Interview with Sarah Lancashire ahead of her return to the Calder Valley next week

Sarah Lancashire returns as Catherine in Happy Valley, which starts next week.

Sarah Lancashire returns as Catherine in Happy Valley, which starts next week.

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BBC One returns to the Calder Valley next week for the highly anticipated second series of Sally Wainwright’s BAFTA Award-winning Happy Valley

As series two opens, we join Catherine (Sarah Lancashire), the altruistic and forthright police sergeant who is back heading up her team of dedicated police officers in The Calder Valley.

Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) is now behind bars, but continues to haunt Catherine as she rebuilds her life. There are suspicions that a serial killer is behind a spate of murders and Catherine makes a gruesome discovery that has shocking repercussions for her and her family. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant John Wadsworth (Kevin Doyle) has his own set of problems, and despite being in prison, Tommy forms a bond with a mysterious female admirer (Shirley Henderson).

We caught up with star Sarah Lancashire...

Welcome back for series two. Did the success of the first series take you by surprise?

Yes totally. It’s a funny thing because you can see when a script is good but you don’t have any knowledge of the tone of it, how it is going to be shot, visually how it is going to look, or what the editors are going to do with it. We never know. You can have a great idea in your head and then you see the final product and say, “Gosh that is just so far removed from what I thought it was going to be.” However, when this came out and I saw the first episode I thought it was terrific.

Why do you think it struck such a chord with people?

I would like to think that the piece as a whole, the characters, the story, were all so engaging and really captured people’s imaginations. I also think that the production value is very high on this.

Did you enjoy filming this series?

Yes I did, but it is hard. The scenes are very physical. They are endurance tests.

Where do we find Catherine when the series begins?

It is 18 months later, so Tommy has been in prison for a year and a half. He was charged with three murders so he is not coming out. Catherine is well, mentally strong and ticking along quite nicely really. Ryan has sort of recovered from his ordeal. Then Catherine finds a body and the rest of the series unravels.

Do Catherine and Tommy have two separate stories in this series?

Yes, because Tommy is in prison, so we don’t strictly encounter each other in the series. We do meet but our stories are kept quite isolated.

There has been a lot said about the violence towards women in particular. What do you think about the violence?

You have to remember that she is a police officer and the violence that Catherine was subjected to in series one, is what female police officers can be subjected to every day of the week. I would never condone anything which I thought was salacious, titillating, or gratuitous in anyway. The violence from last year was tough; however, if you sat and replayed that scene, what you think you saw you probably only heard because it was shot beautifully. It was an absolutely honest portrayal of what a female police officer can be subjected to.

Are the psychological challenges draining for Catherine?

I think the whole thing is draining simply because of Catherine’s disposition. She wears her emotional state of mind everywhere. She carries it around with her all the time and it never disappears. There is always the weight of it somewhere which makes her a great character.

How does Catherine Cawood get on with other new members of the team e.g. John Wadsworth (Kevin Doyle) and Jodie Shackleton (Katherine Kelly).

It is very interesting because they are CID. They have been brought into the building to investigate what appears to be a serial killer. She loathes Jodie Shackleton simply because she used to be CID and she knows how CID works.

Is living back in Catherine’s house a reminder of what happened?

It is constant and Sally (Wainwright) hasn’t let go of that. I was asking Nicola Shindler, the executive producer, recently if it feels seamless, as if it continued from series one. She said it does. So you’re sort of lulled into a false sense of security because you think, “Oh thank god he (Tommy Lee Royce) can’t get to Catherine, everything is rosy in her life,” and then it spirals out of control very quickly, but believably. Catherine is constantly petrified that Tommy will find a way to get to her.

Will there be a happy ending?

The great thing about this piece is we will never know and we shouldn’t know. I don’t think it has a happy ending. I don’t think it should have a happy ending. There are no neat happy endings in life and there are no winners here.

What sort of reaction have you had from female police officers?

The reaction from the police last year was that they said they had never seen a police officer portrayed accurately and I had an inspector write to me. He had been in the force in Doncaster and he had just retired. He just said it was a great portrayal of police officer. Of course this is not down to me, this is down to Lisa Farrand who was our police advisor. She is retired from the force now but she was a sergeant and whenever we do any sort of procedural stuff Lisa is with me. She is really tough speaking and the first thing she said to me on my first day was, “You’re going to have to man up!” She takes no nonsense and gets on with the job. You don’t look at her and think, “there is a female police officer,” you just think, “there is a police officer.”

Does the series still maintain its characteristic humour despite the difficult storylines?

Yes, Catherine’s dark humour is present all the way through. Remember how Steve Pemberton’s character got deeper and deeper until he got too deep? It’s the same with Catherine.

Happy Valley starts on February 9 at 9pm on BBC1.