Brenda Blethyn on playing Vera: ‘Who would have thought somebody as shambolic as Vera would have such an appeal’

Brenda Blethyn in Vera. (Photo: Supplied/ITV)
Brenda Blethyn in Vera. (Photo: Supplied/ITV)

Cape Town - Bafta and Golden Globes-winning actress Brenda Blethyn returns to ITV Choice for the 10th season of the acclaimed drama series Vera on Wednesday, 22 January at 20:00 with four new feature length episodes.

Following the success of series nine, award-winning actress Brenda Blethyn is back as as the unorthodox but brilliantly perceptive DCI Vera Stanhope. Four new two-hour long episodes, sees the return of Kenny Doughty as Detective Sergeant Aiden Healy, who over the years has proved himself to be a strong and reliable partner to DCI Stanhope. 

Completing Vera’s team is Jon Morrison who plays DC Kenny Lockhart, Riley Jones who plays DC Mark Edwards, Ibinabo Jack who plays DC Jacqueline Williams and Paul Kaye who returns as Pathologist Dr. Malcolm Donahue. 

The four self-contained crime stories are inspired by the best-selling novels and characters created by acclaimed crime writer Ann Cleeves, who received the Diamond Dagger Award at the Crime Writers’ Association in 2017 for a lifetime achievement for sustained excellence. 

Brenda Blethyn, VERA

(UNLIKELY FAVOURITE: British actress Brenda Blethyn in Vera. Photo: ITV)

We asked Blethyn some questions about the new series:

How does it feel to have filmed ten series of Vera? 

It’s absolutely wonderful. That’s the equivalent of 40 feature films. To be honest, I don’t know where I find the stamina to do it, but a different gear seems to kicks in. 

Then when we’ve finished filming each year I come home and fall apart! Vera is said to be the longest running ITV drama series with a female lead. Who would have thought somebody as shambolic as Vera would have such an appeal? 

I think Vera has paved the way to some extent for other strong female lead characters. 

Vera’s father didn’t approve of her choice of career. He thought she was a woman in a man’s job but she hasn’t been held back by her origins. Since we started work on Vera in 2010 the TV industry has changed. There have been lots of female leads and good roles for women.

Has the audience view of Vera changed over time? 

When Vera first appeared on screen I don’t think people were that enamoured by her. They thought she was a rather abrasive character. But because her sidekick DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon), liked her and viewers loved him, they could see that he and the police team were all loyal to her, then they thought, ‘Well Vera must have something going for her?’ I think it took a couple of episodes for the audience to warm to her. Certainly, by the end of the first series there was an appetite for her. 

As in life, you meet someone you don’t like very much. Then when you get to know them a little better you think, ‘Actually, I really like this person.’ The opposite can also be true. You meet someone who you think is absolutely the bee’s knees. You get to know them and they are a complete waste of time. I’m quite an independent person but I’m too polite for my own good sometimes. Vera is not. Put me up against Vera, I think she would win.

What is a typical filming day like on Vera? 

We filmed this tenth series from April to October (2019) and the hours are very long. When I got back home to Kent someone said to me, ‘You must only work six, seven hours a day in your business?’ But I explained that on a typical day my alarm goes off at 05:30. It’s a 11-hour day in front of the camera with an hour before that for costume and so on. It could also be an hour’s travel each way to and from the location. Then when I get home I’ve got to learn tomorrow’s script, so it’s 16 hours a day.

How do you feel about the fact Vera is a huge international success and can now also be seen around the globe on streaming platforms? 

It is an exciting time. I am a little old fashioned though, and even though I have watched some drama series in one go, I do like the anticipation of waiting for the next episode. As in the theatre, waiting for that curtain to go up. There’s something rather wonderful about that. I like to save it all until that curtain goes up.

Do you get recognised when out of character during breaks from filming? 

I sometimes do a supermarket shop in the north east when I’m not filming. I try to keep my head down so I can get my shopping finished quickly but I do get recognised. The last time I was in there a lady collared me, literally, got a hold of me and told me she loved me. Of course, she meant Vera. So, I chatted to her and then off she went quite happy. But then she came running back with the manager to say, ‘Look who’s here!’ As if he hadn’t got something better to do. But they are very nice people in the north east.” 

Are you happy to go on filming Vera if the audience want to see more? 

Yes. All the time I’m fit and well. Why not? It’s a comfort. You want Vera to go on. You look forward to doing more. After you’ve had a breather. But I don’t think I can play Vera on a zimmer frame. Or maybe I can!

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