You studied English at Liverpool University. What inspired you to get into acting?
"Looking back, I was always acting. The written word, which I loved, became the spoken word and I realised the power of that. I was always the one being picked for plays such as Alice in Wonderland at school. It’s part of one’s whole education really. History, geography, singing, dancing – they were all part of my school education."
How did you get the role of Hyacinth?
"I was sent a pile of scripts by the director. I read them and immediately thought to myself: I can net this woman up. It was very clear to me what she was and that I could really sink my teeth into the part. But I didn’t expect it to take off the way it did."
Are there any similarities between you and Hyacinth?
"Apart from two arms, two legs, two eyes, a nose and a mouth, I sincerely hope not! It’s what acting’s all about. Just because I may play a murderer doesn’t mean I have to commit a murder – you just play a part."
What did you enjoy most about Hetty Wainthropp?
"I just loved the part itself. The down-to-earth honesty and good sense of the character was wonderful and she was such a counterpoint to Hyacinth. A lot of care was taken over the script, and I felt it was of very high quality. I also enjoyed the filming very much, which we mostly did up in the north, in Lancashire."
You've done a lot of work in the theatre. Do you prefer treading the boards, or does your passion lie in TV?
"I do love the theatre. Performing in front of a live audience – there’s nothing like it when it works. But I like good writing wherever it is. Good writing is appropriate writing, by which I mean something that achieves what it sets out to do."
Who has influenced you the most in your career?
"My mother was my great inspiration, right from the start. She wasn’t a theatre mother at all. Where I come from, you don’t really encourage your children to go on stage but my mother was always wonderful and always behind me. I’m very lucky to have had her."