SHE may have started her career as a model, but Bury-born Gemma Atkinson is definitely more than just a pretty face.

The 28-year-old actress began modelling at 15 and burst on to UK television screens while she was still a pupil at Castlebrook High School — playing Hollyoaks’ Lisa Hunter.

A girl with her fingers in a whole host of pies, 2013 sees the launch of Gemma’s nutrition range, the release of two films she has starred in and an involvement with the League Against Cruel Sports.

Gemma, who has moved to South Yorkshire to live with fiancé Liam, a martial arts instructor, owns houses in Bury and still visits the area regularly.

“Because Liam is teaching classes at his academy I could hardly make him live in Bury and commute every day — besides, I am barely ever home with work,” she says.

“I would have loved to stay in the area — I still call Bury home and come back every two weeks.”

Gemma never undertook formal acting training, instead cutting her theatrical teeth courtesy of the six-day weeks and 12-hour days Hollyoaks filming required.

“When I first left Hollyoaks, I found it daunting going to auditions. I would be against people who had been to drama school and something in my head would tell me I did not deserve to be there,” she says.

“I have got over that now and I have never regretted not going to drama school — I think the best way to learn something is just to do it and learning on the job was the best training I could have had.”

Previously a glamour and underwear model, Gemma’s modelling fan base helped her secure a role in Bollywood thriller Fever, released later this year.

“I was asked to take part because a lot of my fans are from India and China,” Gemma said. “Before this I didn’t have a clue about Bollywood films, but it was quite funny to think I was on people’s bedroom walls all the way over in India!” Gemma’s fans can also catch her in another suspenseful watch soon; Russian film The Dyatlov Pass Incident which is based on a mysterious true story in which nine ski hikers died in the Ural Mountains in 1959.

“The film was made in a similar style to the Blair Witch Project in that it is made to look like we are filming it ourselves — this was exciting as it meant there was more scope for improvisation,” she says.

No stranger to gripping storylines, Gemma enjoyed a 10-month stint in Casualty in 2011 and 2012 and the animal lover has recently starred in a short film produced by the League Against Cruel Sports.

The fitness fanatic also has a range of lifestyle shakes arriving on shelves in August and with a nutrition qualification under her belt is keen to prove this is more than a celebrity endorsement.

“I taste-tested the products every step of the way — there was no point taking part unless I actually knew about nutrition,” she says.

“When my dad passed away almost 11 years ago, I told myself it was definitely a good thing to take care of myself and I do keep fit, exercising six days a week.”

Now with a US agent and a hoard of American auditions on the horizon, Gemma says settling down may still be a few years off for her.

“Liam and I have been together five years and engaged a year but we still haven’t even looked at wedding venues yet!” she says.

“I definitely do want children but not until I am in my 30s— I am a bit too selfish to stop work completely at the moment.”