'Move aside Darcy, it's time for women to have a say'
It's a good time for females in TV, says Sally Lindsay, but there's still room for improvement. The Mount Pleasant star chats to Gemma Dunn about sitcom ideas she has on the back-burner.
The sixth series of Mount Pleasant starts on Sky 1 on Tuesday at 9pm.
With five successful series in the bag, you'd assume expectation would ease for Mount Pleasant's sixth run.
But Sally Lindsay - who plays main character Lisa Johnson in the Sky 1 comedy-drama - would prefer not to tempt fate.
"I don't think we ever should [rest on our laurels]," states the 43-year-old.
"Every one [series] always seems better than the last - I know it isn't, people have their favourite - but every one for me is just as exciting, if not more so, because we have more to lose now. So I am less confident, weirdly," she adds of the Manchester-based hit.
Promising more fun, friendship and flirting on the cul-de-sac, viewers can also expect to see Lisa going green - placards and all, much to the dismay of her husband Dan (Daniel Ryan) - this time round. The will-they-won't-they wedding saga between Greg (Adrian Bower) and Tanya (Samantha Womack) rages on; Bradley (Nigel Harman) is back to revive the fire-ravaged Dog And Dart; and Nana (Ellen Thomas) gets introduced to the joys of Tinder.
Add newbies Jane (Jo Joyner of EastEnders fame), her daughter Emily and dishy new police officer Ollie Oliver (Jordan Dawes) to the mix, and chaos is practically guaranteed.
"The actors that come in, they're amazing," enthuses Lindsay, who made her mark playing Shelley Unwin in Corrie (she left the soap after five years in 2006). "We wouldn't attract actors like that if the characters didn't have a backstory and they weren't straight into the action.
"[Mount Pleasant] has such a brilliant reputation in the industry, because apart from the social life, which is now famous, the writing is all there. We just have to pick it up and do it."
Which leads her to the frank conclusion: "There's a lot of b******* about comedy being a serious business - it's not. We get the script, we say the lines, we laugh at each other [and go], 'Aren't we all ace?'" she teases. "All the elements and stars have been aligned in Mount Pleasant and we have all these amazing people. It's literally that clear."
Lindsay puts the series' popularity down to the fact the audience can relate to it. "People can see themselves mirrored in a certain way," she says. "When Lisa and Dan nearly split up for a million reasons, the reaction we had in the public was so horrifying," adds the Stockport-born star. "So [this season] we were adamant to have them back together in their old way."
As a mum herself - Lindsay and her husband, drummer Steve White, welcomed twin boys in 2010 - she recognises the strain children can put on a marriage, if you don't set aside the time for each other.
"It's the best and the worst time of your life," she says. "You're exhausted, you don't know what's hit you, you've never known tiredness like it. You have a relationship, but it's about them. It's a lovely thing and it's the best thing to ever happen to you, but it's that recalibration, and I think people responded to that."
Revealing that she and Steve are "dead strict" about spending quality time together ("We've done that forever, even before it was called 'date nights'"), Lindsay admits she works hard to maintain a balance for her own family, especially when she's filming away from their London home.
"[If] we get a bit like ships that pass, we get a babysitter, we dress up and we go out. It's massively important because it keeps you together for your children. It's an investment in their future, more than yours."
She's pleased her five-year-olds don't quite grasp the concept of their mum being 'famous' yet.
"They sort of think everyone is on TV," she reveals. "We don't do anything in 'that' world and everything is very normal for them." However, disclosing they think every drummer on TV is "their daddy", she muses: "I don't know what they're feeling in their little heads - sometimes I feel a bit, 'What have we done?!' They're probably a bit too young [to realise just yet], but I think it will manifest."
So far, Lindsay's 40s may have been centred around her most prized role yet - motherhood - but the bubbly actress confesses that landing dream jobs might not always be that simple.
"Most of my stuff, I have pretty much created myself," she explains. "It's always been a bit of a development process with me. There are a lot of better female roles out there, but I think when you pass 40, it gets harder - especially if you're not on a list. On the lead list.
"What you're meant to look like in films and dramas gets harder," she continues, before adding: "It's only a pressure if you let it be, and I made a decision when I was 30 not to care.
"I don't really like going down the red carpet; I don't like the idea of people taking pictures of you and asking where your clothes are from. But it's the industry and you've got to have that as part of your life. I just get on with it."
One thing Lindsay is keen to champion, however, is the influx of female-led work on the small screen. And it's a switch she believes has been made possible from the top.
"Women like to watch women who look like real women," she concludes, reeling off an impressive list of top female TV executives.
"Women are sick of watching people walking through French windows looking for Mr Darcy. It was a Nineties thing and we're over that. We like Happy Valley - proper, amazing drama and comedies led by women. It's changing, but not as much as I'd like it to."
It sounds like she's plotting to address that, however.
"There are loads of things I want to do: there are two drama comedies I have written - or written the idea of; and two sitcoms I've written.
"So I haven't finished," she concludes with a grin. "I haven't started yet."