In Britain, Martine McCutcheon is no newcomer. Since Appearing in a Kool-Aid ad as a kid, she has starred on TV (in the prime-time soap EastEnders) and stage (in a 2001 London production of My Fair Lady); released three albums; and filled tabloids with personal tales of cheating beaus and broken engagements. Still, she seemed anything but a hardened vet when she heard that she'd be costarring with Brit bigwigs Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant (as the prime minister whose heart she wins) in the romantic comedy Love Actually. "I just jumped up and down like a lunatic," says McCutcheon, 27. "I was gobsmacked."

Translation: stunned—and happy, a welcome feeling for the London native who has admitted struggling with depression. Director Richard Curtis wrote the part for her: "I watched her [on EastEnders] and loved her every day" lie says. "She is a wonderful, boisterous, confident girl." High-profile liaisons with the likes of Simply Red lead singer Mick Hucknall and model James Gooding behind her, she is dating a real estate developer—and hoping to show off more of her talents. As Love wrapped, she started singing and turning cartwheels for director Curtis—"just in case," she said, "you want to employ me for the next job."