Billie Piper needed to get rid of the "baggage" of getting "p***** for five years with an old man".
The 'I Hate Suzie' actress married the broadcaster when she was 18 and he was 35 and she admitted their controversial relationship - which ended in 2007 when she was 21 - overshadowed her bid to move from music into acting.
She said: "I was kind of naive about that next phase of my career, which was useful, because you’re not as scared of rejection. But there was loads of rejection.”
Of the "baggage" she was associated with, she said: "A lot of it was just tabloid fodder, rather than, ‘Oh, she was a pop star.’ It was more, ‘She was a pop star, then she got p***** for five years with an old man.’ I think that was the lasting image when I walked into an audition room.
“Older man. Not old man. He’s an old man now, but then, so am I.”
The 40-year-old star - who has Winston, 14, and Eugene, 10, with ex-husband Laurence Fox and Tallulah, three, with partner Johnny Lloyd - is still good friends with Chris and she "really needed" their time together because she had "a lot of fun" and learned a lot.
She told The Guardian newspaper's Saturday magazine: “Loved it. Loved that time. Learned so much. Really needed it, after the experiences that I’d had, leading up to that point. And I felt like I’d actually found a real friend.
"I guess meeting someone who had experienced [fame] for 20 years, at that level, it was very nurturing. And also very drunken, which I needed. I had a lot of fun during those years.”
Meanwhile, Billie admitted her kids often "pull [her] up" on the fact she sounds different when in public to when she's at home.
She said: "People who know me really well say I’m different when I’m operating in that world. My kids will always pull me up on that. They say I sound different, or really formal, or really posh. But as I’m getting older, I feel like it’s happening less, which is probably a healthy sign.”
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