Brenda Blethyn is back in the role of unorthodox, but brilliant DCI Vera Stanhope in the eighth run of crime drama Vera. She tells Gemma Dunn about the show's appeal and why theatre could be next on her hit-list.
CONGRATULATIONS ON AN EIGHTH SEASON OF VERA.
I know, can you believe it? They're all feature-length, so that's 32 films. Wow.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE SHOW HAS ENJOYED SUCH SUCCESS?
I think it's just that Vera is so ordinary. She's not reliant on lipstick or fashion - she's not come off the catwalk - and I think that women like the fact she is in charge of all of those men looking the way she does. And their husbands are enjoying it as well and not lusting after her ... some might. The stories are intriguing and the setting of it is so appealing, too.
YOU'VE TOYED WITH PREVIOUS SERIES BEING YOUR LAST, SO WHAT MAKES YOU COME BACK FOR MORE?
Well it's nice to do a job where as far as the character is concerned, I'm coming at it with a history. I've been with her so long. I know her better than anyone - except Ann Cleeves (the author behind the books the series is based on) of course - because I am the only constant on it. So often in television and film, you've read the script, and you turn up and film it. So to come at these great scripts that present themselves, knowing you've got that basis already there, is really satisfying.
YOU PUT ON THE NORTH-EAST ACCENT BRILLIANTLY. HOW EASY IS IT TO SWITCH BACK TO IT EACH TIME?
Once I get up there, it's already there in my head. I was delighted in an interview this morning when a group of people from the North East said my accent was 10 out of 10. There's a lot of affection for the character. Quite often we're setting up near where people live, and they come out with chairs and a bottle of wine. I can't have anything, I've got to drive that jeep.
ARE THEY SURPRISED TO FIND OUT YOU'RE UNLIKE THE BRILLIANT, BUT SOMEWHAT UNORTHODOX VERA?
It's quite nice because they say, 'Oh, aren't you pretty'. They should have gone to Specsavers. They say, 'Oh aren't you little'. I say, 'Well, I'm not really. I've grown into the part'. Every time I look in the mirror, I look a bit bigger.
WOULD YOU SAY YOU HAVE MUCH IN COMMON?
Well, she's 5ft 2in. I'm not slim, but she's fatter than me because I wear a lot of things to make her look bigger. I'm a problem-solver - I love brain teasers and puzzles and cryptic puzzles. One thing I have to have up there with me is a printer, so that I can print out The Times puzzles and distribute them to Kenny (Doughty who plays DS Aiden Healy) and other people who want one and have to race me. They never win.
THIS SERIES YOU'RE FILMING IN A REAL ABATTOIR. HOW WAS THAT?
We were actually in the other parts of the abattoir that you don't see so much. It was quite fascinating. All these sides of meat hanging up; it was impeccably clean, it looked pretty impressive, but it makes you want to be a vegetarian.
YOU'VE BEEN KNOWN TO DO YOUR OWN STUNTS. CAN WE EXPECT ANY THIS TIME AROUND?
It changes, actually. I always used to do them all and then suddenly, I don't know if it's health and safety, but some bloke turns up. It could be something simple that I do on a daily basis going round Piccadilly Circus - you know, like pulling up quick (in the car). My stunt double has got a ginger beard.
WHAT WOULD MAKE A GOOD VERA STORY FOR A FUTURE EPISODE?
One that's set on Capri in December, January and February - I think that would be vital. But I don't know, they're marvellous, these writers. I wish I could write like that, how they come up with the different ideas.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO NEXT?
I quite fancy the idea of panto all of a sudden. It would be quite jolly, wouldn't it, to flounce about? Some theatre soon, but I can't think about it if I'm thinking of Vera. I used to do it; I've been off between series and done films, but I want to have some me-time. Some family time. Dog time.
Vera returns to ITV tomorrow, 8pm