Sarah Hadland (above, left) is going back to school. Best known as Miranda Hart’s singing sidekick Stevie in BBC hit sitcom Miranda, Hadland joins Waterloo Road this week as new head of English Linda Radleigh, whom Hadland describes as “a good teacher with a sinister side”.
“She has a history with the new head teacher [played by Alec Newman] and we discover what that history is – and whether she still carries a torch for him,” she tells RT.
This being Waterloo Road, Linda likely carries not only a torch, but also a home-made bomb, with a view to an end-of-series hostage cliffhanger. But whatever Linda’s story, Hadland relishes playing a character so different from Stevie. “You can get pigeon-holed and I worried after the success of Miranda, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.”
Hadland, 40, is best known for comedy – prior to Miranda, she was in Green Wing, That Mitchell and Webb Look and Moving Wallpaper – but she started out in musical theatre in the West End before “crossing over”. Stints in fringe theatre followed, along with small parts in The Bill and Bad Girls. Citing Victoria Wood and Julie Walters as inspirations, Hadland found she really took to comedy. So is it harder than drama?
“With comedy, there’s pressure: you’re meant to be funny,” she says. “With drama you don’t have that same pressure and you don’t get an immediate response from an audience, as you do with something like Miranda, say.”
Hadland believes that “you’re either funny or you’re not” and, as we lunch in an Edinburgh hotel, it’s apparent that she’s both witty and warm. She jokes self-deprecatingly about her white fish allergy that requires her to carry an adrenaline-injector EpiPen: “I managed to find a smashing case for it because who doesn’t like another accessory?”
She also finds some excellent material in our fellow diners: a pair of old ladies who look as if they’ve been here since the hotel opened in 1903, and what appears to be a Thai bride, complete with wedding dress, and her old-enough-to-be-her-dad Scottish groom. “Shall I have a word, do you think?” she smiles.
As with Miranda, there’s no malice, merely an appreciation of life’s little oddities. Was she surprised at the success that greeted Miranda? After all, though it has its subversive moments, such as Miranda reading Mein Kampf to small children, it’s quite an old-fashioned studio sitcom?
“Some people think it’s not cool to like it. But if it makes you laugh, what’s wrong with that? I was terrified, as we all were, that people wouldn’t get bits of it – the falling over and such – so we’re delighted at the response. Miranda is brilliant. People think we’ve known each other 20 years, but we met at the audition and just clicked.”
Before filming the third series of Miranda this summer, which will debut on BBC1, Hadland landed the role of Miss Tightclench in new BBC2 comedy Bleak Old Shop of Stuff, from Mark Evans, writer of Radio 4’s delicious Dickens parody Bleak Expectations. “I carry a stool around and stand on it every time I speak,” she reveals.
In the meantime, Hadland is developing her knack of politely declining invitations to do Stevie’s Heather Small impression from Miranda: “What have you done today to make you feel proud?” “I get that a lot and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it,” she says. “The other thing I get a lot is [another refrain of Stevie], ‘I just want to push you over.’ A woman came over to me in the gym the other day and said it. I had just got off the treadmill, so she wouldn’t have encountered much resistance! I reply, in the nicest possible way, “Please don’t. Because that’s assault.”
So there we have it. Sarah Hadland – no pushover.