Maxine Peake returns as right-minded lady-of-law, Martha Costello, in BBC1’s Silks (Tues, May 15) and she’s under the spotlight with her first case as a QC…

When we last saw Martha she’d been accepted as a Queen’s Counsel on the same day she had a miscarriage. Where does the new series pick up?
“The new series picks up almost straight away and we see Martha waking up on a new day as a QC. She’s trying to put the tragedy of the miscarriage behind her. I think the loss of the baby will always be there for her, but at this moment in her life she’s throwing herself into work and focusing on becoming a QC.”

What’s Martha first ‘big league’ case?
“Martha’s first case as a QC is a gangland one that unravels. Martha represents Brendan Kay, a vulnerable client with learning difficulties, accused of attacking and blinding an innocent man. There are lots of twists and turns and things really don’t go as you might expect.”

Both Phil Davis and Frances Barber join the cast in this episode; what can you tell us about their characters?
“Frances Barber has joined us as prosecuting QC Caroline Warwick. In this very male-dominated world it’s great for Martha to have another female QC there to encourage her. Caroline’s ruthless in court, but she’s very honest with Martha from the start and warns her not to take it personally.”

Things are more complicated with Phil Davis’s character…
“Phil’s character Micky Joy is a top criminal solicitor. He’s bent and does lots of big money cases for London crime outfit, the Farr family. He’s not Martha’s type of solicitor at all. Throughout the series she gets embroiled with him – and gets taken to places she doesn’t really want to go.”

Is being a QC a steep a learning curve for Martha?
“Martha finds it a bit of a shock at first, but quickly realises she’s got to toughen up. She wears her heart on her sleeve and sometimes it gets in the way. She’s so focused on getting justice she sometimes takes risks, but she’s still the same Martha. At the moment Martha is adjusting to being a QC – there’s quite a lot of trial and error involved!”

How is Martha’s work colleague, Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones) coping with the disappointment of not getting silk?
“Clive consoles himself with thinking Martha got silk because she’s a woman. He believes other forces were at work for him not to become a QC and that it had something to do with having to fill a female quota. It’s rubbish and he’s kidding himself, but it makes him sleep better at night!”