Brenda Blethyn shares her funny encounters with fans, reveals who her all time favourite TV detectives are and what she thinks the secret to Vera's success is as it returns for its tenth series....
The mac, assortment of scarves and trusty hat are back as Brenda Blethyn returns as DCI Vera Stanhope for a tenth series packed with murder, mystery and intrigue.
As the new four-parter gets underway this Sunday, DCI Stanhope and her loyal colleague, DI Healey (played by Kenny Doughty), have their work cut out when the body of a wealthy businessman, Freddie Gill, is found at his luxury pad and all sorts of tangled family connections slowly emerge from the woodwork.
We met up with Brenda Blethyn to hear about her funny encounters with fans, who her own are all-time favourite TV detectives are and why she thinks Vera continues to be one of the most popular series on TV regularly pulling in over seven million viewers...
A tenth series is fantastic! What do you think the secret of the show’s success is?
Brenda Blethyn: "People enjoy trying to work out whodunit. It’s good family viewing and it concentrates on the crime, it doesn’t dwell on the private lives of the main cast. Also no-one’s sitting at home lusting after Vera! That probably helps (laughing). The wives might be lusting after Kenny but then the husbands love it when Vera gives Aiden a good telling off."
Tell us about the opening case that Vera and Aiden investigate?
BB: "A wealthy businessman called Freddie Gill is found dead in his home. We filmed right on top of the moors in the Yorkshire Dales for that episode in an old 17th century pub, called Tan Hill Inn. Apparently it’s the highest pub in the UK. It was so beautiful up there. At one point there were a whole lot of leather-clad bikers coming past who were asked to pause while we finished a scene. They were cock-a-hoop when they saw it was Vera. They went potty! Even bikers like Vera!"
What do fans usually say when they meet you?
BB: "People just wax lyrical about how much they love the show. We get lots of children doing drawings for Kenny and I and people coming along in Vera fancy dress. It’s lovely. I’ve heard about people making Vera dolls, there are Vera birthday cakes. A farmer has even got Vera as his scarecrow to frighten away the old crows!"
We heard you had a funny encounter with two fans at a stall in Newcastle
BB: "Oh yes. I saw this stall selling Vera hats and got chatting to the lady who was selling them. She asked if I could sign a photo for her. I said ‘Yes of course’ and while I was doing that this couple came along and started talking to her about how they were fans of Vera and were hoping to spot some of the film locations. When they turned and clocked me I don’t think they believed it was actually me. It was such a co-incidence. They were both a bit stunned!"
Vera is now shown in over 100 countries around the world. Where’s the most surprising place you’ve been recognised?
BB: "Well, I haven’t been to many countries since I’ve been doing Vera. I’ve been too busy. But Ann Cleeves, the writer of the Vera novels, and I were invited to a crime writing festival in Maryland, America. I turned up looking a bit dressed up and I had people saying (Brenda puts on American accent) ’But you’re so beautiful!’ Anne and I got the giggles about it. One lady she said to me, ‘You’re so beautiful. It’s my birthday today and I’m 70. When you get to my age dear…’ I said, ‘Well I’m already 73!’ And she replied, ‘Oh my! I just wanna die!’ "
We agree you look fantastic. What’s your secret to looking so young?
BB: "Laugh a lot!"
Which crime dramas do you like watching?
BB: "I loved the last series of Line of Duty, the performances were fantastic and it kept you guessing all the way along. I also love Law and Order Special Victims Unit, the American version of Law and Order. I was in an episode once and it was such an enjoyable job. I think the star Mariska Hargitay is t’rrific."
Who is your all-time favourite TV detective?
BB: "Michael Kitchen in Foyle’s War as DCS Christopher Foyle just because I love Michael Kitchen’s work. I loved Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley too."
What has playing Vera taught you?
BB: "Make sure you get enough sleep! And don’t burn the candle at both ends. We work long hours and film for six months and there’s a lot to learn and get through so I always have to be very prepared and do my homework thoroughly. Another important thing is getting the right sustenance. Sometimes you’re out in the middle of a field and you want something stodgy and comforting to warm you up to stave off the hunger."
You’re also filming an ITV comedy this year. What can you tell us about that?
BB: "It’s called Kate and Kolo and I play a woman who runs a café by the sea. I’m Kate and Jimmy Akingbola (Holby City, Cheat) is Kolo. It’ll be nice to do a comedy. We haven’t started it yet but it’s going to be filmed infront of a studio audience. I’m really looking forward to it.
How long do you see yourself continuing to play Vera for?
BB: "That’s always a hard one. If no-one else wants to do it then I’m up a gum tree aren’t I! But I still love playing her. I love the character and in the novels she never dies. Ann Cleeves is still writing them and Vera’s there forever in the books so I’m happy carrying on!"
Vera starts on Sunday 12 January, 8pm, ITV
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Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.