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Interview: Suranne Jones
SURANNE Jones had no idea what to make of it when a script landed on her desk from Charlie Brooker.
The Coronation Street actor was performing in Top Girls in the West End at the time, a serious play about the role of women in society.
So when Suranne was offered a part in crime drama spoof A Touch of Cloth by one of Britain’s best known satirists it stopped her in her tracks.
“I didn’t want to do something else while I was in theatre,” said the former Lymm resident.
“But when the script came up I was just so taken with it. It made me laugh out loud and it brought out the 16-year-old girl in me that laughs at whoopee cushions.
“It allowed me to be quite stupid. A lot of my roles are quite serious but actually I’ve got a silly sense of humour.”
Suranne was chosen because of her portrayal of DC Rachel Bailey in the popular detective series Scott & Bailey “I think they were looking for people who were prepared to take the mickey out of themselves,” she added.
“In the same style as Leslie Nielsen who was a serious actor before he got involved with Naked Gun.”
Both roles paid off because Suranne is about to start shooting a new series of Scott & Bailey and the third instalment of A Touch of Cloth is coming to Sky TV soon.
But the 35-year-old has never forgotten her theatre roots and will be treading the boards from now until March 22, leading an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.
Suranne started doing stage work when she was eight and has worked professionally in theatre since she was 16.
She said: “It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 that I started doing TV work so the stage is my home and that’s what I love to do.”
But Orlando will be a challenge like no other as Suranne is playing a time travelling, gender swapping nobleman at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.
Woolf’s symbolic novel romps across continents and centuries, telling the story of a young man who can count royalty among his conquests.
But when Orlando is betrayed by his one true love, he falls asleep for seven days...and wakes up as a woman.
Woolf wrote the book as a form of therapy when she was suffering from depression and was in love with a woman called Vita Sackville-West.
Suranne added: “What this book ended up being was a journey of growth, self discovery and a commentary on gender and falling in love with people regardless of their sex.
“That was all mixed in with commentary on her depression. So actually what she thought was just a little writer’s holiday turned into one of her most famous and interesting books.
“It’s done as a real romp and it’s a comedy with lots of funny things in it.
“But hopefully it will make people think about how men and women are treated.
“Years and years ago men and women had two very different set roles and as we’ve gone towards the 21st century that’s changed.
“Women have more rights, better jobs and better pay and so we do have a lot of male attributes.
“So it’s about exploring that rather than just thinking I’m now playing a man, I’m now playing a woman.”
Suranne, who was last at the Royal Exchange in 2009 for Blithe Spirit, wanted to work on the stage since she was five.
“I went to every ballet, tap, ballroom and jazz dance lesson going,” she said.
She then joined Oldham Theatre Workshop which led to her first major play, Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark.
It also opened the door to TV with a 10-year-old Suranne appearing on the kids’ show WAC ‘90 doing an impression of Margaret Thatcher.
But Suranne is still probably best known for her award-winning turn as feisty Karen McDonald in Coronation Street.
She added: “I’m from a northern family so that was like the thing to be in.
“It was so exciting turning up to Granada Studios and going up to those big red letters and thinking I’m going for an audition for Corrie.
“It was so exciting so when I got the part and on top of that married Steve McDonald, it was brilliant.
“I was 20 and that is a very exciting time in your life. I do remember having an absolute ball and going everywhere with a wonderful bunch of people.”
Some of her favourite roles since then have been playing a woman found guilty of murdering two police officers in Best Drama Series winner Unforgiven and a human incarnation of the TARDIS in Doctor Who.
But she told Weekend that coming up with the idea for Scott & Bailey with fellow Corrie actor Sally Lindsay was a big turning point.
Suranne said: “It really made me think you can be creative and you can be proactive and it gave me the confidence to go ahead and start writing some of my own stuff which I love.”
- Orlando is at The Royal Exchange until March 22. Call 0161 833 9833 or visit royalexchange.co.uk