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Vera Series 2 - Brenda Blethyn

Brenda Blethyn and David Leon

Award-winning actress Brenda Blethyn makes a welcome return as Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope in the second series of Vera based on the best-selling books by Ann Cleeves. Here she speaks to us about the detective’s return

Where were you when you received the news that Vera had been re-commissioned?
Brenda Blethyn:
I was in Sydney, Australia playing the formidable Mrs. Berry in Edna O’Brien’s Haunted. It was wonderful to know that I’d be returning to the UK to play Vera again.

Did you celebrate the news?
Brenda Blethyn:
Certainly did! My husband Michael flew out to Australia for a few weeks to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Whilst celebrating we naturally raised a glass to Vera.

Originally, were you nervous taking on a character that already existed in the novels written by Ann Cleeves?
Brenda Blethyn:
Slightly, yes. Obviously fans of Ann Cleeves would know the character inside out. But one mustn’t be deterred by that! I read all the books before accepting the role and really liked Vera. Naturally everyone’s perception of her will be slightly different. I knew I would enjoy playing Vera. I was really happy to hear that many fans of the books are also fans of the series.

Ann Cleeves has said she now hears your voice when writing future books.
Brenda Blethyn:
It’s terribly flattering. I do feel at one with the character. I understand Vera, but that’s because she’s so well shaped in the books. It’s like putting on a garment that fits really well. Bit ironic to say that considering Vera’s wardrobe!!

Did Ann visit set during filming?
Brenda Blethyn:
Yes, she came to set a couple of times. On one occasion we were filming very close to where her mother lives and once, when we wrapped early for the day, she took me to meet her which was a real treat.

What do you enjoy most about the character?
Brenda Blethyn:
The more interesting the crime, the more I like Vera getting stuck into it. I’m a naturally inquisitive person. I love solving problems. I’m a member of the Times Crossword Club and enjoy the challenge of their cryptic crosswords. The harder the better!

That aside, I just love the character. Vera’s seemingly dead ordinary but she happens to have a very good, analytical brain. She’s an ordinary woman in an extraordinary job. She’s not your normal run of the mill detective. Plus, she’d know the price of all the two for one bargains down the Co-op! She’s definitely someone I’d like to know and count as a friend.

For anyone not familiar with the character how would you describe Vera?
Brenda Blethyn: Vera’s complex. Work is her life. She’s a loner, not lonely. She had an unhappy childhood but tries not to let that bother her now. She learned from it, and isn’t hampered by it. She’s funny, down to earth; nothing is too much for her. She’s got a great sense of humour. There’s no vanity or ego with Vera and I love that about her. She’s straight to the point and has a no nonsense approach. She can be harsh, but then can’t we all?

What can viewers expect from the new series?
Brenda Blethyn:
In The Ghost Position Vera is reunited under very tragic circumstances with her first ever Sergeant, Stuart Macken (Steven Hartley). Stuart’s house is petrol bombed whilst his 18-year-old daughter is at home. His daughter ends up fighting for her life in intensive care. Vera feels a huge amount of loyalty to Stuart so is even more determined to solve the crime and find out who is behind this very personal attack.

There’s also the departure of D.C. Holly Lawson, the wonderful Wumni Mosaku. When my husband watched the final scenes between Vera and Holly it made him cry. It really was very emotional at the time of filming and I think this comes across on screen.

David Leon, D.S. Joe Ashworth, is heroic in the second film. He dives into a reservoir to rescue the passengers trapped in a car, which has plummeted off the cliff into the water. When they were filming the stunt I was standing at the side of the lake and I have to say it was a very nerve-wracking indeed. I was so proud of David.

There’s a great new addition to the team – Cush Jumbo. She plays D.C. Bethany Whelan. A feisty character with a little bit of the dragon tattoo about her. She’s a whiz on the old computer. There’s something tomboyish about her and she’s more than a match for D.C. Kenny Lockhart played by Jon Morrison.

Did your co-star David Leon give you any help with your accent?
Brenda Blethyn:
David’s always really supportive. During filming I kept asking him if my accent sounded okay. He said, ‘Brenda you really should have more confidence about it because you really do not have a problem with it. It’s terrific!’

It seems Newcastle is becoming your second home. Does it feel like that?
Brenda Blethyn: I love Newcastle. The people and the communities where we film are so friendly. I really enjoy being amongst the locals. Everywhere we film people come out to say hello. Of course, when we filmed the second series everyone was familiar with Vera and was very excited that we were back. That’s a nice feeling.

There’s often a sense of celebration in the city. I went out with David for Halloween and I was amazed to see the city centre throbbing with people all dressed up. Because I don’t normally carry a fancy dress costume around with me I had to improvise with a gothic hairdo and sported a huge tarantula on my neck (where did that come from you might ask? That’s another story!) We had a terrific night out with everyone. Newcastle is a great city!

Next: Joanna Page talks about her role in The Syndicate

Vera is on ITV1 Sunday nights at 8pm from 22 Apirl 2012