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Brenda Blethyn - Vera interview

Brenda Blethyn as DI Vera Stanhope

We speak to Brenda Blethyn about her new role as Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope in a new four part series starting on ITV on Sunday 1 May. She tells us why the role appelaed to her and why she thinks she could make a good detective in real life…

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your character, DCI Vera Stanhope?
Brenda Blethyn:
“I find Vera a very interesting character. She’s very complex. She’s not your normal run of the mill detective, or even woman. It’s nice to be playing a detective of a certain age. Work is her life and she just gets on with it. She’s funny, down to earth; nothing is too much for her.

“If you were sat next to Vera on a bus the last thing you’d think she would be is a detective. She’d chat with you about her shopping and the cheap cakes she got on offer down the road! She’s the same as everyone else but she just happens to have a very good, analytical brain and her life has been the police force. She’s an ordinary woman in an extraordinary job.

“Vera’s very hard on her team, but they all like her and get on very well with her because she’s fair. They are loyal to her and she is loyal to them. She and Joe, her trusted sidekick, have a very interesting relationship. It’s not exactly mother and son but she has a very protective feeling towards him. She thinks he’s eager but a bit green around the ears. She knows he’ll go a long way in the police force.

“He has the same loyalties she does and the same drive and sense of justice. She never lets him get too close and I don’t know whether that’s because she’s frightened. Vera’s a loner. Not lonely by any means but a loner.

“Aside from Joe, the rest of her team is quite wonderful. Holly, played by the beautiful Wunmi Mosaku, always thinks Vera’s getting at her but she’s not, she’s just making her do better. She’s only on the team because Vera likes her being on the team.

“A sense of justice drives Vera, and also a sense of worthiness. She grew up with her father and he never had any time for her at all. She’s finding a sense of self worth and is always having to prove herself – it’s part of her psyche to earn her place on the earth.”

Q. And what attracted you to the role?
Brenda Blethyn:
“I like Vera a lot. There’s no vanity or ego about her at all and I love that. I myself don’t have an ego. She’s got a great sense of humour. I’d like her as a mate and to be able to call her up now and again and say ‘fancy a drink’!

“It’s a departure for me to be playing a detective but I’m a naturally inquisitive person. I love solving problems. I’m a member of The Times Crossword Club as I love doing the cryptic crosswords. The harder the better! If you needed to get a wardrobe though a keyhole I’d work out how to do it!

“It comes from my childhood as we were very poor and didn’t have a TV or a radio and Dad would set us puzzles, brain teasers and crosswords to keep us quiet. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in one of these forensic places; I’d find it absolutely fascinating. That aside, I just love the character.”

Q. And what’s different about this detective series?
Brenda Blethyn:
“Vera’s different as she’s a woman in a man’s job and is doing it very well. And she’s not a sex symbol – usually when you see a female detective, she’s a pin-up. Vera evidently is not and I find that refreshing. The setting for the drama is removed from the fast-pace of London, which we all see so much of. I just find the flavour and personality of Vera different. And different is nice.

“I think people all over the world will identify with Vera. All the themes we’ve tackled are universal. For instance, the loss of a child and finding justice so that it doesn’t happen again.

“Vera is very much a part of Northumberland, a beautiful county with so many different terrains. Northumberland is as much of a character as she is. There was one point we were filming on the highest hill in Northumberland and it was spectacularly beautiful. And another day we’d be on a very rugged coast line. I was walking on the shore and it seemed like the sea was so wild, like 20 feet higher than me. With the mist coming in from the North Sea it was completely beautiful.

“That’s juxtaposed when you go in to the inner city and see how bleak it is with the loss of the ship building and mining industries. But there’s a great dignity in Northumberland. It shows in the people. The warmth in the people of Northumberland comes out in our characters. I can’t imagine Vera being anywhere other than Northumberland.”

Next interview: Karen Gillan on Doctor Who