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Brenda Blethyn - things you didn't know about the Vera actress

Brenda Blethyn Getty
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Brenda Blethyn attends the TRIC Awards 2017 at The Grosvenor House Hotel on March 14, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images) (Image credit: Getty Images)

From being a dab hand at DIY to dreaming of joining the army, there is more to Brenda Blethyn than playing mac-wearing detective Vera Stanthorpe...

Actress Brenda Blethyn has become something of a national treasure thanks to her hugely successful acting roles over the years.

From films like Secrets and Lies and Little Voice, to television productions like Anne Frank: The Whole Story and War and Peace, Brenda has done it all.

But it is her role as as DCI Vera Stanthorpe that has really won the nation's hearts.

Straight-talking Vera solves crimes wearing her trademark scruffy mac, and fans have fallen in love with the work-obsessed detective so much that the series, an adaptation of Ann Cleeve's detective novels, has been renewed for its 11 series.

Most fans of the actress will know that:

  • She's won a whole host of prestigious awards for her hugely successful acting career.
  • She loves her home town of Ramsgate.
  • She was awarded an OBE in 2003.

But what else do we know about Brenda Blethyn? Here are several things you probably don't know...

1. Brenda Blethyn always wanted to join the army

Despite being an award-winning actress, being on television wasn't always part of Brenda's career plan. She told us: "When I was younger I always wanted to join the Army, It's the idea of camaraderie and people working together. My family had a very strong work ethic and my brother Brian was in the army and ended up being a Major."

More: Things you didn't know about Emmerdale star Jeff Hordley 

2. Brenda Blethyn buys Vera's clothes 

Vera Brenda Blethyn

Brenda is responsible for buying Vera's infamous bucket hat (Picture: ITV)

With filming Vera taking up so much of Brenda's working year, it's no wonder that she spends a lot of her time thinking about the character. In fact, Brenda buys some of Vera's clothes if she sees something suitable for her alter ego while she's shopping. Brenda even bought Vera's infamous green bucket hat from stall in a Newcastle market.

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3. She didn't start her acting career until she was in her late 20s 

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Before enrolling at the Guildford School of Acting in her late 20s, Brenda worked as a secretary for 10 years. It was only after the break up of her first marriage that she considered acting. After joining the Royal National Theatre where she gained high praise for her various roles, she then made her television debut in 1980 in Grown-Ups.

4. She based Vera's accent on someone famous

Brenda has confessed that she used This Morning's late agony aunt, Denise Robinson, as the inspiration for Vera's accent after meeting her at an ITV party. In fact Brenda has revealed that she is so good at doing her Geordie accent that she has even fooled locals who believed she was a born and bred northerner.

More: Things you didn't know about Emmerdale star Zoe Henry 

5. She's great at DIY

Brenda Blethyn PA

Brenda is secretly a bit of a pro at DIY! (Picture: PA) (Image credit: PA)

While you might not expect to see Brenda spending her weekends plumbing in toilets, that exactly what she is capable of. She told us: "I'm good at DIY . I've laid a floor, taken out a fire place, put in a while basin and toilet on my own, and plumbed it. I'm a bit like Vera in that respect... she would be capable too. I wouldn't do it now, though. I can afford to pay someone else to do it!"

6. She's got eight siblings 

Brenda was the youngest of nine children born to parents Louisa and William. She told The Guardian that despite not having much growing up her parents were the ones who encouraged her acting dream. "When we were kids we didn't have a television. A lot of the time we didn't have a wireless either, because the bill hadn't been paid. But they (my parents) were terrific storytellers. Dad would get up and act out a story, while mum would make fun of him."

7. She gets saucy fan mail

Vera star Brenda Blethyn: 'I love classic darts show Bullseye!'

Even mac-wearing vera gets saucy fan mail! (Picture: ITV)

Despite Brenda's alter ego being far from glamorous in her rain mac and bucket hat, the actress still gets her fair share of rude fan mail. She once told us: "I get some saucy letters, some of it, believe it or not, for Vera! Even Vera gets the phwoar factor!"

8. She's got a surprising guilty pleasure

When Brenda's not busy filming, she likes to spend her spare time binge watching game show 80s Bullseye! She told us "I'm a massive fan, I watch it on Challenge. You have got all the gameshows on there, but I just love Bullseye. I also watch all the quizzes, Tipping Point, The Chase and Eggheads!"

Brenda Blethyn's Fact File 

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the actress....

How old is she?

Brenda Blethyn's age is 74. She was born on 20 February 1946.

Is she in a relationship?

Brenda Blethyn married husband Michael Mayhew in 2010.

Does she have children?

Brenda Blethyn

Where was she born?

Brenda Blethyn was born in Ramsgate, Kent.

How tall is she?

Brenda Blethyn is 1.57 metres tall.

Twitter: @BrendaBlethyn

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Main picture credit: Getty

Claire Crick
Claire Crick

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.