Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling on why working together on The Bletchley Circle is such fun

Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling reveal how they came to be friends for life and why they loved working together on The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, which returns tonight

Following the move of The Bletchley Circle across the Atlantic last summer, Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling are back as ace code-cracking duo Jean McBrian and Millie Harcourt solving crimes in 1950s San Francisco, along with their US counterparts, Iris Bearden (Crystal Balint) and Hailey Yarner (Chanelle Peloso).

Here in an exclusive interview, Julie and Rachael tell us about their new stateside adventures,  filming in Vancouver and why they’ll be friends for life…

Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling talk to TV Times about the return of The Bletchley Circle

The Bletchley Circle gets off to a very dramatic start this series. Tell us more…

Julie: “Jean and Millie are alarmed when a stranger turns up at their door, badly beaten. He’s calling out for Millie’s cousin, Edward, but then collapses unconscious. They know he has a connection to Edward but have no idea what.”

Rachael: “Millie tracks down Edward and the women soon find themselves led into the underground gay scene of 1950s San Francisco, dodgy drug deals and police corruption. It’s all very exciting.”

Bletchley Circle: San Francisco

TVT: What other cases do the women find themselves caught up in later in the series?

Rachael: “A Russian diplomat dies and there’s panic when Jean suddenly disappears.”

Julie: “Yes, Jean is kidnapped! It’s set just before the Cold War and the Russians are desperate to get their hands on these cold breaking machines. They think Jean has got inside contacts so they kidnap her!”

TVT: How were the action scenes to film?

Julie: “I love the chance to do a bit of action. It was all very Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy.”

Rachael: “Me too, I love anything that involves jumping around and kicking. My dream is to be in an action movie, I think it would be heaven.”

Bletchley Circle: San Francisco

(L-R) JULIE GRAHAM as Jean McBrian, RACHAEL STIRLING as Millie Harcourt, CRYSTAL BALINT as Iris Bearden and CHANELLE PELOSO as Hailey Yarner (C) ITV

TVT: Do you like the fashion from that era?

Julie: “Yes, but Jean’s style is less glamour, more librarian. I was envious of the other girls fabulous 50s outfits while I’d be there in my tweed and brogues although I did get to have a bit of a makeover in one scene this series.”

Rachael: “Yes, you won’t recognise Jean. She gets all glammed up and finally lets her hair down. The bun is gone! Millie on the other hand is such a peacock, she spends any spare pennies she earns on her appearance. I particularly love the wide-legged trousers and all the beautiful colours from that period.”

TVT: What was it like filming in Vancouver which doubles as San Francisco?

Julie: “We were there for four months and I’d never been to Canada before. It’s a beautiful city surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lakes and the Canadians are so welcoming and friendly.”

Rachael: “A bear showed up when we were filming one day and everything went into lock-down. It had come out of hibernation and was a bit bedraggled but we were beside ourselves wanting to see it!”

The series has already moved from England to San Francisco. Do you think it could move to another location?

Julie: “For now we’re embedded in San Francisco but I think there must have been a code-breaking place in the Caribbean perhaps? (laughing). That would be nice wouldn’t it, the four of us sitting under some palm trees?”

Rachael: “I remember you collaring one of the producers saying you were sure you’d heard of a code-breaking set in the Bahamas!”

What do you like best about working on Bletchley?

Julie: “I think the 1950s is such an interesting era and there’s so much potential for great storylines but most of all I love the camaraderie between the four of us on set.”

Rachael: “I agree completely, I love the fact that it’s driven by women and we all have such a strong bond both on screen and off.”

TVT: Before Bletchley you’d worked together before hadn’t you?

Rachael: ” Yes, I’ve known Jules for over 20 years when we were in a play together called Hopeless and she was my character’s step-mum.  We’ve been great mates ever since and I absolutely love her. She’s wise, kind, absolutely hilarious and will always be in my life. You don’t need to have a party with Jules around, she IS the party!”

Julie: “It was fantastic having my pal with me especially as we were away from home for such a long time. And it was wonderful getting to know Crystal and Chanelle, the four of us would regularly go out for drinks together. We became a proper little family.”

Tell us more about your co-stars Chanelle and Crystal

Rachael: “Chanelle  is adorable and quite a lot like her character Hayley. She’s all tail-wagging and probably a tiny bit less wry and jaded than the rest of us. She loved hanging out with my son Jack who was with us on set a lot of the time.”

Julie: “Being the youngest, (she’s 25), we took her under our wing. She’s from Vancouver and showed us around the town. She’s lovely and she and Crystal have really injected some new life and energy into the show”.

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco

Crystal Balint and Chanelle Peloso as Iris and Hailey in The Bletchley Circle

Rachael:  “Crystal was the maternal one on set whereas I was probably the naughty one. She’s had twins since we filmed so she’s definitely maternal now!”

Julie: “We went to her house a lot, she’d cook us dinner and we had some great parties at the weekends. They are both great, great girls and I’d really love to work with them again.”

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco begins on Friday 26 April, ITV, 9pm