As one of the most recognisable faces on television, it is hard to see how things could get any better for Robson Green. Adored by women, admired by men, the 38-year-old star of Grafters, Reckless and Touching Evil has emerged as an actor of international repute - he's even had Bruce Willis calling him about projects.

But during the last 12 months Robson, who first endeared himself to millions of viewers as Jimmy the porter in Casualty, has found himself dwelling not so much on his success as his turbulent private life. Now, after months of speculation, Robson has finally agreed to break his silence on the break-up of his eight-year marriage in an exclusive interview with The Mirror.

While he and his occupational therapist wife Alison are in the process of divorcing, he has found love with 44-year-old Vanya Seager. The couple are expecting their first child this summer. Relaxed and casual in dark blue tracksuit bottoms, trainers and a pale blue and grey fleece, Robson, who is usually fiercely protective of his private life, quietly confides: "The truth of it is we will be divorced very soon. We separated in April last year and the divorce papers are going through so that is that, really."

When I ask him if the success he has enjoyed thanks to series such as Grafters put a strain on his marriage, he shakes his head, "Not really. It's very sad but people change."

Robson, who returns to our screens on Sunday in the ITV film The Last Musketeer, is clearly saddened by his failed marriage but he also displays a sense of getting on with things, "It's been a good year for me work-wise," he says modestly. He has also obviously found happiness with Vanya, who once worked as a secretary at his record company RCA. The depth of their feeling for each other was evident when they were photographed recently soaking up the sun together in Australia. Robson had been in Sydney filming another new ITV drama, Blind Ambition, and as they walked hand in hand on Bondi Beach - with Vanya's bump plain for all to see - they looked like any other young couple in love. But the actor is hesitant about talking too much about his new relationship or impending fatherhood, aware of the hurt it could cause. "Things are still sensitive," he says. "But I am in a relationship with Vanya and we are very happy together."

Robson isn't so happy about the so-called friends he believes are responsible for selling stories about him. The accusations last April that he had been cheating on wife Alison sounded the death knell for the star's marriage. "I'm just sad that people have flattered themselves in the press selling their stories about me," he says. "It says more about them than it does about me. People base me on my work hopefully, not on a story that has been sold. I have kept my head down and concentrated on the people who matter. Things happen in life and people change." With that, the subject is closed.

Robson brightens visibly when we move onto his latest project, The Last Musketeer. Filmed in Glasgow, it casts Robson in the part of a world-class fencer whose shady dealings drive him to hide out in a girls' public school where he reluctantly becomes their trainer. It's perfect Robson territory - a feel good family drama with heart. "I play a guy who eats and sleeps fencing," he says. "He doesn't make the Olympic team and he thinks it's because he's working class, but it's because of his attitude really. He is the best fencer in the country yet he has no money so he reverts back to his criminal side and gets involved in a gun run which goes pear-shaped. He goes on the run and seeks refuge in a girls' public school in Glasgow."

Robson stars alongside Arkie Whiteley, who plays the teacher who invites him to train the girls. "It's a ridiculous idea but because he is in hiding, he takes her up on it," he says. Inevitably, there is plenty of action in the bedroom as the relationship between Robson's fencer and Arkie's teacher intensifies. Determined to give a flawless performance, Robson was tutored extensively by top fencing coach David Rollo and his stunt double was the Great Britain number one, Donnie Mackenzie. The actor says: "I learned to fence and I'm all right at it - there was a danger of not looking the part otherwise. The speed, the agility and the beauty of it is extraordinary - it's so fast that you don't see half of it. You had to make sure you knew what you were doing but the real difficult stuff I watched from afar. I enjoyed getting fit. It was good discipline for me."

The discipline will also come in handy for his next role in Blind Ambition, a story about an Olympic 800-metre runner who loses his sight in a car crash. "It's loosely based on a guy called Bob Matthews who managed 22 world records despite gradually losing his sight," adds Robson, who stars with Imogen Stubbs and Liverpool One actor Mark Womack. "It's very much a triumph-over-adversity story." As professionally dedicated as ever, Robson has been training for five months now and looks even leaner, sexier and more sinewy than before - thanks to hours on the track and in the gym. "The first day, I put some shorts on and looked like I'd just come out of the pub. We captured it on video to see how I looked when I started," he says with a laugh. I've lost half a stone since then and need to lose a bit more. You can spot a runner a mile off, they are incredibly lean. I've had to cut most of the fat from my diet but you have to do it gradually or it can be dangerous. I've thrown up a few times from training for up to four hours each day, I can't drink, I'm watching my diet - it's a nightmare. I've even started reading men's health magazines which is a first for me. I'm craving for fish and chips at the moment and I can't even have a glass of wine because it is just too fattening."

After Blind Ambition, Robson starts work on Close & Innocent, in which he plays a legal aid lawyer, and Take Me - a relationship driven drama. Despite two highly successful series, Robson has finally pulled the plug on Grafters, saying: "It has reached its conclusion. The ideas that were bandied about weren't good enough to go for another series. We did two and it's good to get out when it gets to a high, especially when there is other work coming in. My ultimate goal is that producing good work through my company Coastal Productions will take more precedence and I will do less screen work. But the balance is really good at the moment. I'm very lucky. Luck is part of the equation but I've worked hard too. Too many people just expect it to happen."

The Mirror (UK)/ 20 March 2000

Robson Green found himself at the sharp end when he signed up to play professional fencer torn between his sport and his criminal past in ITV's feature-length romantic thriller The Last Musketeer.

After his temperamental character Steve McTear fails to make the national fencing team, he slips back into his crooked ways. But when he's involved in a job that goes wrong, McTear is forced to hide out - from both the police and his associates. He takes a position as fencing instructor at a remote Scottish girls' boarding school where the headmistress has more than a professional interest in the latest addition to her staff.

Becoming fighting fit for the rapier wielding McTear wasn't easy for Green, despite the fact that he'd run professionally and boxed as a teenager. he had to endure a booze-and-fat-free diet, and spend six months getting to grips with the sport helped by Britain's top pros. "It was vital the fencing looked convincing so I had to learn it myself because there's a danger of looking like a guy slapping somebody with a car aerial," jokes Green. "At first I only lasted 30 seconds fencing flat out and then I was on the deck. But in the end I did a lot of my own stunts rather than putting on the mask and letting experts take over. It felt great to put my training into practice."

Green's next role means even more physical exertion. In Blind Ambition he plays a partially sighted athlete training for the Sydney para-Olympics. "I've lost about half a stone with the running and fencing," admits the star who's been showing off his toned physique while relaxing on Bondi Beach with his pregnant girlfriend Vanya Seager during breaks in filming the romantic drama. "But to make any sport look decent you've got to put the work in. You couldn't fake the fencing and it's the same with the running. I've been training five days a week because even at 11 stone you can look like a guy who's just walked out of the pub and joined some guys running 800m."

It looks like more long-distance travel could be on the cards if Green's high-profile fans are anything to go by. While filming the fencing drama, the star received a call from Bruce Willis. Although Green hopes to meet the Die Hard star, he's determined not to jeopardise his career in Britain to seek fame abroad. "I'd go to the states if the scripts were right, if they were character based - that's what matters to me," he asserts. "I don't want to destroy everything that's been created in the North East. I'm very happy with what I do and I'm very happy with my life at the minute. I don't want to break it."

TV & Satellite Week (UK)/ 25 - 31 March 2000

When you meet Robson Green for tea and a chat in a London hotel he tells you that he's currently feeling fit as a lop. A lop, the famous North East actor adds with a laugh, "is Geordie parlance for a scurrying head louse. And if you've seen the speed that one of those things moves, you'll see where the expression comes from."

In truth, he is looking remarkably well. he's half a stone lighter than he was six months ago, toned as a tight-wire, thanks to a strict fat free diet and a training programme that would challenge an Olympian athlete. Then again, among his upcoming roles, he is playing a record-breaking blind runner who's going for gold at the Sydney para-Olympics in an ITV drama called Blind Ambition. And this week he'll be on our screens in The Last Musketeer in which he stars as a fencer. "Both roles," he says, "needed me to look like a proper athlete rather than a man who just stumbled out of the pub. I read the script for Blind Ambition and at one point the script notes say, 'He opens his legs and shows us a stride pattern that we've become accustomed to as a nation.' I thought, 'Oh my God, I'd better put some work in here or I'm going to end up a laughing stock.' But at least now, as a result of all the work, I've never felt better or fitter."

The training programme took Robson back to the days when, as teenagers, he and his brother used to run at a track in the North East and "people would put bets on us like greyhounds," he says. "But this was much more intense than that. Sometimes I'd push myself so hard that I'd stop at the side of the track to be sick. It was a feeling of pushing yourself as hard as you could. it was also an incredible feeling of power." This period of intense physical discipline has coincided with a time of huge stress and radical upheaval in the actor's emotional life. Last year, he and his wife Alison, 33, who have been married for eight years, separated. They're now in the final delicate stages of divorce - which makes any discussion of what went wrong difficult, to say the least.

In the meantime, Robson has begun a new life with 44-year-old former model, Vanya Seager and though she's widely reported to be expecting the actor's baby in the summer, Robson is yet to make the usual public declarations about the subject. "Alison and I are getting a divorce," he says. "I think people change. But that's all I'm prepared to say. I don't want to talk about Vanya now. But when the time is right, I will." Subject firmly closed. Were it not for the actor's belief in the power of publicity and his passion for the projects he's involved in he wouldn't be here at all. After all, he has spent the last few weeks avoiding journalists and photographers who have followed him and Vanya around, reporting their every move. "But I have to promote these shows," he says simply.

That said, we search for safer ground and return to his role in The Last Musketeer, which he says has been a major challenge. "Fencing is far and away the hardest thing I have ever done," he says. "Even though the guys who trained me, David Rollo and Britain's number one fencer, Dannie Mackenzie, make the whole thing look so effortless. With their help I got up to a reasonable standard. But if you matched me with one of these guys, the most I'd last would be 30 seconds and they'd turn the average swashbuckling Mask of Zorro type into a tea bag. They'd perforate the guy. You watch them fence and you think, 'God, these guys are artists'. Modern fencing is wonderful, sexy, almost like ballet. I knew I could never get to their level of achievement but I'm chuffed that I was able to do most of the fencing shots myself."

The Last Musketeer was filmed on location in Scotland. It centres on Steve McTear (played by Robson) a fencing champion who becomes involved in underworld crime when his sporting ambitions fail. Eventually, he falls foul of both the police and the underworld, and foes on the run from both ending up at a girls' public school where he takes cover as the fencing coach. "Mctear's the type of guy who sleeps, eats and breathes fencing. He knows he's the best fencer in the country but because he's working class he hasn't been given the breaks that he's needed. So there's an element of resentment in him. By the end he's gained an understanding."

Now aged 35, Robson is drawn, he says, to roles where there is an obvious arc - a learning curve of experience. "They're roles I probably couldn't have played in my 20's," he admits, "because you need a certain level of maturity and experience to get your head around them." It's undeniable that elements of the roles that he's now playing seem to have echoes in his own private life. Already, for example, he's talking about another project, Take Me by 'Forgotten' writer Caleb Ranson, in which he plays a man whose marriage is breaking up. And in another, Close & Innocent, he explores his deeply rooted political beliefs. "It's about what a right wing government did to the working class North East. The collapse of the mines, the unemployment - things I witnessed first hand, things that have shaped my politics and my beliefs, and made me, to some extent, who I am. But I don't find it hard to reconcile my socialist beliefs with earning good money and I'm not embarrassed by wealth," he says. "If I was embarrassed, then I'd be unhappy.

If he's unhappy about anything right now, it's that, recently, the press has found his private life more fascinating than either his work or his public conscience. "I'm upset that Alison and her family have been hurt by so much unwanted attention. They're wonderful people, and they really didn't deserve that kind of treatment. It's been upsetting for everyone," he admits, "But I'm trying to be an optimist and to look to the future. I've got plenty to look forward to, after all."

Daphne Lockyer/ TV Times (UK)