Since Scott & Bailey debuted, female police female officers have come to the fore with hit shows such as Line of Duty and The Fall. And then, of course, there’s Happy Valley starring Sarah Lancashire, one of 2014’s biggest hits and a drama written by Scott & Bailey’s co-creator Sally Wainwright.
Due to Wainwright’s increased workload (she’s also the brains behind Last Tango in Halifax), she’s handed over lead writer duties for series four of Scott & Bailey to actress Amelia Bullmore, who admits to having taken a deep intake of breath when she watched Happy Valley.
“I watched it and thought, ‘God, look at that! Are we just sort of trotting around the car park here [with Scott & Bailey]?’” says Bullmore, who also plays Janet and Rachel’s boss Gill Murray. “It was so intense and extreme. It was like Mummy suddenly had a Latin lover! But you have to hold your nerve. They are very different shows and Sally Wainwright made some really sound choices when she gave birth to Scott & Bailey all those years ago. So you just have to hang on to your hat.”
And what about the representation of men on the show? In the past, criticism has come from those who feel that the majority of the male characters on Scott & Bailey are either adulterers, corrupt or mass murderers. Do the blokes get a tough time?
“I don’t think men get a raw deal in this new series,” says Bullmore. “We have had big discussions about it because it would be tiresome if you could knock the show for that reason. But Sally was never bothered. She used to say, ‘I’m not going to lose sleep over that.’ I’m not Sally. I like to keep an eye on everybody to insure against all that.”
Do they think a time will come when people talk about Janet, Rachel and Gill as just characters rather than female characters? Says Lesley Sharp: “I do slightly raise my eyebrows when I get asked what it’s like to be on a show written by a woman that has lead female characters, writers and directors.
“And I just think, ‘would you put that to Stephen Tompkinson when he’s playing DCI Banks?’. He’s a guy, the producer’s a guy, the director’s a guy. Would that be put to him as being something extraordinary in the workplace? Well, no it wouldn’t. So why should it be an issue the other way around?
“When Scott & Bailey started, it was sort of a lone wolf. But there’s an appetite out there for really interesting, complicated, female heroines. And now we have women like Keeley Hawes and Vicky McClure being brilliant in Line of Duty and Gillian Anderson being amazing in The Fall. It’s wonderful that there’s now writing out there that gives them the chance to get their teeth into something, rather than being an appendage to the man as a wife or a mother.”
However, hit shows like Scott & Bailey must come to an end one day, even when you’re guaranteed bespoke desserts on the set (Sharp was awarded the Showstopper prize by guest judge Russell T Davies, by the way). When asked about whether the cast will hang up their handcuffs, Bullmore says, “That’s a really hard question. But I don’t think things should go on for ever and ever.”
And appropriately enough, for a series that champions capable women succeeding in the workplace, Suranne Jones believes that Rachel’s idea of a good finish would be professional rather than domestic. “Rachel actually wants to be Gill,” she says. “Late nights, working all the time, being tired, being stressed, but cracking cases. That’s her happy ending.”
Scott & Bailey returns to ITV on Wednesday 10 September at 9.00pm