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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Five Days returns to BBC One: Suranne Jones is DC Laurie Franklin

Suranne Jones as DC Laurie Franklin

Laurie Franklin is a detective based in London, but she's been forced to take a secondment back to her roots in Yorkshire and demotion to Police Constable in order to take care of her mother, Jen (Anne Reid), who is suffering from dementia.

On the way to one of Jen's hospital appointments, the pair get stuck on a Trans-Pennine train, halted by someone jumping in front of its path. Meanwhile, a baby is abandoned in the nearby hospital at practically the same time. It's not long before Laurie makes a connection between the two events and wonders whether this is a bigger case. She soon finds herself right at the heart of the police investigation, where sparks start to fly with her new boss, DI Mal Craig (David Morrissey).

"Laurie Franklin is a 37-year-old divorcee who moves from London back home to Yorkshire to be with her mum," says Suranne. But it is a bitter pill to swallow when demotion is the only option for Laurie, who had a senior role in the police force in London.

"She gets demoted to a PC – it was the only job she could get when she realised her mum, Jen (Anne Reid), was ill with early signs of dementia and she needed to move back because her mum needed her.

"I had very little time for research on this, but I have friends who have been involved in Alzheimer's charities and I have also had personal experience," continues the actress, who is best remembered for her role as Karen McDonald in Coronation Street. "This is a human piece, an emotional story which starts with me and Annie (Anne Reid) and continues all the way through. We tried not to play up the sympathetic side to our characters – instead, we wanted to play the reality of a shocking and uncomfortable situation for both of them."

With two members of her family in the police force, Suranne didn't have to venture very far for inspiration. "I attended a policeman's ball just before filming and was telling them the premise of the series and, for four hours, I had a load of coppers on my table asking questions about the series. I also have a family member who's been in the police force for about 35 years who is pretty senior, and a cousin who works in forensics. Gwyneth's (Hughes) father was a PC for 30 years so her writing is technically brilliant – it comes through in the dialogue, which is great."

The Manchester-based actress, who was critically-acclaimed for her role in Unforgiven, says playing a woman six years older than her 31 years was a little daunting: "Nobody has a problem with it except me," says Suranne. "I look in the mirror and I am reminded of how old I am, especially first thing in the morning before I've got my make-up on!

"I just think these days women are a well-preserved 37, not everyone looks their age. Women in their thirties have so much life experience – they've got children, or partners, or past partners. I think this is the best time for me to be looking at scripts – it's really an exciting time."

Being mistaken for a real police officer while filming in her uniform was the last thing Suranne expected. "One day one of the extras came up to me and started telling me how hard done by his cousin was, who had been caught up in something or another. I had to remind him that I was just playing a policewoman!" she laughs.

"People kept saying how smart I looked in the uniform and there were wolf whistles! But I'd look down and all I'd see were these thick black tights and a massive pair of shoes – I've got size 8 feet! I wasn't wearing half the gear coppers have to wear but it made me realise, on top of the hard job they've got, just how heavy the uniform is.

"Laurie is good at her job, she is relentless, but she is surrounded by a bunch of sexist officers, led by Sgt Don Parker (Shaun Dooley), DI Mal Craig (David Morrissey) and Superintendent Jim Carpenter (Hugo Speer) – tough Yorkshire men who do not want a London copper coming in and sticking her nose in where it's not wanted.

"Mal thinks I am a pen pusher and he wants me to keep my nose out. Unfortunately, the people on the train ask for my input, which makes him realise that I am really good at my job – this, eventually, leads to him finding me attractive in an intelligent, annoying kind of a way. I think I just wore him down! He's not having a great time at home and we're kind of two lonely characters who end up in bed together.

"I have respected David (Morrissey) for a very long time – he is a real talent. David was a bit of a mentor on this job. He would push me to do something interesting or let me have my say. We became good friends on this in the same way that Ray Winstone was when I first came out of Corrie – he was pointing me in the right direction. He is about 15 years older than me and it's quite nice to have someone like him have the confidence in you and bring that out."

So, what's next for the popular actress nominated for a South Bank Show Award last month?

"I have a few things in the pipeline. I just finished the play Blithe Spirit in Manchester. There's talk of a one-woman show for theatre. I am looking at a script for a TV series and a couple of film scripts – small independent films, but they're things I'd love to do, but no decisions have been made yet."

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