Happy Valley: Sarah Lancashire

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood.
Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood.

“I’LL make a note of the fact that you apologised profusely…in tears.”

Sarah Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood in tonight’s Happy Valley episode three. (BBC1 9pm)

Sally Wainwright’s brilliant script matched, yet again, by Sarah’s work on screen.

In a series reminding us that Sally’s writing CV includes dramas like Unforgiven, as well as Last Tango In Halifax, Scott and Bailey and At Home With The Braithwaites.

Back in March I attended the London launch of this six-part drama, followed by a Q&A.

A few hours later I wrote the story further down this page, which has not gone online – so best put that right now.

James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce.
James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce.

I’ve now watched the first five episodes of Happy Valley – yet another gem from the Red Production Company – and cannot wait to see the finale.

We knew there were dark twists ahead but tonight’s episode contains some proper shocks.

While next week’s episode four – directed by Sally – has a stunning “bloody hell” conclusion.

Happy Valley is full of top class performances, including James Norton as psychopath Tommy Lee Royce and Steve Pemberton as accountant Kevin, trapped in a nightmare.

I could go on, but would just end up writing out the entire cast list.

While adding honourable mentions for directors Euros Lyn and Tim Fywell.

But when the 2015 BAFTA Television Awards come around, it would indeed be a crime if Sarah Lancashire’s name is not on the ‘Actress’ list.

Following on from her ‘Supporting Actress’ nomination for Last Tango In Halifax at the 2014 awards this Sunday.

Steve Pemberton as Kevin.
Steve Pemberton as Kevin.

I have been lucky enough to interview Sarah many times since she decided to leave Raquel and Coronation Street behind.

Which despite lazy references in the press, is a very long time ago now.

A woman who ignores the nonsense sometimes written about her and gets on with the job.

Also appearing to know what is important in real life and what is not.

Her depiction of Coral Atkins in the 2000 ITV drama Seeing Red remains one of my all time favourite performances.

With, I suspect, flawed Catherine Cawood also destined to live long in the memory.

If you’ve missed Happy Valley, there’s still time to catch up via the BBC iPlayer.

And if you’re already hooked like me, just hang on for the ride.

Happy Valley continues on BBC1 at 9pm tonight (Tuesday)

The British Academy Television Awards 2014 are on BBC1 at 8pm on Sunday.

Happy Valley

LAST Tango In Halifax star Sarah Lancashire witnessed the daily violence police face when she went on patrol with officers.

“We were called out to a house where the bailiffs had turned up and they needed to take some belongings away,” revealed the actress.

“I didn’t get out of the van because I was a bit bothered.

“It turned into the filthiest, dirtiest fight. That’s when I stayed in the van. But that just happened in the course of five minutes. The whole day changed.”

Happy Valley

Sarah, 49, was out with police near Halifax in Calderdale, West Yorkshire to research her latest role in BBC1 drama series Happy Valley.

She plays Catherine, a no-nonsense police sergeant who is also a bereaved and divorced mother after her young daughter killed herself following a brutal rape attack.

“I’ve great admiration for the police but I’ve learned I really don’t want to be a police officer. It’s interesting but it’s not for me.

“I also learned when I went out with them just how undermanned they are.”

Happy Valley

The former Paradise actress joined the police patrol during the day but had to step aside at nightfall.

“They didn’t want to take me out at night because things change. They felt I would be very compromised.

“During the evenings they’re dealing with a lot of drug issues, much more violent cases and I would have been a complete liability.”

Siobham Finneran as Clare.
Siobham Finneran as Clare.

Happy Valley executive producer Nicola Shindler said police had inspired the title of the six-part drama, which begins next month (April) and co-stars Siobhan Finneran and Steve Pemberton.

“It’s a nickname the police have for the Calder Valley because of the drug taking. 

“It’s an extraordinarily damaged area because of drugs trafficking and drug taking. So they call it Happy Valley.”

Award-winning writer Sally Wainwright added: “It’s a nice place to live and it’s full of drugs as well.”

Joe Armstrong as Ashley.
Joe Armstrong as Ashley.

Sarah, playing her first ever police officer role, said she found her time on patrol very useful.

“I’d always imagined that police officers are just people and that’s exactly what they are.

“One minute you’re on the radio and coming out with all this police jargon and then you’re suddenly saying, ‘Do you want to go to Tescos and grab a sandwich?’

“We also had a police advisor on set. She was fantastic with the prodecural stuff and had a very keen eye on making sure everything was accurate.

“There’s one scene where Catherine delivers bad news to somebody and she said, ‘It’s OK to cry. That’s what we do. It’s OK to hug them. It’s fine.’

“Which is a huge relief because that’s what you want to do, that’s what human nature is telling you to do. It’s everything in your instinct. But it tends not to be how we see that world portrayed.”

Sophie Rundle as Kirsten.
Sophie Rundle as Kirsten.

Added Sarah: “But it’s really not about a police officer at all. 

“It’s about a woman who is clearly very damaged by her experiences of losing her daughter – where she’s trying to get by day to day.

“She’s a bit ****** up. And I like that. But we all are, whether we like to admit it or not.

“Catherine does have an incredibly emotional story – it turns into an emotional marathon.

“But she carries on. We all do it every day, just getting through life the best we can, the only way we know how.

“She’s a very compassionate character but she’s also cruel and parts of her character are particularly ugly at times. But it’s real.

“She wants revenge for her daughter. But she’s not doing it as a police officer. It’s as a mother. And I do admire the way that she does the things that she does.”

George Costigan as Nevison.
George Costigan as Nevison.

Sarah returns later this year to her role as Caroline in a third series of Last Tango In Halifax, also written by Sally, with Sir Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as a couple reunited in their 70s.

“We overlook how interesting older people are because of the wealth of their experience,” said Sarah.

“Also they’ve got great faces to look at, which move. I’m very keen on that. Mobile faces. Almost a thing of the past.

“Sally’s made a love affair between older people something that we want to watch.

“She is never afraid, especially with women, to portray their flaws. Which is great, because we’re all flawed.”

Adam Long as Lewis.
Adam Long as Lewis.

BBC Happy Valley

Red Production Company

Sarah Lancashire

Sally Wainwright

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