Listening to Brenda Blethyn talk about her DCI TV detective Vera Stanhope, she might just describe herself.

“There is no pretension about it. She’s telling the truth. She is good at her job and the talent is always attractive. No matter how smart you are or how dunce you are, you can still have a conversation with her. Yes, she can be a bit caustic but only if someone is not doing their job well. She can also be nice.

That pretty much also sums up Brenda, who is widely regarded as one of the nicest people in the business and returns tomorrow for a fifth round as the pragmatic policewoman at the heart of Ann Cleeves’ bestselling books.

Kenny Doughty plays Vera DS’s latest sidekick Aiden Healy in new series

In fact, it is only in appearance that the two women diverge. Today, Brenda looks rather glamorous in a black high neck sweater and black pants topped off with a bright lime green jacket. Suddenly she lifts her left foot to the level of the table.

“Do you like my shoes? She asks, showing off a neat lace-up pump with a small wedge heel. “I bought them in Paris.

You would never catch Vera in there, I suggest. “Vera dresses for comfort,” Brenda says. “I’ll let you in on a secret. I bought the boots she wears for £ 12 in Birmingham 20 years ago. They are children – I have small feet – but I knew they would come in handy someday. They are comfortable and you can wear them with pants. Perfect for Vera. ‘

Joe Ashworth from the last series proved successful as an on-screen heartbeat

Joe Ashworth from the last series proved successful as an on-screen heartbeat

Unlike many actors, Brenda, 69, insists on watching the finished show when it releases. ‘I’m still looking at him. I love to see how it all comes together. Someone once said to me after seeing me in Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies, “How do you feel when you see yourself so horrible on screen? I told them I couldn’t see myself; I saw the character.

Ann Cleeves now writes her books with Brenda in mind. Before starting filming the first series, Brenda read Ann’s book, The Crow Trap, to get a feel for the character.

“I got halfway there and there was still no sign of Vera. I was starting to wonder if I only had one apparition. Then all of a sudden the doors of the church open and “walk this scruffy and heavy woman who looks like a sack lady.” I remember thinking, “I wonder why they thought of me? “

‘Apparently Ann has my voice in her head now. The people of Northumberland tell me my accent is right, but it has become second nature to me. Which is also good because I want people to listen to what Vera says, not how she says it.

The new series sees Vera investigating a fatal fire at a trailer park, a 30-year-old mystery when the remains of a teenage girl are found in a wood, an unidentified body found floating in a slurry pit and an alleged suicide . But she’ll go about business without her stalwart DS sidekick Joe Ashworth, as the actor who played her, David Leon, wanted to get into directing.

David was hailed by some as the most gorgeous man to ever appear on television when the series began four years ago, but he will be replaced by Kenny Doughty as DS Aiden Healy. And it fits David’s boots perfectly, according to Brenda.

“I was sorry to say goodbye to David, but Kenny very quickly fitted in as Aiden… and it doesn’t hurt that he’s so nice to watch,” she said with a chuckle. . Kenny, who will be seen with Sheridan Smith on the crime show Black Work later this year, said, “I’m going to bring a different energy to the show. There really is a new partnership to be formed – a new dynamic between Vera and Aiden. ‘

At the end of May, Brenda will begin filming the sixth series. Can she ever imagine retiring? – Oh yes, but not yet. If you work in an office you have to go there every day, but in my job you have free time and then you can dip your feet in if something good comes up. I refuse a lot, but I will continue to do Vera for as long as they want.

Vera, Sunday, 8 p.m., ITV.


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