Suranne Jones on Save Me: “I spent a lot of time wishing for a really dark, gritty piece. You have to be careful what you wish for”

The Doctor Foster actress is happy not to take the lead in Lennie James’s new thriller

Suranne Jones, Save Me (Sky, EH)

What appealed about Save Me?

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I was in the middle of filming the second series of Doctor Foster and I’d just had a baby, so I had no brain. I wanted to take a break but I read the script for Save Me and thought: this is really good. Lennie writes two characters speaking at the same time, which you see in theatre but not often in TV.

Were you looking for a show where you weren’t the lead?

I’ve done shows where I was the lead but maybe it wasn’t quite right – I took them because I wanted to move my career on. Now, it’s about really good parts, even if I’m only in two scenes, as long as I’m part of a great show. Before this, I spent a lot of time wishing for a really dark, gritty piece. You have to be careful what you wish for, because then you get it tenfold!

Do you take the darkness home with you?

Never. When you get through the door and there’s a baby in the bath, work is work and home is home. I see my mates and bumble around, I know a lot of libraries and play parks in north London, and that’s more important to me.

Who is Claire?

She had a summer of love and a daughter with Nelly, then moved away from her working-class roots and met her husband. They built up a business together and have a really good life. She starts in this world then gets embedded in her past, this pub and this community [the like of which] you’ve never seen before. It isn’t a Shameless estate.

Do you recognise that community?

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Definitely. I worked in pubs when I was younger. My nickname was Morticia. My boss used to say: ‘you ought to smile more, you get more tips.’ There was the football lot, the guy with the dog who came in with his 1ps and 2ps… Characters I got to know very well.