), telling the story of a young boxer trying to outgrow his father’s gangster past and build on the relationship with his trainer – a little bit ‘Rocky’, a little bit’ The Wrestler’, it doesn’t seem expected fare from the actress who made her name as Zoe, Dennis Rickman’s one-time bit of fluff in EastEnders.

Michelle Ryan co-stars with Peter Mullan and David Harewood

But Ryan is quick to spot the links...

“When we’re young we’re drawn to the dark side, lots of emotions that we can’t handle but we’re horribly attracted to them anyway.

“It’s a strange time – makes very good drama.”

Ryan, who flirted with stateside stardom with a turn as the Bionic Woman until the revamp was shelved, will be on the London stage next, in Cabaret with Will Young – “I’m very nervous, so glad I got to tune up the vocal chords on this film.”

Michelle Ryan, as we're used to seeing her, at the London premiere for The Man Inside

It’s all a long way from Albert Square, but she doesn’t turn up her nose at fans who still want to grab a snap with their Zoe.

“I’m very nostalgic for EastEnders,” she says, (even though she recently ruled out any return to the soap as being like “going back to your ex-boyfriend”).

“Five or six years have passed, and it weird that people still remember. Although I was in the supermarket the other day and someone came rushing up, saying ‘4321’ – bit strange.”

The Man Inside is in cinemas on Friday 27 July. Watch the trailer below...