When Vicky McClure won the best actress Bafta in May, beating grande dame Juliet Stevenson and academy favourite Anna Maxwell Martin, she was “totally gobsmacked”.
True, she had already won the Royal Television Society’s best actress award back in March for her performance in Shane Meadows’ This Is England ’86 as the street-tough but achingly vulnerable Lol – but, McClure says in her dulcet Nottingham accent, “Nothing prepares you for your name being read out at the Baftas.”
What? Not even a dummy run at RT’s photoshoot for some of the finest talent on TV? McClure grins.
“Doing that photoshoot, I remember we had to ‘audition’ and act out certain scenarios. One was ‘You’ve just won a Bafta’ and I thought I wouldn’t have a clue what that face was or how that would feel. So when I did win, it was just so bizarre – and I don’t think I will ever have that feeling again.
Winning the RTS was a big moment [not least because McClure beat another acting doyenne, Julie Walters, to that award], but that Bafta night was just phenomenal.”
Phenomenal is a word that could also apply to the rise of McClure, from her breakthrough role in Meadows’ 1999 film A Room for Romeo Brass to lead roles in two of next year’s most eagerly awaited TV dramas.
For BBC2, she stars as a police officer in Jed Mercurio’s gritty Line of Duty, alongside Neil Morrissey, Lennie James and Gina McKee.
And then there’s BBC1’s five-part series of interlocking dramas Love Life, in which she stars opposite one David Tennant.
“Working with David was a real pleasure. We play childhood sweethearts who meet up again having gone our separate ways. [Former EastEnders star] Lacey Turner and [Downton Abbey’s] Joanne Froggatt are also in the series, as well as Billie Piper, so being part of a cast like that was fantastic.
“To get a good female role can be tough, so I’m lucky to have got the roles I’ve got and the variety means I’m not being typecast as Lol.”
Pursuing McClure to bring some of Lol’s essence to other dramas would be forgivable: she is sensational at the heart of Meadows’ story of mods in the mid-1980s.
Lol’s traumas – This Is England ’86 ended with her killing her abusive father with a hammer – play out against the bleak social deprivation of the Thatcher years. This new series, set two years on, sees Lol living with the consequences of her actions.
“Yes, it’s dark, but it’s real life: there are Lols out there. And there’s a weird sense of fulfilment – it’s not enjoyment – when you go home at night knowing that you’ve done what you need to do to tell that story.”
For all her diffidence – and McClure is the least actressy actress you could meet – she deserves her place in TVs top tier of talent, bringing an unflinching honesty to all her roles, even to a guest part in BBC1’s hokey The Body Farm earlier this year.
The 28-year-old has been acting since she was 11, but make no mistake, she’s no stage school brat.
“I auditioned for things like the Italia Conti Theatre Academy and got in,” she says, “but I didn’t go because we couldn’t afford it.
“We didn’t have a shedload of money to send me off to London to fulfil my dream: I was raised in a semi and we’re working-class, in so far as we all work hard, earn our crust and don’t expect anything.
“Obviously, loads of people have helped me along the way, from my family to Shane to my agent, but I’m really pleased I’ve done this under my own steam.”
And she’s not one of those actors who claims awards don’t matter. “I don’t take them for granted,” she says.
“I took the Bafta to my grandma’s after I’d won it and she gave it a good polish.”
So she doesn’t keep her Bafta in her bathroom, as so many award-winners purport to do?
“God no! It’s in my bedroom. I’m not putting it in the toilet! I don’t want things like that happening around it.”