By Steve Fisher
BRENDA BLETHYN MIGHT not be a household
name in the United States, but you may well know
her face. The British actress has delivered indelible
performances on stage and screen in both her native
England and in the United States, most notably in A
River Runs Through It and her 1996 Academy
Award–nominated role in Secrets & Lies. American
television audiences know her as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ mother on The New Adventures of Old
Christine and for her Emmy-nominated guest-star-ring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Fans
of the UK crime drama Vera adore her as the fictional detective Vera Stanhope in the series inspired
by the works of crime author Ann Cleeves.
In the series, Vera is short, heavy set and frumpy.
The Connection spoke to Blethyn, who looked
decidedly different from the character she plays, via
Skype from her home in London.
The Costco Connection: For those who don’t know
her, who is Vera Stanhope?
Brenda Blethyn: Vera Stanhope is not your normal,
run-of-the-mill detective. She’s rather disheveled.
She’s abrasive, but she’s a very, very good cop, and she
has a sense of humor and a very, very loyal team. She
looks rather like a bag lady, actually [laughs]. If you
met her at a bus stop, the last thing you’d think she
was is a detective, and I love her to bits.
CC: Where do Brenda and Vera intersect?
BB: I’ve always been someone who likes a riddle,
who likes to solve puzzles. I’m a member of The
Times of London crossword club, and every day we
play online. My brother and I race each other. I love
a cryptic crossword puzzle. The harder, the better.
My sister Jean, who lives in Florida, can finish The
New York Times puzzle, the difficult one, in half an
hour. Now, that is a mystery to me.
CC: You come from a very large family [six brothers
and two sisters]. What is Vera’s family like?
BB: Vera was an only child. Her mother died when
she was young, and Vera was brought up by her
father, who kind of disapproved of her a little bit. He
thought she was a woman in a man’s world. She
shouldn’t have been doing that job as a policeman.
That’s a man’s job. He was a little bit of a chauvinist,
I suppose. He was an avid collector of birds’ eggs,
what we call a twitcher. Collecting birds’ eggs, of
course, is illegal. And she was forced as a teenager
just to turn a blind eye. Even as a police officer. He
was also—he’s dead now—a taxidermist, so he
would catch birds and he would stuff them for ornaments so he can always look at them. But Vera
would rather see the birds flying in the sky.
CC: What is it about the role that attracted you to
BB: I just thought it was looking at policing in a very
honest way. Sometimes people say to me, “Oh, she’s
so scruffy. You wouldn’t see a police officer like that.”
To which I said, “How many times have you been in
a police station?” She’s a real person, and she can talk
to anyone. And she’s ordinary. She doesn’t rely on
lipstick to get loyalty from her team or from anybody
else. She’s fair. She’s a very just person. She will look
out for the underdog if that is what is required.
CC: What about her challenges you as an actress?
BB: It’s kind of the reverse, really. I don’t spend very
long in makeup, as you can tell. I have to bulk myself
Brenda Blethyn is not
Vera but plays her on TV
Vera, Set 4 and Set 5 (Item
#1033263), is available on DVD
in all Costco warehouses.
In our digital editions
Click here to see Brenda
Blethyn in a Skype interview,
and in a clip from Vera.
(See page 14 for details.)
arts & entertainment
CONTINUED ON PAGE 128