Brenda Blethyn on nodding off in Harrods, her love for dogs – and acing crosswords

The actress is back in a new series of Vera

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I’m imagining you curled up by the fire in your Kent coast home in Ramsgate…


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I’m sitting with my cockapoo dog Jack in bed, doing a crossword puzzle. I’ve never done it quicker than three minutes. The cryptic crossword takes longer – I can puzzle over it all day and not answer anything. I love it. When we were kids we didn’t have a telly and sometimes we didn’t even have the wireless because the electricity bill hadn’t been paid so they came and cut it off. My dad would set us puzzles to do from a very early age.

Is your bed a majestic affair?

It’s huge, two metres square. I was shopping in London a while back and I was so tired – I’d been working all night – that I tried to get an appointment in an optician’s, just so I could sit down, as all the cafés were full. I couldn’t, so I went into Harrods furniture department and thought, “Oh,
 I’ll have a lie on a bed.” It was so comfortable I nodded off – and then bought it. My dog climbs on it now. He’s only 18 months old.

Ah, so sweet and small?

He’s a lot bigger than I thought he was going to be. He got a silver medal in the obedience class I take him to. When he won, I showed him the certificate and he ate it.

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Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope and Robert Pugh as Eddie Thurston

Do you watch a lot of dog programmes?


I love Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs. All of a sudden Jack twigs there’s a dog there, so he jumps up to the windowsill and wonders why he can’t see it. He’s not that bright. He’s the first dog I or my husband [former National Theatre art director Michael Mayhew] have ever had and we got him because when I’m making VeraI’m away for five months of the year and my husband’s on his own. Well, in my head he is. He might be having 
a whale of a time.

Do you row over the remote?

We’ve got it worked out. We’ve got two tellies in different rooms. No wonder we get on so well.

What does he watch on his own?

A lot of sport. I love quizzes. I love The Chase, and I find Tipping Pointtherapeutic. It’s kind of like hypnotism. It reminds me of machines in the arcade.

So your childhood was all about puzzles and amusement arcades?

When I was a child I played on one of those machines where you flick the ball around and a chocolate bar comes out. This one was faulty so, win or lose, the chocolate bar came out. I emptied the machine and smuggled them all home. My mum found them and oh, I was in such trouble. I had to go straight back down there and apologise. But the next day we all had one of those chocolate bars so I don’t know if she kept a few back.

You’re 71 and have acted since the 70s. You must have a thick skin.

You have to take it all with a pinch of salt, even the good reviews. The knocks you get after you’ve slogged your heart out and then it gets slaughtered in the press…

What good advice have you been given in your career?


I was working with Harriet Walter on The Imitation Game [Ian McEwan’s 1980 television film set in Bletchley Park] and our Army uniforms were really itchy. I said, “I wish I didn’t have to wear this.” She said to ask for a vest but I didn’t want to seem like a moaner. Harriet said, “Go and ask! Not everyone’s going to like you. What does it matter, you’ll get a vest.” I thought that was good advice. It’s nice to be liked, but not to the point of syrup.

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Brenda Blethyn stars in the new series of Vera, starting on Sunday 19th March at 8pm on ITV