Five Minutes With Brenda Blethyn

Brenda Blethyn
Brenda Blethyn

IT MUST BE FUN PLAYING ERNESTINE ENORMOMONSTER IN DISNEY JUNIOR’S HENRY HUGGLEMONSTER

Of course. It’s like being a child again. It’s wonderful. You get to do silly voices surrounded by these wonderful colour images of the characters in the series. It’s such a surreal place to be.

AND BRIAN BLESSED PLAYS YOUR HUSBAND, EDUARDO

Yes, now why do you think they chose Brian and me as the Enormomonsters from Roarsville? He’s such a quiet chap isn’t he? Also I played Mrs Heffalump. It’s quite funny really.

HOW UNUSUAL IS IT RECORDING THE VOICES ALONE IN A BOOTH?

It is a little surreal, but you’ve got all these wonderful voices coming at you as well. It’s great fun. And of course these are our audiences of the future. It’s great to get approval from them. It’s such a popular series.

I FIRST BECAME AWARE OF YOUR WORK IN SITCOM CHANCE IN A MILLION...

Oh gosh, yes. That was a while back. Do you know I’m recognised more from that programme than anything I have ever done? I was in a cave in Australia once looking at some historical things and a member of the group said: ‘Weren’t you in Chance in a Million?’. Once in a jungle in Borneo as well in a little town someone said the same thing.

ANY POSSIBILITY OF A CHANCE IN A MILLION REUNION?

Do you know Simon [Callow] and I did talk about it once, and there was some talk of a reunion, but whether that’ll happen or not I don’t know really. It would be nice because so many people remember that show.

HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIO: MIKE LEIGH AND ROBERT REDFORD WANT YOU IN THEIR NEW FILMS SHOOTING AT THE SAME TIME. WHICH DO YOU GO FOR - TWO MONTHS IN MANCHESTER OR CALIFORNIA?

I prefer Manchester, but I have to say that the sunshine of California would beckon, and also Robert Redford, when I worked with him before [on a River Runs Through It], he did invite improvisation from me and from his actors. A lot of scenes I did in that film were improvised, and that was when Brad Pitt of course was only just becoming Brad Pitt; that was his first big film. We improvised around some of the scenes, and he [Redford] welcomed that. I loved working with him.

WAS IT STRANGE TO WORK WITH SUCH A HOLLYWOOD ICON LIKE REDFORD?

Oh yes, of course it was. He was my mum’s favourite. In fact she wasn’t well at the time that job came up, so I said ‘Mum, I’m not going to go. I’ll stay here with you’. And she said: ‘What on Earth do you mean? You get over there and give me a daily bulletin’, which I did do of course. But she recovered fortunately.

YOUR BAFTA-WINNING PERFORMANCE AS CYNTHIA IN SECRETS AND LIES TOUCHED A CHORD WITH MANY. HOW EMOTIONALLY DRAINED WERE YOU EVERY DAY?

Well, it was quite draining because the hours of work are long, and you’re in character for most of that time; if you really concentrate on what you’re doing, you kind of enter that world. Sometimes driving home it was difficult to work out ‘Who am I? Am I her? Am I me?’ I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad because I’d be driving home in my lovely car back to my nice house with a meal waiting for me, driving through an area of London that’s inhabited by lots of Cynthias, so it made me sad. It was hard work, I have to say. But he [Mike Leigh] makes brilliant films; Mr Turner is magnificent, and Timothy Spall particularly. Absolutely incredible performance. Plus, he learned to paint for a couple of years, he learned from a master.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? MORE VERA?

Yes, we finished series five already. That’ll be going out I suppose quite soon. Four new episodes. They’re all feature-length of course. We’ll be starting series six later on in the year, so it’s all very exciting.

WHAT APPEALED TO YOU ABOUT THAT CHARACTER?

Well it’s rather nice that it’s kind of wholesome in a different way [to Henry Hugglemonster]. She’s honest. She’s just and she’s got a good analytical mind, and it’s not dependent on lipstick; she doesn’t look like she’s just walked off a catwalk. That’s kind of refreshing because you don’t see that very often on telly. It’s very real.

CAREERWISE, WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU HAPPIEST AND WHY?

To be honest with you, I’ve always been a pretty positive person. I’m pretty happy whatever I happen to be doing usually. I was in America for a while. I did three or four films back-to-back and then I wasn’t quite so happy, but then I discovered I was anaemic, so that was probably why I wasn’t enjoying it because it seemed like too much of an effort. But I’m pretty good at finding the positives in whatever I happen to be doing. Something my mum and dad left us is the ability to laugh and to see the positives in whatever. It’s so important. My glass is generally half full.