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By HER own description, growing up Leila Farzad was something of an ugly duckling. ‘Mal-coordinated, over-sized features, very hairy, buck teeth,’ is how she recently summarised her teenage appearance.

Now, of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The actress, currently starring in the latest BBC hit Sunday-night drama, is beautiful, charismatic, not to mention fiercely intelligent – a champion of the sisterhood, railing against societal pressures on women and how they are expected to conduct themselves.

‘As women we’ve been taught to behave and be a certain way,’ the Oxford graduate said a few weeks ago. ‘Sometimes that’s impossible.

‘There’s a little gremlin inside you that says, “I don’t want to behave like this. My stomach hurts, I feel horrific, I’m incredibly premenstrual and underslept and maybe grappling with the fact of whether I should have a child or not”.

‘And yet I’m expected to be this smiley, sweet, affable creature. The hell with that.’ She added: ‘I’m the queen of self-sabotage. I get angry and have a short fuse. I’m not very self-possessed.’

But could her talk of not conforming to expectations – and of ‘self sabotage’ – be interpreted differently in the light of recent revelations?

For, just a few months after setting up a film business with her wealthy and apparently doting husband who still wears his wedding ring, Leila Farzad, a mother of one, has moved on with co-star Andrew ‘Andy’ Buchan, whose nine-year marriage has simultaneously ended.

In Better, Buchan plays a gangland boss to Farzad’s corrupt Detective Inspector and the sexual electricity positively crackles between them on-screen.

It’s not known when Leila’s marriage to businessman James Maizels finished, though a source who spent time with her on a different production last summer, when the affair with Buchan apparently took off, says that she ‘gave every appearance of being single’ by that time.

The source says: ‘She never mentioned her husband and was always larking around with the cast and crew. I thought that she was single – I think a lot of people did.’

He adds: ‘She came across as single and also as exactly the kind of person who it would be better not to leave alone with your husband.’

As for Buchan – the ‘nice guy’ from Bolton, known for his devotion to his former soap actress turned Downton star wife Amy Nuttall and their two children, his grey eyes and his kind smile – it is a turn of events that has left many astonished.

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Buchan, 44, was Andrew Parker Bowles in The Crown, Mark Latimer in Broadchurch and unfaithful former Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the drama This England (where he inhabited the role to a disconcerting degree.)

His idol is the actor Jimmy Stewart, cinema’s ‘nice guy’. He has played Stewart in a short film which he wrote and the company which he set up with his wife is named SlowTalkinJimmy in Stewart’s honour.

However just before Christmas, the marriage came to an abrupt end. Buchan moved out, and reports this week suggest that his wife became suspicious after noticing that he had been staying in hotels close to their home.

A gift of lingerie not in her size was, it has been reported, the final devastating proof that he had strayed. She confronted him, and he left.

Amy posed solo in front of her Christmas tree, and on Valentine’s day in a telling Instagram post, she wrote: ‘I am not impressed by money, social status or job title.

‘I’m impressed by the way someone treats other human beings.’

It was a heavy hint that all was not well.

Since news of the split emerged Amy, 40, has been seen pink-eyed running errands in the Buckinghamshire town of Gerrards Cross where the couple shared a £1.2 million home.

Their circle of friends include Amy’s fellow Downton Abbey actress, Joanne Froggatt, who lives nearby.

Her parents Elaine, an artist and former model and Andrew, a successful barrister are said to be ‘shocked and appalled.’

And Andrew Nuttall was, incidentally, counsel to members of the South Yorkshire Police during the Hillsborough inquiry.

Buchan’s father is similarly successful: he was head of customs at Manchester airport. Sadly his wife died when Andrew was 20 although he says: ‘She lived to see my play Hamlet at university. I still feel her presence in my life.’

It’s not known where the actor is now – possibly in Yorkshire – or if he has moved in with Leila.

He has written a comedy-horror series for ITV called Passenger, and it is filming in Wigan and Calderdale.

What, one wonders, did Leila have which drew him so strongly to his co-star that he would jettison a long-standing marriage?

And similarly, it is not clear what precipitated the significant change in Leila’s personal circumstances.

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Until recently, she shared a home in Chelsea with her husband James Maizels, a successful businessman who runs pub group FB Taverns among other ventures.

In an interview last year, she talked about a home life where Sunday lunches were Persian feasts of buttery rice at local restaurants and where her husband would make their daughter her favourite banana oat pancakes ‘because he’s a legend.’

Certainly the two women now in Buchan’s life seem to be polar opposites in career, attitudes and education.

Leila is academically brilliant with a degree in modern languages from Oxford.

Her mother had stipulated that she could only be an actress if she got into either Oxford or Cambridge.

While Amy went straight from her private arts school to a job on Emmerdale, where she spent 11 years.

In contrast to Amy’s early success, professional achievement has been more of a slog for Leila, who has described with relish how plain she was as a teenager and the challenges of fitting in at school. The only daughter of Iranian parents, who divorced, she says she always stood out.

‘I had one eyebrow and very buck teeth, and my mum didn’t know how to manage my hair so it was a big frizzy mess, and everybody at my school had this sleek blonde hair.

‘They all seemed to have these very even features, and I was the “creature” that felt very different and other.

‘Comedy was my way in. I was the class clown, that was my position amongst all those very pretty… Sophies and Arabellas, if you know what I mean.

‘I felt comfortable and happy being the one that could make everyone laugh. My best friend even talked about it in the speech at my wedding: comedy meant that I felt like I belonged. That was the skill I was offering.’

After graduating from university Leila went to the prestigious Guildhall School of music and drama. But years of rejection and doubt followed.

She said: ‘Drama school doesn’t prepare you for the level of rejection and pain, and the thickness of skin you’ll need to have.’

Before she landed her leading role in the Sky comedy series I Hate Suzie with Billie Piper, Leila was preparing to leave acting and was starting to train as an intimacy coordinator.

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Her struggle will be familiar to Andy Buchan, whose story has parallels with hers. His father also insisted that he should get a degree and Andy studied modern languages at Durham University.

He went on to Rada, where Tom Hiddleston and Andrea Riseborough were in his graduating class.

But jobs in a hotel, call centre and conducting tours of Coronation Street followed, before he got anywhere in acting. He and Amy met in 2007, were married in 2012 and moved out to the home counties soon after.

‘Before that, we had flat above a Carphone Warehouse in London. But now we’re two Boltonians in Buckinghamshire, lowering the tone,’ he joked in 2014.

He went on: ‘It definitely helps that Amy’s an actor. Who else would be ok with the absences or with you doing theatre on Christmas Eve?’

The pair have a seven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.

Amy is a home-bird who seems happy to be a traditional mum, telling interviewers that she is ‘terribly boring’ and very much a ‘staying in rather than going out girl.’ When cast in Downton as housemaid Ethel Parks aged 29, she fretted that she might be ‘one of those women who leaves it too late – it would be devastating to miss out on having children.’

Leila, again, seems to feel quite the opposite, once telling an interviewer: ‘We’re meant to feel like we haven’t achieved what we’re meant to if we don’t have a baby.’

Intriguingly, in an article in December last year to promote the drama Better, any mention of a husband was absent.

While Leila talked happily of their eight-year-old daughter – ‘If I didn’t get a job, I had this other wonderful, ball of happiness. That helped me contextualise things’ – there was no reference to James.

Perhaps the marriage was already on its last legs by this point and she was simply trying to avoid mentioning him.

In a post on Instagram on February 13th, Leila again hinted that she was single by the time Better was filmed.

She wrote: ‘Big up the Better team who wiped my tears, held me up, fed me crumpets and made me smile. Don’t have pics of everyone but this gang got me through!’

Given the headlines this week, it seems one member of the ‘gang’ was being rather more supportive than the rest.

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