When Rachel Leskovac dances through City Park this weekend – in a ‘Bollywood opera’ broadcast live on BBC3 – she will have come full circle.

The Bradford actress, who started performing in the city as a child, is feeling nostalgic about her return.

“My mum took me to dancing classes on Saturday mornings and I did a show at the Library Theatre. Being back in Bradford is like coming full circle,” she says. “There’ll probably be someone in the audience who knew me from school!”

Rachel joins Meera Syal, EastEnders actress Preeya Kalidas and former Strictly Come Dancing finalist Chelsee Healey in Bollywood Carmen, a spectacular production with a supporting cast of Bradford people.

A Bollywood take on Bizet’s opera Carmen, it celebrates the centenary of Indian cinema, performed against the backdrop of City Park and the Mirror Pool.

Rachel, who plays Kylie, a friend of central character Karmen, is relishing the challenge of the Bollywood choreography, accompanied by pop song ‘mash-ups’ by Bhangra composer Kuljit Bhamra.

“I’ve never done anything like it before, it’s been a case of fear and dread,” she laughs. “It’s great fun, though. Although it’s essentially a tragic tale, the show will be one big party.”

Rachel trained at Scala Kids in Horsforth and appeared in shows at the Alhambra and Bingley Arts Centre. “I was also in Bradford Kids, run by Phil Smith, and we took shows to the Edinburgh Festival,” she recalls. “Drama classes are great for getting children active and boosting confidence.”

After leaving St Joseph’s College in Manningham – other former pupils include Downton Abbey’s Sophie McShera and Waterloo Road actress Heather Peace – Rachel worked as an office junior for a Bradford solicitor.

“I did a Btec in business studies but it wasn’t my cup of tea,” she says. “When I bumped into a friend from Scala who’d applied to LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) I told my parents I wanted to try for an acting career. They were right behind me, and I got in at LIPA as part of the first intake. We had the place to ourselves!”

Rachel met Paul McCartney, who founded the school, and performed at Buckingham Palace. After graduating she played the young Viv Nicholson in a West End production of Spend Spend Spend and was nominated for an Olivier award, leading to a role as killer nurse Kelly Yorke in Holby City.

She went on to play unlucky-in-love hairdresser Natasha Blakeman in Coronation Street. “I’m glad you think she was a sweet character, that’s how I tried to play her,” says Rachel. “She got labelled a bunny boiler but she was just treated badly by the men she fell for. She was vulnerable.”

Rachel’s other TV credits include At Home with the Braithwaites, Red Cap, Trollied, Shameless and Kay Mellor’s A Passionate Woman. She was also in a memorable episode of Jimmy McGovern’s hard-hitting series The Accused, starring Sean Bean as a transvestite who has a tragic relationship with a married man. “My part was quite small but very significant,” she says. “It was a great experience working with actors like Sean Bean and Stephen Graham, I loved it.”

Rachel says Bollywood Carmen has inspired her to do more live theatre. “It will always have a place in my heart, because of Spend Spend Spend,” she says. “I can’t wait to be back in Bradford, where it all started for me.”

The cast also includes Indian film stars Abhay Deol and Sofia Hayat, former Emmerdale actor Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Holby City actor Rakhee Thakrar.

  • Bollywood Carmen is on Sunday, from 9pm. All tickets for the main audience area have been issued but there will be limited space at some non-ticketed viewing areas.