Save Me

Interview with Suranne Jones

What attracted you to the show?

I had just taken six months off with my boy when my agent told me to look at it. I had gone back to Doctor Foster, which was such a big thing to go back to, and I needed some time off. But then I read it, and Lennie's writing was so different. It was also different to anything else I've done on TV. I was going from Doctor Foster to something where I am part of a great ensemble with Lennie, Susan Lynch, Stephen Graham – they are people that I respect as actors and to get to work with them was amazing.

What is Claire like?

She's 'new money'. She's a wife and a mother and has big expensive highlights and her husband works as a promoter in the record industry. Both are working class so they have come up together. And their house is meant to be utterly amazing. It was nice to go shopping for her because we went to the high-end shops – Selfridges, Fenwicks – and we had a bit of fun.

Your Doctor Foster house was amazing too. Do you write in your contracts that you must have nice houses?

You'd think so. But we've also been filming outside Deptford train station in the cold so that obviously didn't filter down. Next time, I'll put down that I'll only do my scenes in the nice houses.

What’s Claire’s connection to Nelly and his world?

She had a relationship with Nelly 13 years ago. Her parents owned the newsagent's opposite the estate, and that's how they met. It was a summer of love and she spent three months in The PalmTree, which is this amazing pub. Now, Claire finds herself back in her old world and through the circumstances in which Nelly finds himself in, he finds her again. They join up again, but he doesn't really know her. They have to get to know each other again. He drags her back to the world she is trying to get away from.

Does he turn her world upside down?

Yes. Imagine the house, money and the relationship she has and then put someone like Nelly into the equation. It's like a bomb of history is blown up. Her new husband knows of him and doesn't really want them to get close.

What do you think makes this series unique? Why do you think people should watch it?

It's the writing. I love the fact that an actor has developed something that he felt hadn͛t been seen on TV before and got a really great team together to make it. It's an investigative story that isn't about the police and it's not necessarily a crime drama. It's about a real man in a world that he doesn't know.

What was it like acting opposite the writer of the show?

It's great. I did it with Amelia Bullmore in Scott & Bailey too. As with Lennie, she knew the characters so well and you could ask questions. It's not a frightening experience. You have to do your homework a bit more but I am quite a swot anyway. I like stationery.

What accent have you got in this? And did you enjoy doing it?

South-east London. Claire's not from the estate but she's from the same world. I've done something similar on stage before. I like a challenge and I don't like to be pigeonholed. In my early career I did very similar things so it's nice to do different stuff. I think I push myself more on stage and now I get to a chance to push myself in other areas.

Is there anything you want to keep when you leave set?

I don't tend to take stuff, though I did take some of Doctor Foster's jewellery because it meant something and it was really nice.

You seem in demand at the moment. How do you choose your roles?

You read a script and you know if you need to do it or not. Everything starts with the writing. I just look for really good stories.

Do you miss your son when you are at work?

Yes, but 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. This has been 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.

How do you juggle your work and your family life?

I take time out and have good breaks where I get to be Mum and nothing else. Afterwards, I go back to doing some work. It's a luxury, I know.

**Do you find it easy to switch off when you get home?*

It's easier now I am a mum because as soon as you walk through the door, you have duties and you want to be switched on completely for them.

Do you watch your shows?

I produce as well so I watched rushes every night for the last Scott & Bailey and I am an associate producer on Doctor Foster. I am pretty good at not just watching myself. I think you have to switch off otherwise you wouldn't be able do it well. There are times I think, oh my god! But I don't think any actor likes looking at their face. I am learning to watch a story as a whole and just not look at the wrinkles.

Are there any roles you’d particularly like to play?

I would like to play Mary Stuart on stage and do more theatre. I think I'd like to play some of Tennessee William's women – there is so much range there. I like singing and dancing, all sorts of roles. I guess it's the story I am drawn to.

Have things changed much since you won your BAFTA?

I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had and for the people I am getting to work with and if that's thanks to the BAFTA, it's amazing. My philosophy has always been to put 100% in. The BAFTA came at a time when my baby was born so it was a whirlwind of a year. It's a huge part of our industry. Whenever I feel like I'm getting fed up I ask myself, what would my 16-year-old self feel like? And she'd feel so grateful. She'd be like, "Wow, you did so well," so that keeps me grounded.

By BBC Australia