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'Scott & Bailey' Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp interview

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Scott & Bailey won over millions of viewers when it aired its first series last year, and now it's back with some brand new episodes!

We're pleased to see the pair on our screens again, so we weren't going to miss out when stars Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp chatted to reporters at the launch of the second series.

Read on to find out what the pair had to say about their characters, dark humour, and tangled love lives...

Lesley, you have children and you work, like Janet. Is it as hectic for you?
Lesley: "I do a very different job. I think what is really interesting about Scott & Bailey is that [writer] Sally [Wainwright] has managed to portray in a very warm but very real way in Janet a woman who is absolutely committed to the job that she does and wants to do it to the best of her ability, and is actually very comfortable with the procedure involved in doing that job very well.

Scott & Bailey (Lesley Sharp & Suranne Jones)

© ITV



"But where it goes awry is when there are no rules to follow - it's real life... Actually, sometimes going to work is easier than being at home and having to sort out the chaos, and I think Sally's done that brilliantly.

"I don't think it's done very often in a very real way. It's often one or the other - someone who's doing really well at work isn't engaged at home, or someone who's worn down and up to their eyes in domesticity actually doesn't do a very high-powered or respected job, and I think that that's one of the reasons why Janet made sense to a lot of people."

What can we expect to see in Scott and Bailey's relationship this series?
Suranne: "I think last season Janet tended to look after Rachel a lot. And I think that's alright for a certain period in someone's life, but then you have to let someone go and make their own decisions, choices, mistakes. So Sally was aware that there needed to be a shift in that.

"Because Janet's character has some home turmoil and has that to deal with, and Rachel has her brother and then [has to deal with the character played by] Sean Maguire, they both start off quite separate with their separate issues. So there isn't room to mollycoddle and look after each other, and I think that makes for a more interesting mix.

"[Rachel] has to deal with a lot herself without having to go to Janet, which gives us as actresses two separate and more interesting storylines that can cross over at work. And also we can talk on a more mature level. So there's a hope that Rachel is more rounded and becomes more mature during this series. There's a hope!"

Lesley: "I think as well that there's a limit to how much you can keep portraying the sort of Pygmalion dynamic of what their relationship was last year, which is the teacher and the pupil. I think that actually what's very satisfying in this series is that there's a coming together of them as partners, as colleagues, and the age differential doesn't matter.

"They rely on each other and they completely respect each other for the strengths that they have in the workplace, but you also find Janet - as someone who should be older and wiser - confiding in a younger woman about things that trouble her.

"I really like that they're friends and colleagues first, and the age thing and what would classically be perceived as the dynamic - the older one who instructs the younger one on how to do things - isn't there. They're just colleagues."

Suranne, you came up with the idea for the series. Do you still have any control over the show?
Suranne: "No. I think that Rachel is true to the character that was born. Rachel is flawed, she's maverick - she was meant to be what we usually perceive as a male voice character, so that's still stayed very true to that. Sometimes you'll get early scripts and you'll have an opinion, but no.

"Along the line things have been tweaked and changed... Also, the script is a very Sally Wainwright script - the light and dark and the comedy element. So it's very much a Sally Wainwright-Diane Taylor creation but the idea was born by myself and Sally Lindsay, and still, to this day, I hold fast with Rachel and can be very protective of her because I think that's the thing that did survive. Being close to it sometimes isn't always great because you go, 'Oh, what about Rachel? What about Rachel?' But I think it's good."

Amelia Bullmore, who plays Gill Murray, has written an episode this series. Does that appeal to you?
Suranne: "I don't know how Amelia has done it actually! I think she left Scott & Bailey and then she did another Twenty Twelve and Sherlock and then something else. And she had a play on and then she wrote episode seven. And both of us left Scott & Bailey and went on to do other projects and then we still felt that we were like, 'Oh my God, this has come round quick'.

Scott & Bailey (Lesley Sharp & Suranne Jones)

© ITV



"So yes, I have things that have sat there that Nicola keeps telling me I should write, that I keep walking past. But life's just so busy and those two or three days that you get off, we get so excited about that, don't we?"

Lesley: "I think the thing is that Amelia is a very experienced and gifted writer. What she's managed to achieve in the episode that she's written for Scott & Bailey is that she's been absolutely true to her own voice as a writer but has absolutely understood the requirements of the show.

"The finesse with which she's managed to write a cracking episode of television which does not seem out of place amongst the others is phenomenal and that's not easy. That's not everybody who can do that. You have to know what you're doing, you have to be experienced. You can't just say, 'I'm an actress in Scott & Bailey, I'm going to write an episode'. In addition to being a very gifted actress, Amelia is also a very gifted writer."

And she is a very important part of the show, isn't she?
Suranne: "[She's] brilliant, and has been written up because of that very reason this year. You only went home with Scott and Bailey last year and this year you go home with Scott and Bailey and Murray. I think that Sally and Amelia have a brilliant relationship because you can just see when Amelia comes on screen that Sally loves writing for her.

"She does a really difficult task - not only is Jill funny and brilliant and loveable but she's a storyteller, and what Amelia does with those expositional scenes is jaw dropping sometimes, because she gets the story out. We're all sat round a table making our notes going, 'God, I really understand every word of that - you've told the story, you've picked the pace up and you've moved it along'. It's brilliant - she's brilliant."

How do you think Scott & Bailey gets away with its humour, which sometimes comes at crime scenes, for example?
Lesley: "The thing that is established is that all of the people who work in major incident teams take their jobs incredibly seriously, and one of the things that Diane said to us was that she feels that it's a matter of respect for someone who's been murdered to find out what happened to them in the last minutes of their lives.

"So they're taking their jobs incredibly seriously. And because that's on the go it doesn't mean that they don't have a sense of humour. In fact, it's the reverse which is often the case when you're out on the coal face of some of the grimmest, meanest scenes - you can find things incredibly funny.

"That is the reality of those policemen and women that Diane talked to us about and it's certainly something that Sally Wainwright was keen to explore because people don't want to be hit over the head all the time with how terrible these scenes are, because actually that's not what it's like for people who are members of major incident teams. They go to work and they have a good time doing their job with good colleagues, but what they're investigating is not necessarily the prettier aspects of human nature."

And we don't see the body or crime either, really.
Lesley: "I definitely think we don't rub people's faces in the extremity of the more depraved aspects of human behaviour. They're talked about but they're not necessarily flagged up in a special effects corpse or someone with extremist makeup."

Suranne: "When you've got lines like, 'W**ked over him while he stuck a Phillips screwdriver into him' or, 'We found Keith Fleming's semen in someone's anal swab'... that's quite explicit."

Lesley: "It tells the story."

Suranne: "And by the time we've moved on you go, 'Huh? What?' and you've moved onto someone else and Jill's cracking a joke with someone, and you go, 'Huh? Oh God, OK' and your imagination does the rest. I think that's what again is quite brilliant."

Scott & Bailey

© ITV



Did either of you ever think about joining the police when you were growing up?
Lesley: "I think funnily enough there are definitely similarities [between acting and the police]. I think as a police officer when you're dealing with a member of the public you put something on because you have to appear to be this person who knows what they're talking about, and of course you're also trying to figure out the Rubik's cube of why people behave in the way that they do.

"Of course, for actors, that's what we do - we pretend to be other people, so hopefully members of the audience won't just think, 'Oh, it's her again', they'll believe in the characters you're portraying. And also we're trying to make as complex and as realistic as possible psychological Rubik's cubes for the head of the characters that we're playing. So there are parallels."

Lesley, Janet's lover Andy is played by your husband Nicholas Gleaves. Does that make the scenes easier?
Lesley: "I think the thing is that we're fortunately very good colleagues and we appreciate the work as colleagues. It's like working with anyone that I've known for a very long time. What we're engaged in is doing the best possible work that we can, so that's how we go about it."

How did you end up working on the same show?
Lesley: "It had nothing to do with either of us. Nick's an actor and I'm an actress - we don't have the same agent. There's a script with a role in it that was right for him and it so happened that there was a role that was right for me and we both got cast, but it wasn't a conversation that we had that it would be a good idea if we did a television series together because that's not the way life works."

Neither of your characters are strangers to tangled love lives - what can we expect in that area?
Suranne: "You would think Rachel Bailey would have learnt an awful lot from last year, and there is a couple of things I read about, 'God, how could she not know? She's a detective! How could she not know, for example, he's been having an affair for two years?' But we hear about it all the time - professional, intelligent women this happens to.

"Anyway, we left her with Nick putting a contract out to kill her, so she's kind of off men. Men is off the agenda. Also, with Janet's help, Gill gives her another chance and she doesn't lose her job, so she's very ambitious at the beginning.

"Then Sean McCartney, played by Sean Maguire, tips up at the end of episode one and is this annoying presence in her life. He is constantly rubbing her up and they're arguing, then he's asking her to marry him. Sally compared it to The Taming of the Shrew at one point. It's like he's trying to wear her down. It's something that you kind of think women will go, 'Can you not see that maybe this guy is interesting and right for you?' Of course, Rachel can't.

"She's not interested in her history, either - she's interested in moving forward and he represents her past. And then we hear what's happened to Nick Savage in about episode three or four and that becomes confusing for her as well. [Janet's] in a mess as well!"

Scott & Bailey begins tonight (Monday, March 12) at 9pm on ITV1.

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