An actress from Brighton said she felt a "major connection" to Amy Winehouse as she embarked on a brutal diet to play the late singer in an upcoming biopic.

Marisa Abela said that being "frailer and smaller" helped her to portray the Rehab singer and that she related to her through their similar upbringings, growing up in Jewish households.

The 27-year-old actress plays Winehouse in Back to Black, a biopic about her life released in April.

Marisa said: "The more I got to know her, the more I felt a major connection to this spiky Jewish girl from London who had a lot to say and was really quite unafraid.

“I remembered how I felt when I was young, seeing that woman who was proud and cool, wearing a big Star of David in between a cleavage and a nice bra.

"Feeling frailer and smaller helped – I hadn’t understood, before, how much that affects your tempo.

“During her Frank era [Winehouse's debut album released in 2003], Amy is fast and loud and boisterous with her arms, her movements are big.

“Once I started to change, I realised that you can’t physically make those same movements.

“It’s uncomfortable to sit. You’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re more exposed.”

The Argus: Marisa AbelaMarisa Abela (Image: PA)

Marisa, who was born in Rottingdean and went to Roedean School, embarked on a diet to help her portray Winehouse, who suffered from bulimia and drug addiction before she died in 2011.

She said she was supported by a dietician to help her safely play Winehouse in the film.

Marisa, like Winehouse, also grew up in a Jewish single-parent household which she says helped her to connect with the singer.

Back to Black will arrive in cinemas on April 12 and is directed by 50 Shades of Gray director Sam Taylor-Johnson, wife of Bond favourite Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

The Argus:

The biopic explores the Rehab singer’s whirlwind years living in London and her journey to fame.

Winehouse, who was known for hits including Valerie and Tears Dry On Their Own, died on July 23 in 2011 from alcohol poising.