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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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The Case – Ruthie Henshall plays Valerie

How would you describe Valerie?

She's a very formidable character who thinks she's the boss. She is a very, very strong woman and very good at her job, but then again she doesn't really have a private life, so she has sacrificed an awful lot in her life to be this brilliant lawyer.

Was that what attracted you to the role when you first read the script?

Oh, I loved her! I think I'm very attracted to strong women and I tend to get cast as strong women an awful lot. This very strong woman, who really is a sort of ball-breaker, is also a woman that has sacrificed a lot but would she do it differently if she had her time again? I think as she gets older she realises that maybe it was a bit too much but that's something she would never show and never admit. As far as she's concerned her life is exactly how she wants it and it's fabulous. I think she's lonely, because she keeps everybody at a distance and she won't admit to having any vulnerabilities. She's created years' worth of armour and it would take a lot to chip it down. I see Valerie as the light relief because she gets the cases about the donkey sanctuary, the gorgeous guy, the anger management case, when really and truthfully as far as she's concerned, she should be on the big cases because she could do far better than Ridley. She doesn't consider any of these people rivals at all, because in her mind, she could tell them all how to do it.

But it is Sol that gets this case and then he chooses Julie, a junior, to help him. Why does Valerie think he's made a mistake?

I don't think Valerie figures that Julie is a threat at all until Sol chooses her and she starts to show that she's actually very capable, and all of a sudden it's a little bit uncomfortable for Valerie, because people are starting to like her and respect her. I think Valerie's having her nose put out of joint, and she constantly wants to remind Julie who's in charge.

But Julie won't let her?

No, and I love that. I really, really love the fact that Julie pushes back at her. I think Julie proves her worth to the point where Valerie has to concede that this girl's actually good.

The Case is the latest BBC One Daytime drama. What do you think of the fact that there has been a lot more daytime drama made for the BBC?

I'm so glad because I do think daytime was lacking, all you could literally find was either chat shows or re-runs of old stuff. When I read the script, I thought this is really good, this isn't 'wishy-washy, let's just do something that doesn't have an opinion'. If my girls were babies again and I could switch on the television while they were having their kip, this would be good stuff!

Do you think viewers will be surprised to see you as an actress in something like this, because it's not what you're known for?

If they know what I do, then yes it will be a surprise. This is fascinating to me because it's a whole different skill, you really do have to be able to turn it on, and I have great admiration for people in television because it's about literally turning it on when the camera rolls, and that's an incredible thing to have to learn how to do, because you literally have to pick up your energy, pick up the ball and run with it, so you haven't got the luxury of the start to finish. I really wanted to do something like this because I've done a lot of shows, it's my passion, musical theatre, but I've also loved doing the television that I've done in America and I really wanted to do more. When this came along it was a no brainer. I'm also one of these people that doesn't want to be pigeon-holed or put into a box.

You said you've done some television in America, but this is the first television you've done in the UK isn't it?

Yes. In America I've done some episodics like Law And Order, but I'm brand new to this in the UK, and I found it fascinating to learn this whole process. You've got people like Tristan, John and Chanel and this is what they do – you can tell. They come on to the set and they totally know what they're doing and they're comfortable. I've had to ask questions such as 'What does that mean, when you say this...' I've been in heaven here, because it's been like being at school. It's just very different because I'm used to out front and give it all you've got, and of course with television you have to pull it all back.

And of course you don't see your audience.

No, you've got no idea, you don't have the immediate 'that was good' or immediate sense of what you've done. You have to have a lot more self-confidence in television, you've got nobody else to rely on and it's very much a team thing.

Have you caught the bug then, now? Do you want to do more?

Oh, totally, totally. Now I'm like, 'what's the next one?', I just love it.

But you wouldn't leave the other life of the show and the stage?

I think that will always be my first love, I adore it. There is something for me about musicals. I've just done a play, as well, and to me it's only half the picture, there's something missing. That's how it feels to me when I don't get to sing, because that's my absolute passion. I love telling a story from start to finish, and I love taking the audience on that journey. It's not about the applause at all, it's about being able to tell a story and I love the fact that it's live theatre.

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