She is the BAFTA award-winning superstar who has been a fixture in our TV lives for two decades, yet Suranne Jones admits she hates watching herself on screen.
The 41-year-old star who shot to fame in Coronation Street and has gone on to take centre stage in smash-hit shows Scott and Bailey and Dr Foster has taken some time away from the spotlight in the last couple of years after pulling out of the powerful and emotional West End drama Frozen due to exhaustion.
Now she is set to return to our screens to reprise her role of Claire McGory alongside the show's writer and her co-lead Lennie James (who plays the role of Nelly Rowe) for the second season of the hugely successful Sky Atlantic drama Save Me, even though she admits she struggles to avoid critiquing her own appearance during and after the creative process.
“I have a role as producer on Scott and Bailey and Dr Foster, so I watch rushes during editing and have had to get pretty good at not watching myself,” she begins.
“There are times I think, oh my god - do I look like that! I am learning to watch a story as a whole and just not look at the wrinkles.
“I’m not alone in this. I don’t think any actor likes looking at themselves on screen and I know I’m in a very fortunate position in my career and always keep that in mind.
“I have a chance in my career to pick and choose the roles I take now and Save Me was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in my career. I know how lucky I am to be able to say when I want time off, but when you get a script like this, you want to take it and do your best work.
“Filming Save Me was a very free and different way of doing things. The director wrote to me and promised that it would be a great experience and it has been.
“It’s so beautifully written by Lennie and that’s why I could not say no when the script came to me initially.
“My character Claire comes back to the estate she used to hang around in. She decided to move away from that life, met someone else and got married. She took the child away and left that life behind.
“When she returns, it is to a life she has tried to get away from and wanted to forget. It is easy to slip into her mindset and that is part of the appeal of the role.
“Working on-screen with the person who has written this story was a great experience and it felt wonderful to go to work every day. It is not often anyone gets a chance to say that.”
Made by the same production company that brought us the Bodyguard and Line of Duty, Save Me Too follows the story of lead character Nelly, who saw his life that was turned upside down after being accused of the abduction of the daughter he barely knew.
An all-star cast featuring Stephan Graham, Ade Edmondson and Kerry Godliman return as we pick up the story 17 months after Nelly and Claire’s daughter Jody is still missing, with Line of Duty star James admitting relishing the chance to be reunited with co-star Jones.
“Working with Suranne is just easy because she’s at the top of her game,” he stated.
“There isn’t anything she’s not capable of. It’s phenomenal to see what she can do.
“You aim to be able to reach the level that she is at and stay there for as long as the scene demands it. She’s a joy to have around. I know she’s really committed to this project.
“There are chunks of this second six episodes where her character, Claire, isn’t visible but is always present. Every single time she comes back and it’s her turn to pick up the story she is unfailingly brilliant.
“Also, she’s just a good laugh... she’s very quietly, surprisingly funny. I mean like staggeringly funny. If there’s anything I’m really happy about on this whole experience it’s getting to know and work with Suranne because I didn’t know her that well before. She’s a mate now and I’m a huge, huge fan.”
The dark nature of Save Me Too tests the emotions of all the cast, with Jones admitting her motherly heartstrings are plucked by a storyline that leaves any parent shaken at the prospect of their child being abducted.
“I have dealt with these kinds of stories before in my work,” adds Jones. “I made the TV series The Secret of Crickley Hall where my character lost a child and did a lot with grief counsellors then.
“Then when I did Frozen in the West End, I did a lot with mothers with missing children. More than I would have liked to have really. So I think I’ve done my fair share.
“It is upsetting to play a role like this because Lennie doesn’t pull any punches. The way he writes is quite brutal, but it was just nice to come back to this crowd and to finish the story off.
“It is hard to do play this role, it’s intense. I was like ok I’ve signed onto this because I want the outcome but I’m playing a grieving mother again and it’s tough. Interestingly the end of season one left Claire and Nelly together holding hands in the car. Really that’s what they’d like to be – together. Because I do think they love each other quite deeply. But they don’t belong together.
“You can imagine being in Claire’s position and your child is missing. You can never rest until you get an answer. Whether it’s six weeks, six months, a year or six years, if you don’t know if your child is dead or not you’re never going to rest. You just want closure to it.
“So if the police are not on the case she is never going to get closure. That’s what gets to her. Every day she’s got some reason to get up because she’s not heard that Jody’s dead. When it is taken away from her, all hope is lost.”
Save Me Too is on Sky Atlantic from April 1st.
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