Great British Bake Off’s Sue Perkins tells us about her new self-penned BBC2 comedy Heading Out, in which she plays a gay vet who can’t pluck up the courage to come out to her parents…

Tell us about your character, Sara?
“She is awkward and nervy, and causes terrible, wincing things to happen to her.”

Are you nervous about writing and starring in your own show?
“A well-known comedy producer collared me recently and said, ‘Why would you do this? You’re paid to eat cakes, but now you’re doing the hardest thing in the world.’ I’ve wanted to write since I was a kid and, while it is scary, I’m happy to take the risk.”

Was your own coming-out dramatic?
“No! You couldn’t make a sitcom out of it. I rang my mum and said seriously, ‘I need to come home’, and she said: ‘Do you want to tell us you’re gay?’. It was anti-climactic, so maybe this is born out of the fact that I wanted it to be an issue.”

How do you feel about it being called a ‘gay sitcom’?
“It hurts because it is about the fact there is no difference between any of us, Sara’s love story could be played out with any gender. It’s more a mid-life crisis sitcom and about how awkward it is to tell your parents anything as opposed to being about the gay issue.”

Sara is a vet. What was it like working with the animals in the show?
“It was awful. I’ve learned that any time a handler says an animal is trained not to believe them. The only thing that behaved was a snake. Even one of the dogs was only still when we dressed it as Nicolas Sarkozy. If only I’d cottoned on to that earlier.”

You have lots of guest stars in the show, including Mel Giedroyc and Dawn French. Was that fun?
“Yes, I wrote for specific people and I was slightly confused when they all said yes. With Dawn I kept looking over and thinking. ‘It’s Dawn French’. Mel’s cameo was a joy. It was like going back to what we used to do.”

And do you still enjoy working together on The Great British Bake Off? 
“Oh, it’s brilliant fun, but everyone cries so much. We do try to keep a perspective and tell the bakers: ‘Please don’t cry over a stollen’, but my right lapel is always coated in cake-related sadness where one of them has cried on it.”

• Heading Out begins on Tuesday February 26 at 10pm on BBC2