We catch up with the Vera star
Unlike Vera, the dour DCI she plays in the ITV crime drama of the same name, Brenda Blethyn is a jolly soul who is very easy to have a laugh and a natter with. It’s clear she enjoys life and when it came to making the decision to give up drinking wine, it wasn’t a hard one. But why do it?
“I’ve gone off alcohol and just don’t fancy it any more,” she says as we chat. “Simple as that. I didn’t drink much anyway and I realised it was becoming a habit to reach for a glass of wine whether I wanted it or not. I didn’t question it. But it was a habit I wanted to break, so I did. I didn’t drink over Christmas and New Year and didn’t miss it at all.”
Does she feel better as a result? “Not really!” she laughs. “But I might do. I’ll have to wait and see.”
Brenda has a new habit in her life, courtesy of the new love of her life – Jack, a six-month-old cockerpoo puppy. “I’m up at 7am walking Jack on the beach in Ramsgate where I live,” she enthuses. “I watch the sun coming up and it’s glorious. He’s a bit of a character; I’ll throw him the ball but he’s got wise to the fact that he doesn’t have to bring it back to me in order to get a treat. Vera would do a far better job at training him than me! When I took him to puppy training class, he was so well-behaved before the class actually started but once it had, he did the opposite of what he was supposed to!
"Bless him! I got him on the last day of filming Vera, when he was very little and we had to make the five-hour drive back home. But he was so good and didn’t tiddle in the car once!”
Having Jack is a dream come true for Brenda, who wanted a dog for ages. “I’m up in Northumbria five months a year filming Vera and thought a dog would be good company for my husband Michael while I’m away,” she explains. “I thought he’d love it but initially we had a terrible row about it! But then he back-tracked because he said he was being selfish and if I wanted one, I could get one. But the other day when Jack was playing up, I said, ‘OK – I give in. I’m sure we’ll be able to find him a loving home with someone else.’ Michael looked at me and said, ‘That dog is going nowhere!’ He now loves him as much as I do!”
It's refreshing you don't know too much about Vera's private life, it makes her more interesting
Could there perhaps be a part for Jack in the next series of Vera? “Fingers crossed there will be a next one,” Brenda replies. “Jack on set, though? I don’t know about that! He will come and see me, however – Michael will bring him. Jack will love walks inNorthumbria.”
Brenda turns 70 on February 20, although she doesn’t look it. Is a big party in the offing? “No I don’t think so,” she smiles. “I don’t want all the fuss. I think you’ve got to want a big party for it to go well. I had a surprise birthday for my 40th and I loved that. My mum and dad were still alive and it was wonderful to have them with me. I think what I might do for this one is treat myself with a bit of pampering. I might go to a health farm with my niece Valerie and have a nice massage or two.”
We can’t ever imagine Vera getting herself pampered at a health farm! Brenda laughs. “You’d never get all her layers off! No, that wouldn’t be Vera at all. You never learn much about her life outside work. I get letters from people saying they’d like Vera to have a romance, but it’s refreshing you don’t know too much about her; she’s private and doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. That makes her more interesting and also means you concentrate on the cases she’s investigating, rather than Vera herself.”
The drama sells to 131 territories worldwide and enjoys healthy viewing figures around the five million mark – why does Brenda think it’s so popular?
“There are several reasons,” she replies. “The stories are absorbing, the Northumbrian landscape is magnificent and then there’s Vera herself. She’s very ordinary and so she’s no competition, if you know what I mean. You’re not sitting at home, comparing yourself to her glamorous clothes and cupid lips. You can identify with her. There’s a comfort to that, plus the fact she’s a middle-aged woman with authority over male police officers – that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?”
We couldn’t agree more!
- The new series of Vera is onITV1 on Sunday evenings.
- Written by Alison James
- There's more celeb chat in every issue of Yours.
Did you know...?
- Brenda has been married to husband Matthew Mayhew since 2010. It's her second marriage after divorcing Alan Blethyn in 1973.
- Apart from Vera, she's best known for her role in Mike Leigh's film Secrets and Lies. She's also appeared in films including The Witches, Little Voice, Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, as well as TV shows such as Chance in a Million, The Labours of Erica and the Buddha of Suburbia.
- She's won a host of awards and twice been nominated for an Oscar.
- You can read all about her life and career in her autobiography Mixed Fancies