Brenda Blethyn returns for a third season as detective Vera in the hit TV show

Brenda Blethyn turns her dowdy side into ratings gold as detective Vera returns to solve grisly murders.

Brenda Blethyn plays the shrewd and scruffy sleuth Vera Stanhope in the British television show Vera. Courtesy ITV
Powered by automated translation

Sensible footwear and dawdling investigations hardly seem the right stuff for a ratings-beating detective nowadays, especially when the competition has turned to androids (Almost Human) and a foodie cannibal (Hannibal) to hook the viewer.
But then there's 67-year-old Brenda Blethyn, who readily admits she "looks like a bag lady but rarely looks in a mirror", in her role as the muddled but shrewd detective chief inspector Vera Stanhope, who returns for her third season in Vera.
One would have to rewind the VCR all the way back to the long-winded, dishevelled Columbo, which starred the late Peter Falk in two wildly successful runs - 1968-1978 on ABC and 1989-2003 on NBC - to find such a slovenly yet successful sleuth.
"Usually when you see a female detective, she's a bit of a pin-up," says Blethyn. "But Vera's no sex symbol, which I find very refreshing. Just because she's scruffy doesn't mean she doesn't command total respect from her team."
Blethyn's triumph here, however, is anything but shabby.
This English actress rose from her working-class roots to win a Golden Globe, Bafta and best actress at Cannes for Secrets and Lies (1996) along with a slew of nods from the Emmys to the Oscars for roles in Little Voice (1998), Saving Grace (2000), Anne Frank (2001) and Pride and Prejudice (2005), and was who was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 2003.
Her second season of Vera achieved an average UK audience of 6.4 million, with a 23 per cent share of all viewers and 23.9 per cent of adults. A fourth season has already been given the green light for 2014 by ITV.
As the moody Vera faces the world with her acidic wit, cunning and courage, she's never alone thanks to her trusty and long-suffering colleague sergeant Joe Ashworth, a surrogate son played by David Leon, a failed footballer who found his calling wandering Northumberland on screen with Blethyn.
Based on the bestselling Inspector Stanhope books by the celebrated writer Ann Cleeves, the new season pits Vera and her hair-flattening scarecrow hat against a series of daunting challenges, including unravelling the slaughter of a young woman at a luxury country retreat as well as the mystery of a pensioner murdered on a packed commuter train at the height of the rush hour.
Combined with beautifully shot landscapes and atmospheric production values, these four new two-hour dramas promise to create a haunting backdrop for Vera's inner turmoil as she discovers hidden truths about her own past, which threaten to change her life forever.
But what really makes the character resonate with viewers is Vera's common touch - a value that's cherished and upheld by Blethyn in her daily life.
During a recent trip to Uganda in support of Comic Relief, the actress recalls: "I went into one lady's home - a tiny mud hut. And it was as if a light came on. I thought of my house, full of stuff I don't need. So I am getting rid of it - furniture, clothes, everything. It feels quite liberating."
She adds: "We had sod all growing up, but we were so rich in other things. My parents taught me right from wrong - and the importance of humour."
During filming, Blethyn, befitting her stature as a world-renowned talent, could rightly demand to be put up in luxury, to be waited on hand and foot and to dine on a chef's delights - instead, she prefers to stay in a small cottage where she takes care of herself and admits to requesting the occasional cheese sandwich.
And, yes, she loves a good whodunit - and tries to solve her Vera mysteries in her head first.
"I usually work it out. I think I would make a good detective because I'm nosy. I like solving things, I like puzzles and brainteasers. I will sit all day in front of a difficult crossword."
. Vera is broadcast at 5.30pm and 9.30pm December 17 on ITV Choice HD
Follow us @LifeNationalUAE
Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.