Scott and Bailey’s production team has moved into a former police station in Manchester to film their fourth series, but today the staff canteen more resembles the Great British Bake Off tent. Cast and crew have brought in homemade cakes for a charity baking contest and actress Suranne Jones is very pleased with her creations.
“I’ve called them Bailey’s Buns because they’re moist, quick and easy,” she laughs. “When I made them, I was imagining that I was Rachel, which Lesley Sharp really couldn’t understand. She said to me, ‘what do you mean, you’ve made them as Rachel?’ And I said, ‘well, Rachel’s not very clean, is she?’”
At this point Jones mimes picking her nose and wiping her finger on the table. “I was joking, of course. But Les got really worried and said she didn’t want to taste them. Hers are beautiful and decorated with raspberries and have got an ornate pot of yogurt on the side. Mine have got traces of red wine and Weetabix in them. But you do get a free sparkler!”
Although Jones claims to have been baking in character, there does seem to be a slight element of the tomboyish Rachel Bailey and the composed Janet Scott to the actresses who play them. “I was dreading you having to interview us in our trailers,” Jones admits. “I would have been embarrassed if you’d gone from mine to Lesley’s. She’s got cushions and throws and lots of lovely things. We’ve also got rooms upstairs in this building and Les’s looks like a proper sitting room. No one else’s does. We all marvel at Lesley, really.”
The pair’s off-screen friendship was forged back in 2011 during hours spent filming in a car on the moors for the first series. These days, breaks from shooting are spent having cups of tea and browsing through homeware magazines, which is more than can be said for Scott and Bailey of late.
In the last run of episodes, the two cops had a heated bust-up that threatened their friendship and left fans concerned that they’d be left permanently at loggerheads. The pair just about managed to make it up in the end, but did the stars of the show worry that it was all becoming too fractious?
“I think everybody felt that,” admits Sharp. “It was funny being on set and having to be mean to each other. Usually, you get Scott and Bailey colluding and undermining things together. So we didn’t like it. We didn’t like not being friends.”
“It’s something that Lesley and I talk about all the time,” says Jones. “People want to see them getting on. The viewers don’t want to see them battling because that’s not what the show is about. So we’re now aware that if the script says that they’re ‘jibing’ or ‘bickering’, then we’re doing it in a way that’s light. ”
However, despite the rapprochement, there will still be competition between Rachel and Janet in series four as the two detectives both try out for the same sergeant’s job. Is there a worry that this tussle over promotion will lead to further fall-outs? “We’re at pains to show women as good, cooperative and supportive colleagues,” says Sharp. “There is a competitiveness between them, but it’s out in the open. There’s no unpleasant skulduggery or bitching. They both want to succeed, but it’s a healthy depiction of two women in the workplace rather than an archetypal telly catfight.”
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