Imelda Staunton plays Miss Pole
Just as Miss Pole connects everyone and all their goings-on in Cranford, so too does Imelda Staunton do the same job with its ensemble cast.
The Oscar-nominated actress has previously worked alongside most of its more established names. Need a few examples? Here we go...
Sir Michael Gambon? Several times on stage, plus TV landmark The Singing Detective. Julia McKenzie? First met as her understudy in Guys And Dolls in 1982. Dame Eileen Atkins? Starred together earlier this year at London's Almeida Theatre. Jim Carter? Actually, they're married...
The list goes on and on, confirming Imelda's status as one of Britain's most treasured acting talents, and so the pivotal Miss Pole becomes the latest entry on her illustrious CV.
"Her job is to make sure that everyone knows what's going on, and she is a thread through the whole piece, connecting stories and people," says the London-born star, seen recently in the latest Harry Potter movie.
"Miss Pole is this wonderful force that arrives with terrible news, good news and is just a marvellous creation to play.
"She's aggressive in her hunger for news and gossip and the importance of telling people things – so much so that she feels very responsible for all the news that she has to impart.
"I think you get women like her round every corner in any walk of life at any time."
For Imelda, 51, that timeless nature of Miss Pole's character is shared by Cranford itself.
"So many things in the world change, but there are very fundamental things that don't change," she says. "Living among friends in any sort of village, whether it's a block of flats or a friendly street, is one of them.
"Cranford taps into those human traits – people who get on, or don't get on, who talk about each other, who want to comment on new romantic interests. Today's society is still quite similar in some respects.
"We do it in a different way in these modern times, not in Johnson's Universal Stores like they do in Cranford, but over lunch, dinner, coffee or whatever, but still talking about real life and not just what was on the telly last night."
Imelda, who won a BAFTA for her performance in the title role of Mike Leigh's acclaimed film Vera Drake, adds: "I wouldn't have minded being Miss Pole, but I think we've got it slightly better now, us girls.
"Having said that, I think the Cranford ladies have made a very good life for themselves; they have made themselves important, rather than just being in the background, so I have great admiration for their force as a group of women.
"Cranford is obviously set in a very different time in which women were treated very differently, but the ladies in the town aren't just little women in their homes not saying boo to a goose.
"They are out there with their opinions and with their strengths, having as good a life as they can, and Miss Pole is on the front line."