Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 649

12 25 MAY 2023 that families label everybody at a very early age, and howwe sometimes find it hard to get out of that. Especially if you’ve grown away fromeach other.” Becca and Rosaline do not have the best of relationships. “My initial treatment was about the two sisters, finding their mother had this other life,” says Suranne. “That’s what I took to Anne-Marie, and she was very interested in exploring double lives – particularly a double life that’s a woman.” Eve Best filmed Maryland between seasons of HBO fantasy epic House of the Dragon, in which she plays thwarted queen Rhaenys Targaryen. “She came straight from that to us – to this small little cast in Ireland [doubling for the Isle of Man],” says Suranne. “Quite a contrast in scale.” Additional star wattage is provided by Grease and TheWest Wing legend Stockard Channing. “We always wanted her as Kathy, who’s this kind of 70-plus rock and roll-type woman – a woman who’s lived a life,” says Suranne. “Even in the writer’s room, we kept saying: ‘When Stockard agrees to play this…’ So we couldn’t believe it when she said yes.” The sequence in the first episode when the sisters go in to identify their mother’s body is a strikingly visceral portrait of raw grief fromSuranne, who lost her ownmumJenny to vascular dementia in 2016, and her dad Chris to Covid-19 in January 2021 (following threemonths in ICUwhen family were unable to visit him). As an actor, is she inevitably channelling her own experiences in a scene like that? “Obviously I know about loss,” she considers. “I’ve lost bothmy parents. And I know about care –mymumwas cared for by us at home, then in a care home. So that was obviously part of our discussion, when we were developing this story. It’s never a nice experience to do something like that.” Suranne, born in Chadderton, Oldham, has a brother, Gary, but no sister of her own. Did Maryland make her wish she had one? “You never knowwhat you’re going to get, do you?” she smiles. “But I think the sister relationship isn’t one that’s shown enough on TV. That’s one of the reasons people love Happy Valley – for those conversations between Sarah [Lancashire] and Siobhan [Finneran].” It’s the same reason she values her close female friendships – who she considers sisters in all but name. “And after losing amother, I think it’s evenmore important,” she says. “Sally Lindsay, JennieMcAlpine, Jennifer James – Jennifer Boardman now – I met at Corrie. I’ve got lovely relationships with all those women. Anne-Marie is a great friend, as is Fearne Cotton. They’re really important tome.” Coronation Street, of course, was wheremost of us first met the former Sarah Anne Jones, too – as bighearted bruiser KarenMcDonald, she caused chaos on the Corrie cobbles between 2000 and 2004. A graduate of OldhamTheatre Workshop, who’d been acting on stage since the age of eight, Suranne hadmade the final four for the role of Charity Dingle in Emmerdale. But it was as Karen – memorably described by one critic as “a bulldog in hoop earrings” – that she earned her place in Coronation Street’s proud lineage of strong but vulnerable women. Over the years, the soap has proved a consistent hothouse for female talent, in particular – is that something to do with CENTRE STAGE Suranne as Anne Lister with Sophie Rundle (Ann Walker) in Gentleman Jack (left); as DCI Amy Silva in Vigil (below); alongside Eve Best in Maryland (bottom) creator TonyWarren’s vision of the show being about ‘women and their menfolk’ (in that order)? “Yeah, I think so,” says Suranne. “It was the soap that resonated with the women inmy family. So he was obviously doing something right. I didn’t go to drama school, so that showwas part of how I learned everything – by being chucked in the deep end. I had a great time,” she adds. “Corrie is just brilliant.” For a few years after leaving, Suranne worried shemight struggle to escape Karen’s long shadow – until she landed the lead role in former Corrie writer SallyWainwright’s 2009 drama Unforgiven, about a convicted killer being released fromprison. “That was a game changer,” she says. “People started to seeme in a di erent way. And it alsomademe realise: ‘Oh, there are di erent ways you can do this [career]’. It gaveme the confidence I needed to start to say no to jobs.” She began generating her own projects with police drama Scott & Bailey – which she created with Sally Lindsay, and on which SallyWainwright was head writer – and earned every prize going, including a Bafta and a National Television Award, for her role as a wronged wife in watercooler sensation Doctor Foster. More recently, she teamed up withWainwright again to play Anne Lister – the 19th-century Yorkshire landowner, industrialist, diarist, traveller and taboo-shattering lesbian icon – for the highly acclaimed Gentleman Jack. It was a barnstorming performance – all buccaneering swagger and Fleabag-style side-eye – that helped earn the show a devoted audience, especially among gay women. But the BBC andHBO, whomade it, recently announced it wasn’t being renewed for a third series. “I’m really sad for the fans,” says Suranne. “As an actor, you get used to it. Inmy line of work, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. So you go, OK, deep breath… and the jigsaw sort of goes on. But I felt the fans were really heartbroken, and that’s sad.” Some fans even crowdfunded a #SaveGentlemanJack billboard inNewYork’s Times Square. “I mean, what News&Views Photographs: BBC, BBC/World Productions/ Mark Mainz, ITVX, Shutterstock, Getty Images