AFTER two seasons as the feisty Maxine Donnelly in the Channel 4 series Shameless, Joanna Higson will not be returning to the show.

Instead the actress, who lives in Horwich, has revealed she will be hoping to impress with a variety of projects, including a part in Accused, a Jimmy McGovern drama for the BBC, in which she stars alongside Christopher Eccleston.

“It was like a grown-up’s job — it was completely different to what I’ve done before,” she said.

“Christopher Eccleston is really serious about his work, so it was nice to be able to have a conversation about acting with him and Pooky Quesnel, who plays my mother, and not feel pretentious.”

Joanna, aged 27, said her decision to leave Shameless, one of the country’s most popular TV shows, was difficult, but she was keen to avoid becoming known only as “the girl from that show”.

She said: “The two years just flew. It is a long time to be doing just one thing and I was keen to try some other stuff while I can.

“I’ve only just got started in acting really, and I feel that there’s so much I still want to do.”

She admitted it was frightening to give up a regular source of income, but says the desire for new challenges overcame any sense of fear.

“You have to know when to move on,” she said. “The earlier you take risks the better — at least you don’t look back and think ‘I wish I’d gone for that’.

“Accused is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for, and I’d also love to do some more theatre and mix it up a bit.”

Joanna’s big break came in 2007 when she was cast for an episode of the BBC’s Afternoon Play, titled Johnny Shakespeare.

She then went on to appear in another Jimmy McGovern drama, The Street, and in the BBC3 comedy Scallywagga, before landing the role as Maxine, the on-off girlfriend of Carl Gallagher, in Shameless.

She said her dream role would be something similar to the lead in the BBC’s adaptation of Tess Of The d’Urbervilles, which was played by Bond girl Gemma Arterton.

“Gemma Arterton steals all my roles!” she laughed.

“I’m just waiting for her to retire and then I’ll be in there.”