TURNING 40 may be considered a landmark birthday for many, but for Angela Griffin, it’s simply another unwelcome tag in the fickle world of showbiz.

“I’d go back tomorrow and be 21,” admits the Leeds-born actress, burying her face at the mere mention of her impending birthday (it’s July 19).

“I’m happy with where I am, though,” she quickly adds. “I’m really fortunate in that I’ve got two girls, a lovely husband, I’m doing some really great jobs at the moment and I’ve got a nice house.

“It’s all where it should be - but I still don’t want to be 40!” she shrieks, laughing. “I just think it’s rubbish because it changes how people look at you. I wish people just didn’t know how old I was!”

Griffin, who’s been married to actor Jason Milligan since 2006, could easily pass for a woman 10 years her junior - especially today; sporting a palm-print jumpsuit, flawless skin and an enviable figure.

But despite my insistence she’s looking great and her confession she’s set on a “month of celebrations” for her birthday, she’s having none of it.

“The roles I’m getting offered are miles more interesting now, which is why I’m a bit like, ‘I don’t want everyone knowing I’m 40 because then they’ll stop offering me those roles’. When you’re over 40, you’re statistically a has-been; you’ve got less chance of getting a job because there are eight men to every one woman on TV.”

She’s accepted the fact trying to hide her age probably isn’t an option, though... “Because I’ve been on the telly since I was 16, there’s no way I can hide it because everyone will just be like, ‘Are you not 99?’”

Indeed, Griffin has been a familiar face on the small screen since the early-Nineties, making her mark in soaps Emmerdale and Coronation Street, and dramas Mount Pleasant, Waterloo Road and, more recently, Lewis, among others.

Her latest gig, ITV’s Brief Encounters, is already causing quite a stir.

Frank, fresh and funny, the saucy six-part drama focuses on four ordinary women - Pauline (Penelope Wilton), Steph (Sophie Rundle), Dawn (Sharon Rooney) and Griffin as the enigmatic Nita - whose lives are turned around when they become Ann Summers saleswomen.

“The appeal for me was reading a script that had four real women at the centre of it,” Griffin says of the Eighties-set series, which is loosely based on Good Vibrations, the 1995 memoir penned by Jacqueline Gold,

“I loved the era it was placed in and I loved what the girls were doing. I think the minute you start caring about the characters then it’s cracked, and I cared.”

While playing pregnant mum-of-four Nita may come naturally to mother-of-two Griffin, dressing up in a risque French maid outfit tested new waters for the actress.

“I was really nervous about it. I went to the gym quite a lot. I’m quite happy with my cellulite - me and my husband love it; it’s perfectly fine, I just don’t need to show everyone else it!”

But it’s not just Brief Encounters the Northern personality has been hitting the gym for; there are numerous saucy scenes in the upcoming second series of BBC One’s Ordinary Lies, which Griffin’s set to star in.

“I want to look and feel the best I’ve looked,” she muses. “When I’m on screen, I don’t necessarily feel self-conscious; I’m not a model, I’m playing real people. But being photographed and stuff like that, people are judging you.”

At home in London, however, Griffin is happy just being ‘mum’.

“The girls are still at the point where they think I’m cool,” she says coyly. “That’s how I know that my eldest isn’t quite a teenager yet; she’s got the hormones of a teenager and she’s moody, but she still likes me so I’m taking full advantage of that at the moment.”

She’s happy to admit she relies on teamwork with her husband as well as a “really good nanny” to be able to fit in filming and travelling for work.

For Griffin, who says she went back to work when the girls “were five months”, the decision to maintain her career alongside parenthood is a positive choice.

“A long time ago, I worked it out that it’s fine if we want to live in a nice house.

“I’ll work now and then I’ll have eight weeks off during summer, when I’m at home and with them every single day.”

And Griffin isn’t complaining about her hectic schedule,

“I love being busy,” she said.

Brief Encounters is on ITV1 on Monday