Brenda Blethyn’s detective meets an old colleague in big trouble as ITV1’s detective drama Vera returns….

You’re returning as DCI Vera Stanhope for a second series. What can you tell us about her first case?
“Vera’s reunited with her first ever sergeant, Stuart Macken (ex-The Bill star Steven Hartley), when his house is petrol-bombed and his daughter ends up in intensive care. Because Stuart is such an old friend, when events take a tragic turn, Vera has a very personal interest in solving the crime. There’s a lot of sadness for Vera in this series. She’s not necessarily lonely, she’s just a loner.”

What do you love best about Vera?
“I really love being back on the north east coast – it’s so beautiful, and it’s almost like another character in the drama. And it’s so lovely working with David Leon again, who plays Vera’s sidekick DS Joe Ashworth. He’s always so supportive and, because he’s from the area, he helps me with my Geordie accent. He really is that handsome AND that nice!”

What else can viewers expect from the four-part series?
“Vera pushes DC Holly Lawson (Wunmi Mosaku) too far and is very upset when she resigns. Meanwhile, DC Bethany Whelan (Torchwood’s Cush Jumbo) is the team’s new computer wiz. Case-wise, there’s an assumed suicide in an army barracks bringing her up against a world of different laws, rules and secrets. And David has a mega-stunt in one of the episodes. He stayed under water for ages, I was so proud of him.”

We also discover more about Vera’s ill health this series? Are you health conscious yourself?
“Vera doesn’t take care of herself at all – she doesn’t eat properly, she drinks and she’s always working. I try to follow a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and fish, but I have been making lots of naughty bread puddings lately. I’ve run three London Marathons, though, and I’m thinking of doing another.”

What reaction have you had to Vera from people you meet?
“There are a lot of women of a certain age who applaud that Vera’s on television because there aren’t many TV characters they feel represent them. It would seem that I’m flying the flag for them.”

Vera returns on Sunday, April 22 at 8pm on ITV1