When Covid police tried to tidy up after TV’s most slobby sleuth, actress Brenda Blethyn stepped in 

Brenda Blethyn is donning DCI Vera Stanhope’s familiar scruffy mac again as an 11th series of popular crime drama Vera comes to our screens. But the Oscar-nominated actress says she would be as happy in Lycra and sequins as she is in her character’s comfy clobber.

‘Watching Dancing On Ice, I’ve often thought I’d like to have a go at that,’ says Brenda, 75, with a chuckle. ‘But who’s going to let me? None of them can stand up on the ice to start with, can they? Doing all the twiddles and turns would be very difficult.’

You wouldn’t put it past Brenda to have a spin around the rink, though. She exudes youthful energy and looks at least a decade younger than she is. 

In the past year Brenda has been busy filming six new episodes of Vera in Northumberland, two to be shown this year, the rest in 2022.

Brenda Blethyn, 75, shared the challenges of filming Vera in the Covid era, after spending the past year working on new episodes. Pictured: Vera with DS Healy

Even after a decade in the role, Brenda remains excited by it. ‘I was very happy to go back and make more,’ she says. 

‘I was thinking of retiring just before I was first offered the part, but when a job like this comes along, it’s too good to turn down. I thought, “No one’s ever thought of me as a detective before.”’

Brenda then ran out and bought the Ann Cleeves novels on which the series is based.

‘I turned the page and it said something like, “In lumbered this great lummox of a woman, like a bag lady carrying bags of shopping,” and I thought, “Is this who they want me to be?!” I carried on reading and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this is a wonderful character. Yes, please, I’d love to play this part.”’

Making the new series in the Covid era brought distinct challenges. Vera’s famous Land Rover had to be disinfected before Brenda could film in it, but this created a new problem. 

‘When we shot the first scene in the Land Rover, I was horrified to see that all Vera’s accumulated rubbish had been removed and the whole vehicle sanitised,’ she laughs. 

‘“I want all Vera’s rubbish back please!” I cried. So they sanitised all the apple cores and crisp packets and put them back.’

The first episode focuses on the murder of a builder whose body is found at the Collingwood Monument in Tynemouth. Vera, with the help of right-hand man DS Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty), has to figure out whether the victim was silenced because he was about to give evidence in a court case, or whether family tension had erupted into violence.

Brenda, who knows Vera better than anyone else on set, said the lasting appeal of the character is that she's an ordinary person. Pictured: Vera by her Land Rover

Brenda, who knows Vera better than anyone else on set, said the lasting appeal of the character is that she’s an ordinary person. Pictured: Vera by her Land Rover 

Brenda says she has free rein to advise the writers on her character’s development. ‘I know Vera better than anyone else on set, because I’ve lived with her longer,’ she explains. 

‘The guest writers who come in don’t know her as well as I do. Also, I like solving problems. Sometimes, when I’m reading a draft I’ll say, “I’ve guessed who’s done that from page four,” so they go back and adjust it. But they’re open to that.’

Vera’s lasting appeal, she says, is that she’s one of us. 

‘She’s an ordinary person. You feel like you can talk to her; she’s not a fashion icon, there’s nobody lusting after her. She gets the job done and is a woman in charge of the team in what used to be perceived as a man’s world.’

Filming on the new series was delayed by the first Covid lockdown, which also separated Brenda from her husband Michael for three months: when it began she was at their second home in Ramsgate, and he was at their London home, and neither was allowed to leave. 

‘I couldn’t come home and he couldn’t come there,’ she says.

But Covid restrictions did make her appreciate this country. ‘I’d be quite happy if I never went abroad again,’ she shrugs.

‘I loved all the places I’ve been to, but I’m kind of happy with where I am and what I’ve got right now. Lockdown’s reminded us of the value of our home and what we’ve got on our doorstep.’ 

And, in Vera’s case, that’s the beautiful wilds of Northumberland… where murder is always afoot.  

Vera begins later this month on ITV.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk