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Lifting the lid on Vera​ & the woman who plays her

Celeb News

With the small screen populated by so many shows, you are going to have your favourites.

Brenda Blethyn is one of my best-loved crime-solving characters. The British-born theatre, film and TV actress has a rich legacy in Hollywood and at home.

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Some of her other notable roles were in Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Secrets & Lies and Saving Grace, to mention a few.

Having been such a fan of the show, it was surreal chatting to the veteran actress. She was warm, witty and a delight.

Recalling the events around her bagging the plum role of DCI Vera Stanhope, she says: “I was surprised to be offered the role of a detective. I didn’t know the stories, so I bought the Ann Cleeves books.

“In The Crow Trap, the first book that introduces Vera, I read halfway through it without finding the character. And I thought: ‘Well, this is a tiny part.’

“Then there’s a scene in the church – I’m paraphrasing here – and it says the door opens and in walks this great lummox of a woman with shopping bags. And it was Vera Stanhope.

“I thought: ‘Why would they have thought about me for this part?’ I’m 5ft 2 inches (1.57m) and nicely turned out.

“When I read on, I thought: ‘What a wonderful character! I was delighted to accept the role. I think she’s wonderful.”

The four episodes this season are two hours long.

On what fans can anticipate, she says the show’s fortunate to have a good guest writer coming onto the series.

As far as Vera’s private life is concerned, there are dribs of information revealed every now and again.

“But I think it keeps people intrigued about her. The audience wants to know more but they are not going to get much more information. Also, it makes her more appealing.”

Blethyn says viewers will get to know more about DS Aiden Healey’s (Kenny Doughty) family. “But it’s the crime stories themselves that the leading force in each episode. I think people appreciate that part of it. So, hopefully, more of the same, only better.”

Vera is filmed in Northumberland, which is in the north-east region of England, bordering Scotland.

She says: “It’s just the most beautiful part of the country as you see in each episode.

“The first part of our new season is primarily set on an island, which is just off the coast of Northumberland.

“It’s inhabited by thousands and thousands of puffin birds and hundreds and thousands of seals surround the island where our victim is found. So there are many trips across the North Sea to get to the island, which was exciting.

“I’m told that tourism in the area has grown by 25% since Vera has been airing. Vera tours are available in the area.”

This has had a positive domino effect in the Newcastle area, which was once a vibrant shipbuilding place. But the area went into decline since the shipping yards closed.

“There was a great deal of unemployment but it seems to be rising from the ashes. There are lots of film companies up there.”

Hinting at how the shoot went for this season, she says: “When you are filming on an offshore island, populated by thousands of puffins, you are going to get shat on. And we were shat on. Of course, being shat on is lucky.

“Hopefully, that lasts until episode four. So we had to stop occasionally while the make-up or wardrobe department came in with a wet flannel. Some of the crew didn’t have sea legs either, so they were going green around the gills.”

Having left profound footprints in the film and TV world, Tonight asked Blethyn if she was partial to one genre.

“They each have their own pros and cons. I do enjoy playing Vera because I’ve had the chance to develop the character and I’m still developing her, finding areas to explore.

“By the same token, I’m away from home for five months, so that’s a downer. Before making the last series, I made a film in New Mexico with Forest Whitaker and Harvey Keitel called Two Men in Town. That was exciting.”

What kind of roles hold the most appeal?

“I’m often thought of as a comedian. That’s only because I see light and shade in everything that I do,” she said.

“You can’t see the darkness in something unless you see the light to compare it by and vice versa.

“That why I find some comedy and light in the tone of phrase in Vera. It’s not gratuitous.

“But there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy,” she added.

Vera 7 airs on ITV Choice (DStv channel 123) on Wednesday, March 29 at 8pm.

Tonight

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