Tamzin Outhwaite has told how she avoided watching New Tricks before joining the series.

The former EastEnder was introduced at the end of the last series as DCI Sasha Miller, who heads up the crime-busting team of retired police officers, following the departure of DSI Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman).

But while there are similarities between Sasha and Sandra, Tamzin was keen to make the role her own.

"The key for me was to not watch too many episodes, because I think then you might fill your head with expectations that you don't need," she said.

"When you're taking over a role in anything, or playing a loveable character in the theatre, to try not to go and see another production of it or watch it on television is always a good thing, I think."

Mum-of-two Tamzin said shooting the latest series of the BBC police drama was "more of a rest" than being at home.

"Someone cooks you food and gives you lunch, people make you laugh, and then someone does your make-up, so really I only had to worry about myself," smiled the 43-year-old, who divorced Miranda actor Tom Ellis in April after seven years of marriage.

Tamzin had to balance work, including the occasional night-shoot, with looking after her two daughters, Florence, six, and two-year-old Marnie Mae.

"I've got a nanny, she lives in now. I wouldn't be able to do it without her," said the actress.

"A builder, who was doing my kitchen, came in at six in the morning and he went, 'Tam, do you ever sleep?'. I think I got quite used to having a four-hour average."

:: New Tricks returns to BBC One on Monday, August 18. Tamzin is also in an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? Which airs on BBC One on Thursday, August 21.