UGLY Betty star Ashley Jensen has said Britain has become a more “brutal” place – and warned cuts to youth centres will make it worse.
The actress, who played Christina in the US show as well as Maggie in the BBC’s Extras, has returned to the UK after six years in Los Angeles.
The 43-year-old, who was brought up in Annan in Dumfriesshire by her mother, says she was stunned at how much the country had changed in her absence.
Her new film, All Stars, deals with the cost of austerity in Britain.
She said: “It’s a tough time in Britain. I haven’t been here long so I’m still finding my feet, but it feels like a different place.
“It’s more of a struggle. It’s a harsher place, more brutal and cut-throat.”
In Glasgow yesterday she said she was worried over government cuts to services for young people.
The character she plays in her new film, a social worker called Gina, who fights the closure of a youth club.
Jensen said: “I worry about youth clubs being cut. What kind of country are we leaving to the next generation?
“Youth centres are desperately needed but everything is about cuts.
“[Youth centres] can nip a problem in the bud before the problem happens.
“If young people are about to go down one path, you can direct them somewhere else and give them hope, and self-worth.”
The actress has worked with special needs children, and was a member of the Girl Guides and the National Youth Theatre.
She said she worried her own son Francis, three, would not have the same opportunities.
She continued: “If we shut youth centres, the damage will be in the next generation.
“It’s about getting kids on the cusp when they’re thinking of going down that road of being the bad guy, and they find somewhere where they can put that focus.”
The film is released on May 3, and Jensen said she hoped it would change minds about the need for funding for the arts.
She said: “The film has hit at the right time.”
“We might change a few minds about the importance of youth centres and it’s great that it’s happening because the community we’re in now is fractured – there isn’t so much a sense of community in Britain as there used to be.”
Jensen’s character teaches children at the youth centre to dance in the film, and stressed the importance of teaching the arts.
She said: ““I was anti-Thatcher. As a child, I always used to say, ‘Mrs Thatcher was the one who took our milk away’.
“It was hard because growing up there was no drama department at my school.
“Drama gives children a channel to be themselves … it’s seen as something you can cut, but to me a drama class is more important than a physics class.
“Not all children are academic … It’s more important to be able to express yourself than know what pi is.”