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National treasure Brenda Blethyn is back on screens as 'abrasive' detective Vera. She introduces Ella Walker to her new puppy and recalls the 'highlight' of her career as kissing Sir Michael Caine...

Brenda Blethyn is great fun.

Cackling away at everything and mooning over her new puppy, she's just as you'd hope she would be: sweet, silly, engaging, and with a slight naughty streak.

Returning for the sixth series of much-loved ITV crime drama Vera, as the scraggly-dressed title character DCI Vera Stanhope, this season promises more intriguing cases, windswept moors and, this time around, a personal tragedy for the show's lead.

Blethyn's forthright female detective is one of many that have been dominating prime time telly in recent years, from Gillian Anderson in The Fall ("I know Gillian, she's a fine actress"), to Rosie Cavaliero in Prey and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch ("Wonderful Olivia - she can't put a foot wrong as far as I'm concerned").

"Quite right too, " says Blethyn, who puts Vera's success down to how "ordinary" the character is.

"She's not a fashionista, it's not a make-up competition, she's clever and she's organising a load of men. She's middle-aged and she's not a threat. You can relate to her. She's not asking for sympathy, she's not asking you to like her, " says the actress.

"In fact, when we started, I think people didn't like her very much as she's so abrasive, but because they liked Joe Ashworth, her sidekick then, he thought the world of her [and won people over].

"As in life, you can meet someone who is fat and ugly and boring, and you get to know them a little bit and think, 'Oh, aren't they nice? They're not 'orrible - actually they're not that ugly! She's not fat!' Haha!

"But the opposite can happen; you can think someone's just the most dazzling, wonderful person and you get to know them and think, 'God, they're horrible', and that dazzle soon goes, doesn't it?"

While she's very fond of Vera, it was playing Mrs Bennet in Joe Wright's adaptation of Pride And Prejudice that Blethyn considers her ultimate "job made in heaven".

"I loved playing her, " she buzzes. "When you look at it, it's written by a teenage girl, [and] who's not embarrassed by their mother at that age? But in my view, Mrs Bennet was the only one taking any notice of the situation. She needed to get something sorted out, so of course she's panicking because no one is listening to her, and as soon as dad pops his clogs, they're going to be out of house and home!

"She was the only one taking the problem seriously, and I don't think Lizzy's description of her was entirely accurate, " she adds wryly.

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