Lark Rise To Candleford – second series
Julia Sawalha plays Dorcas Lane
Post Mistress Dorcas Lane decided to stay at the Post Office at the end of the first series.
However the joy was short lived as she said goodbye to two very special people in her life; Zillah (Liz Smith), her ever faithful maid sadly passed away, whilst Sir Timothy (Ben Miles) left for London with his wife Lady Adelaide (Olivia Grant).
So what is in store for Dorcas in the second series of Lark Rise to Candleford?
"Well Dorcas has got another love interest called James Dowland who is played by Jason Merrells. At first, they fight against each other because of his lack of understanding of the whole community.
"She finds it hard to understand where he's coming from but there is also a romantic thing going on. She is attracted to him but she doesn't understand why. Since losing Zillah, I think she wears her emotions much more on her sleeve – she's much more vulnerable in this series.
"I miss not having Liz around, she was a fantastic person to have on set but this series, we've got a wonderful actress Ruby Bentall who's incredible, she plays my new maid. It's a lovely dynamic to have this younger maid in the kitchen that can't do anything, and it's made Dorcas realise how much she has learnt from Zillah. As much as you lose people you have wonderful replacements that bring in a new dynamic and a new energy and so the thing moves on."
Does working on a period drama such as Lark Rise to Candleford presents challenges for an actor?
"There is a certain amount of etiquette involved such as not putting your elbows on the table, sitting up, and the way you walk, you have to take small steps. Sometimes in the stage directions you'll read, 'She runs down the street', and Victorian ladies did not run! This wasn't just out of manners, it's physically impossible to run in a long skirt and a corset so you have to constantly remind yourself of things that they did and didn't do!"
Julia, a veteran of period dramas, having starred in Cranford and Pride And Prejudice, has plenty experience of wearing corsets.
"I'm actually alright in the corsets!" she laughs, "I've got a bit of elastic around the side of them which helps me breathe although I do run out of breath in long speeches. There are days when it becomes a bit intolerable but it's just like anything really. When you wear a tight pair of jeans it can become terrible sometimes. I think it helps you so much with character and helps you stand up straight and gives you a bit of grace.
"Corsets come in all different shapes, and I would say this is possibly the most restricting one I've worn. Some corsets are soft corsets, like the ones in the Pride And Prejudice period. They would push your boobs up but wouldn't pull you in because you've got the A length dresses. But I think in this period, about five years before 1896 they were aiming for a 21 inch waist!"
The first series of Lark Rise to Candleford brought in around seven million viewers each week, what kind of reaction have you had from fans?
"The reaction has been incredible. The letters I've had from people are the nicest letters I've ever had. People have gone out of their way to write, saying: 'I wouldn't normally write this letter but what Dorcas went through I have been through...'
"Even in the street what most people say is that they're so pleased there's no murder and no violence and I think that's the main crux of it. It's just easier on the eye, easier on the ear, gentle drama, which looks at people's relationships. People had the same relationships then as they do today, except we're wearing different costumes. We have our fights we have our heartbreaks, we have our happy moments.
"This all makes my job worthwhile because it means that I've helped someone escape in some way for an hour and understand their own emotions and that's a huge compliment to me."