One of the things I love about Scott & Bailey is that it is a very strong examination of female friendship and female colleagueship. It’s something that’s not often shown on television. The great thing about these women is that they are supportive of each other, and the dynamic that often exists between women on television is either career competitiveness or sexual competitiveness.
Female friendship is so important. I have a strong group of girlfriends. One of the wonderful high points of being in Scott & Bailey is that I have made two very good female friends in my co-stars, Suranne Jones and Amelia Bullmore. They are just these fascinating, talented, generous women whose company I love. It’s brilliant to be getting older and still finding new friends.
My adoptive mother died when I was 15, and she was ill for quite a few years before that. I was this emotional teenager, and my relationship with my dad was very close, but generationally we were very different because he was an older parent. He encouraged me to do what I wanted, although from his perspective – as a chief collector of taxes – acting wasn’t economically a very safe profession to go into.
Being adopted maybe makes acting easier. Because you don’t have a proper identity – you don’t really know where you come from – you could indeed in reality be the character you are playing.
Becoming a parent myself has been a really important and amazing thing that I’m incredibly grateful for. I don’t really want to talk about my boys, except to say it’s a real privilege to be their mother.
I have this thing where if someone says something nice to me I say, “Right, okay, that’s lovely, I’ll stick that to myself.” I love the idea of keeping psychological Post-it notes of nice things that people have said. It’s a really good thing to do.
I didn’t used to like my broad shoulders, but I do now. They’re an embodiment of what I like most about my body, which is my strength. What I’m not crazy about are my feet – sometimes people have gasped at how ugly they are. Size 7 with a bunion bone that sticks out. But I keep them as neat and tidy as I can!
I think notions of female beauty and its importance has always been an issue for women, but nowadays it’s even tougher. I’m always speaking to mums with teenage daughters, and these poor girls are panicked about being a size 4. I love what Lena Dunham is doing in her HBO show, Girls – it’s about imperfection ruling the world and, yes, so it should.
I think one of the factors in achieving longevity as an actress is not minding looking pretty dreadful on camera. The older actresses I admire are those who have always put how a character thinks ahead of how a character looks – people like Penelope Wilton, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Anne Reid – and I would be very honoured if my career continues to be as varied, challenging and successful as theirs.
Series 2 of Starlings begins this July on Sky1. Scott & Bailey Series 3 is out on DVD on 1 July.
This is an edited version of Lesley’s interview. To read the full article, pick up the July issue of woman&home, out now.