THE LAST time Emma Mullen appeared at the King’s she was an orphan.

Now, she has three dads and a wonderful mother.

“I was in Annie,” says the 23 year-old, smiling.

“I was one of the orphan kids. But now I’m getting the chance to go back into the theatre in the most fantastic part of all time.”

Emma, who grew up attending local drama groups in Bearsden, is set to star as Sophie in Mamma Mia!, the worldwide hit which features the music of Abba.

As we know, the musical theatre show tells the traumatic – but ultimately uplifting story – of Greek island-based Sophie, who discovers she has three possible fathers on account of the fact her mum overdid the ouzo on occasion.

Emma reveals her entire raison d’etre for becoming a performer has been about landing the role of the beautifully bewildered Sophie.

“When I declared my ambition to be a performer my mum slapped down one condition. She said ‘As long as you appear in Mamma Mia! some day.

“And that has happened. And I can’t quite believe it.”

Emma, who has a recurring role in BBC drama Shetland, playing “away-day girl” Rosie, battled hard for the stage role of her dreams.

Having moved to London this year, the actress who trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, had to endure five rounds of auditions.

“During this time there were nine or ten cuts in amongst that,” she explains.

“Producers were continually judging us on singing, dancing, acting , everything.

“All during this time I tried hard not to think that I may actually land the role. You see, there have been times when I’ve allowed myself to dream about getting a job and then found myself so disappointed.

“I had to learn to put thoughts like that aside. All I could do was to try and get to the next round.”

After Emma landed the lead role of Sophie she still couldn’t quite believe it had happened.

“Two weeks after getting the part I was on the subway and I looked up and saw a poster for the show.

“I was so taken aback. I couldn’t have imagined for a moment I would actually be appearing in that show.”

But it wouldn’t be so terrifying if it weren’t so big?

“That’s exactly right,” she says. “My mum went to see it Mamma Mia! in London when it first opened and has loved it ever since.

“And I was really young when she took me to see it for the first time, to Edinburgh, and it was amazing. We’ve seen it several times since.”

Emma moved to London earlier this year.

“I wanted to move and take the chance, and to be available for all the auditions.”

Incredibly, the move paid off in double quick time.

But would it not have been better if she’d had a couple of years barely surviving on porridge and Pot Noodles?

Would success have tasted sweeter if the threat of eviction had been grasping at her ever-thinning throat, the prospect of hi-tailing it back north playing out like a horror movie in her head?

“No,” she laughs, emphatically.

“And you have to remember I’ve had my disappointments. I’ve gone up for parts and not landed them and that’s hurt.

“But that’s what you expect in this business. And I’ve had a nice time, relatively speaking since leaving drama college.”

That’s true. Emma Mullen is still 23 but can bring a certain amount of experience to her role as Sophie.

For example, she starred in Snow White at Perth Theatre last year, alongside Barry Hunter.

“It was great because it was very female empowered piece. Snow White was the no-nonsense hero.”

And she has worked with Johnny McKnight in panto, in Chick Whittington.

“I had to keep up with Johnny’s ad-libs,” she says grinning. “You never knew what he was going to say next.

“But I love panto. Once you’ve done panto and managed through 12 shows a week you can do anything.”

Since landing the Mamma Mia! role Emma has found herself in an unusual situation. She’s living in London and ready to take on the role of her life.

But her life is in abeyance.

“It’s been a question of paying the bills. I’ve worked as a waitress and a hostess to pay the rent. And the four months in between getting the role and going on stage has been a long time.

“Normally, I would be auditioning during this time, but that couldn’t be the case.”

She adds, smiling; “Yet, at the same time I know the next year of my life will be crazy so I’m trying to see friends and family. And it’s all so exciting.”

Emma is set to tour with the show, which will include international dates, before coming back to Glasgow in the Spring.

“The King’s is my favourite theatre and I can’t quite believe I’m coming back there.”

She laughs; “And with three dads and a mum.”

But given she’s landed the role of Sophie, which is all her own mum ever asked of her, where does a young actress go after this?

“Well, I may have peaked for my mum but believe me there is lots more I want to do,” she says, smiling.

Mamma Mia!, the King’s Theatre, April 7-25, 2020.