Suranne: ‘It’s the Cagney & Lacey of Manchester’

TV Times magazine goes on set to talk to Suranne Jones about her new ITV1 crime drama Scott & Bailey (Sunday, 9pm) and asks why TV doesn’t offer more big roles for women…

So how did the show come about?

“Six years ago, over lots of glasses of wine, (former Coronation Street star) Sally Lindsay and I came up with an idea for a show that was the Cagney and Lacey of Manchester. We thought it had been done before with two female leads, but not in the way that we pictured it with real northern women – a gritty Manchester drama about people with real lives. It’s very surreal to be making the show so many years later!”

It was a bit of a hitch then when Sally, who was going to star, fell pregnant with twins, then?

“Yes, but Lesley Sharp is brilliant. She’s one of the best actresses we’ve got in the country so we got a good deal there! We had crossed in corridors in the past but we hadn’t worked together, so I was really excited when we met for the read-through. I was a bit nervous because when you respect someone like I respect Lesley you just want them to be nice and you want to get on with them.”

So you got on from the start?

“We needed to have chemistry and we hit it off immediately. On the first day of filming we were stuck in a car on the moors, so I think I told her pretty much everything about my life from being born to right now!”

What is your character Rachel like?

“Rachel’s a maverick and a loose cannon, but she’s so bright and she’s got that fire that will make her a great detective. Janet is looking after her because she’s a live wire and needs to be reined in. They’ve been working together for a year and have become very close friends. Rachel’s got no family, so Janet takes that role both in and out of work.”

So it was nice to have strong women in the lead?

“Yes, brilliant parts for women only come along once in a blue moon – you are always the mistress, lover or daughter. In Scott & Bailey there are three leading women. You’ve got Rachel, a single girl in her early thirties who has not managed to sort her life out, Janet, a woman with a family life, and DCI Gill Murray (played by Amelia Bullmore) who is divorced – we’ve covered all the bases.”

How is this show different besides the leads being female?

“It’s got that mix of personal and professional storylines that Cagney and Lacey had. We show women’s home lives and their work in equal balance. You meet Rachel as her personal life is starting to crumble, but she’s got a great job and a great professional demeanour, which she puts on for work.”

What research did you do?

“Diane Taylor, a former Detective Inspector has been a brilliant source of information and given us a real insight into the people who do this job.”

What’s next then?

“Sally and I have got co-creator titles for Scott & Bailey, which is fantastic. We’ve decided we will continue to come up with ideas, but maybe try to write something ourselves this time. I’ve actually already submitted the first draft of something. I didn’t think I could do it, but I’m giving it a go and we’ll see. My agent read it and asked if it was for me and I said, ‘Yes, I’m not daft!’ It’s a strong female character that I’d really like to play, but it’s not just about the acting.”

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