We chat to British acting legend Brenda Blethyn about Vera and slaying dragons

Cape Town - The amazing actress Brenda Blethyn has played steely and disheveled detective Vera Stanhope (in a show named after its lead character) for seven seasons and has some great stories to tell about it.  

In a telephone interview with Channel24, the theatre legend explained why subtlety is important in television, shared her memories of filming in Cape Town and even joked about Vera taking a starring role on Game of Thrones. 

Last season things were changing for Vera and the team around her. Can you tell us more about where we find her this season? 

She gets on much better with Aidan than she did initially. He’s her right hand man. But she still thinks he has a lot of learning to do. But she has respect for him as she has for all her team and defends them to the hilt but she’s not one to suffer fools, if somebody does something that she doesn’t approve of, she’ll let them know. She doesn’t pull any punches. As far as learning more about her private life there’s little to be learned. It’s drip-fed (her private life). And I think ultimately people rather like that about her. She’s a little bit enigmatic, they just know a little bit about her back life or what her hopes and desires are.  

The show has always centred the crime but as the years have gone on, Vera's vices and redeeming qualities have been revealed as well her past relationships. What has been your favourite moment to play on screen?

I like the interaction with the character played by Chus Jumbo (DC Bethany Whelan). I very much enjoyed that, working with Cush and it was very sad that she went off to an American series (The Good Wife) that apparently she is wonderful in, which is great for her. We have some interesting new writers who came to do series seven, which is about to be aired here in a couple of weeks. It’s all very exciting. But because I am the only constant on the show, when we have new writers come in, there are sometimes little anomalies that have to be ironed out. I have to put out sometimes “that can’t happen because of Vera’s history, her past”, and I refer her to an earlier episode and then they see what I am talking about and they change bits. Because I am like the police force on Vera (chuckles). 

Can you tell us more about the difference between shooting a television series like Vera and working in theatre or film as you have done for many years?

Well one can be very subtle working on television, whereas in theatre that subtlety has to make it to the back row. Of course in theatre it’s not just a matter of creating, but recreating a scene eight times a week and then having to make it seem like it’s your first time saying a line every time you say it. I love working in the theatre. I came into the business to work in theatre. I never dreamed that I would one day be on television or in film. At the time (I came into the industry) there was a certain stigma attached to working in theatre or television or film. You wouldn’t see film actors working on television or theatre. Now you see A-list American actors on TV. So, things are changing. But as far as the technique is concerned you have to be just as honest in both mediums. 

Vera has a really big following in South Africa. You have lots of fans here - myself included. Have you ever been to the rainbow nation or do you have any plans on coming?

I’ve been South Africa; I’ve been to Cape Town when I made a film called Mary and Martha. It’s about women who lost their sons to malaria. I enjoyed Cape Town very much. I stayed at The Mount Nelson. It was very refined. We weren’t there for very long. We were much further north. We were meant to film in Mozambique but filmed in Cape Town because of the malaria threat.

You recently said how much you enjoy Game of Thrones and how you wouldn’t have minded starring on it. Can you tell more about that?

I was actually just a part of a joke I had with some friends on that set. I had a friend who worked in hair and make-up in Game of Thrones and one day as a joke I sent her a text saying, “have you heard I’ve been cast in Game of Thrones?” (Laughs) Can you imagine? Vera chasing a dragon.  

I think Vera wielding a sword would be amazing.

I think she’d be enough to frighten the dragons off. 

Season 7 premieres on ITV Choice (DStv 123) on Wednesday, 29 March at 20:00. 

(Photos supplied)