Sarah Parish chats about her Monroe alter ego (ITV1, Thursday) – frosty cardiac surgeon Jenny Bremner

In Mistresses you played a doctor, but is this your first medical drama?
“Katie was a GP in Mistresses, but before Monroe the only proper medical drama I was in was a one-off called Reversals with Marc Warren. So this is my first medical drama – it’s very realistic, but also very theatrical and heightened in drama.”

What can you tell us about your character?
“Jenny’s a funny old thing! She has a problem and no one really knows what it is – I’m not sure she even knows what it is. I think she’s put on armour over the years to block off things that might hurt her.”

Is she cold with the patients and their families?
“She has to be. Jenny knows if she engaged with the patients in an emotional sense she’d find it impossible to do her job well.”

How do Jenny and Monroe (James Nesbitt) get on?
“Pretty badly! Jenny finds most people and everyday situations fairly irritating – especially Monroe. She can’t bear his showing off and big headed, know-it-all banter!”

Do you like Jenny?
“I really like her because she’s a layered character. Sometimes she’s intentionally cruel, other times she’s hilarious – intentionally or unintentionally. Being able to play those layers is great. But to be honest I sometimes find her hard to play, as she’s very different to me. Sometimes I’m jealous of Jimmy Nesbitt parading around as Monroe!”

What research did you do for the role?
“A heart surgeon I know in Southampton invited me to come and watch a couple of operations for my research. I thought I’d be at the back of the room observing, but I was up close. It was an awe-inspiring experience and I feel very privileged to have been there – and I’m glad I didn’t faint!”