Suranne Jones’s year in TV: ‘I read Vigil and said: I want to be airlifted into a submarine!’

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Suranne Jones, 43, made her name as Coronation Street’s Karen McDonald between 2000 and 2004. She has since established herself as one of the country’s most recognisable actors, with roles in dramas including Scott & Bailey, Doctor Foster and Gentleman Jack, which recently returned to BBC One.

We saw you in Vigil in 2021 – what were your first impressions of the submarine drama that had everyone hooked?
I read the opening of the script, and before I’d finished it, I rang my agent and said: “I want to be airlifted into a submarine!” I said I wouldn’t do a cop show after Scott & Bailey, but I don’t think Vigil had that much procedural language. The cast was brilliant, and what was beautiful was the fact that it wasn’t just about a same-sex relationship, it was about the coming-out and coming-to-terms part of Amy’s sexuality. It was a watercooler moment, with brilliant female characters at the heart of it. I also did the Dominic Savage drama I Am Victoria, which was very different, and very pertinent to people coming out of lockdown who were feeling anxiety, even if they hadn’t before. It was a beautiful experience; I feel like it helped me become my authentic self in the public eye a little bit more. I was like: “Everyone’s figuring this shit out.”

Suranne Jones climbing up a ladder in a submarine in Vigil.
Jones in Vigil: ‘I said I wouldn’t do a cop show after Scott & Bailey, but it didn’t have that much procedural language’ Photograph: BBC/World Productions

What makes you happy?
My family and my son, who is six. Has he watched me on TV? Only the CBeebies Bedtime Stories I’ve done, and a bit of Doctor Who. I tend to do a lot of traumatic roles, but I would love to do more family shows and comedies.

Have you ever been mistaken for anybody else?
Sarah Parish and I get stopped for one another, and Davina McCall used to get stopped for me. Sometimes people say: “I really enjoyed you in X,” and I say: “That wasn’t me!”

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Your TV comfort watch
My friend Sally Lindsay does Posh Sleepover for Channel 5, which is fun – it’s just her looking around big houses and asking how much everything is.

What do you eat in front of the TV?
Usually a cup of tea and some biscuits. I may have a little Baileys too – even when it’s not Christmas.

The Virgin Media Bafta TV awards are on BBC One on Sunday 8 May at 6pm. Vigil is available on BBC iPlayer; I Am Victoria is on All 4; and Gentleman Jack is on BBC One and iPlayer