Kay Mellor’s new drama series for BBC One
Interview with Lorraine Bruce
Can you describe the character of Denise?
Well, Denise is one of life’s innocents, childlike in a lot of ways, she puts her foot in it a bit by simply being too honest. She is dedicated to her mum, her husband and her dogs. She has never had children so her dogs mean the world to her, as do her friends. Denise is not really bothered about clothes or fashion; in fact she buys most of her clothes from charity shops. She’s a sweetheart, a simple honest woman with a big heart who just wants to be loved and have someone to love in return.
What attracted you to the role – have you been a fan of Kay Mellor’s work?
I think everyone is aware of Kay’s work, she’s written so many great series with lovely characters over the years. I remember first watching Band Of Gold and thinking this is great, I’d love to work with her some day. Her characters are so lovingly created, lots of attention to detail, so I was over the moon when I was asked to audition for The Syndicate.
When I read the script I fell in love with Denise; my heart was breaking for her but I was doing back flips at the same time, such a beautiful character, with a challenging story – I’m so lucky I got to play her. Kay’s passion for her work is infectious and it’s been an absolute joy working on the series.
Denise is a great dog lover – do you share her passion or are you more a cat person?
Denise loves Dogs! I mean seriously loves them, it is bordering on obsession – I grew up with a family dog, Henry – he was a wonderful yellow lab and was truly one of the family. So I was fine working with the dogs on set. I don’t have one of my own, I’m not sure it would be fair to have one, my schedule can get a little hectic if I’m working, but I am always up for dog-sitting.
My best mate Mark has a huge labradoodle called Ron so I get to share him a bit. I have a cat called Bill, he’s gorgeous. Unlike Denise, I don’t have that thing with animals where I regard them as babies so I am not his ‘mummy’ – he’s more like my little fluffy mate.
You are an established West End actress – how different is it preparing for role in a series like this?
The difference between prepping for theatre and telly. Ahhh, well it’s mainly all the same work on the character but in theatre you get to try it all out in front of people quite a lot before opening night. In telly it’s a real test of faith, like you get an idea of the character and audition with it and get the job so you know your on the right track, but then you’re more or less on your own until the day you actually walk on set and show everyone what you’ve been up to.
It’s the same in every scene, you don’t really know what anyone else is going to do and how you will react until a few minutes before it’s filmed – it’s exciting – in theatre we will have had more rehearsals with each other so although folk do still come up with new stuff, even late in the run, it’s more established. I really enjoy both.
The cast of the supermarket are all very supportive of each other did you all get on well on set?
We got on so well together, you couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people to work with. Lovely people and very talented, everyone, we had a wonderful crew. We were working all the hours that God sends through the winter in Leeds and the atmosphere on set was great – a lot of warmth, I was really feeling the love. I will never forget our director, Sid, dressed up as Father Christmas giving out all the secret Santa presents and our ADs all helping, wearing elf ears – just brilliant.
Your character has to go through a transformation after the win – which meant they had to make you look frumpy, what did they have to do to you?
Well a lot of work went into that transformation, both from the costume department and from Nik our head of make-up. It was such fun, I love playing characters that have a ‘look’- I’m wearing glasses and wigs. I have false teeth which had to be made to fit over my own – they were brilliant but took some getting used to, especially as a lot of my scenes are quite emotional.
Other than that I just had to be ready to sacrifice my pride basically. Denise is ideal fodder for Gok Wan; she has not a thought in her head about appearance and lots of issues with self-esteem. I’m not obsessive about clothes and make-up but as myself I like to look as nice as possible. I just had to embrace the fact that Denise is very different from me in lots of ways. Once you have let go of your own ego it’s actually fun.
Wearing clothes that are too tight and not to your taste, deliberately showing your pants and choosing the worst bra imaginable, having bad posture, sticking your tummy ‘out’ when you are being filmed – it’s making me laugh now as I’m thinking about it, there is something so liberating about it.
I fell in love with Denise and I wanted to get out of the way and tell her story as best I could. We all wanted the journey to be believable. It was important that the finished product is what Denise thinks is glamorous – it wouldn’t be right to have her suddenly turn into some kind of flawless beauty – which was a relief for me because I am not really your flawless beauty type to be honest.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Now the million dollar question – what would I do if I won the lottery? Probably spend it all on scratch cards?