Ahead of the new series of Scott & Bailey, I caught up with Jing Lusi to find out all about new character Anna plus what it was like joining such an established cast.
Many thought the fourth series of Scott & Bailey would the the last, but luckily that wasn’t the case, as the series is about to return for a new three-part series.
Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are back as Rachel and Janet, and this series they’re joined Jing Li (Lucky Man, Holby City) who plays Detective Constable Anna Ram.
Congratulations on Scott & Bailey, what can you tell us about your character?
I play a character called Anna. She’s from the south, so she’s probably the only one there without a Manc accent! She’s new to the force, and comes in at a time when Suranne Jones’ character (Rachel) is away , as you saw at the end of the fourth series, and also Gill Murray has left.
So when Rachel returns at the beginning of the first episode, they don’t really get on as well as Anna would have hoped.
I get the feeling she desperately wants to please Rachel. Would you agree?
Oh yes, absolutely. I think that’s what she tries to do from the beginning, but it’s one of those things where she just constantly gets it wrong, and when she tries to pay her a compliment, Rachel takes it the wrong way.
When she does something that she thinks is a good thing, for example when she interviews someone and thinks she gets a lead, Rachel comes back with “Why didn’t you get the name and address?” - She just can’t do anything right!
She can’t win. Rachel’s a bitch! (Laughs) There’s also a scene in the briefing room where she tells a joke and it falls flat. She just can’t get it right.
What was it about Anna that attracted you to her in the first place?
It’s funny, because I was literally offered that role the day after our Lucky Man wrap party, I had my meeting for it earlier that day, so there’s me at the wrap party saying “Ooh I’d love to play a detective, that looks like so much fun!” and then I got the call saying that Scott & Bailey want me on board, so it was a dream come true.
It was a lot of fun for me to flip sides, as it were, and sit on the other side of the table! (Laughs)
And what was that like, as you say, flipping sides?
It’s so funny because in Lucky Man, as a villain you can see everything, but as a detective you’re trying to find everything out, so it’s a very different dynamic, which was so interesting to play.
Were you a fan of Scott & Bailey before accepting the role?
I was a fan of Suranne Jones... I still am! (Laughs) Off the back of Doctor Foster I just thought she was absolutely amazing and also I’d dipped in and out of Scott & Bailey before but I just thought, it’s so rare for strong female leads, and what’s great about this show, is that they portray women in a perfectly imperfect kind of way.
They’re not these amazing women that have the career, and a great home life and look like a Vogue front page model. They’re just real women that make mistakes. They have drinking issues, they have affairs and go into work and do the best that they can and I think that’s a much more real portrayal of life, a lot of shows over glamourise women.
You mentioned how much of a fan you were of Suranne Jones. What was it like working with her and Lesley Sharp?
They’re so so friendly, and they just have such a great sense of humour. I really enjoyed working with the guys in the show as well, like Tony and Dave... it was just a great unit. It is hard coming in as a newbie into something that’s really well established, but they just made it feel totally normal and put me at ease. It was great. Really nice.
The brilliant Amelia Bullmore has been in the series since the start but left at the end of series four. Were you disappointed not to get the chance to work with her?
I really was! (Laughs)
I’d read the first two scripts and her name just never came up and then obviously when I got offered the job, I watched every single episode, I caught up and I was like... Why isn’t Gill’s name coming up in the script?!
Obviously I just hadn’t got to series four to find out that she’s become an alcoholic and retired. She stuck out so much. She was amazing, and then to find out that she wrote a lot of the episodes. Wow.
Funnily enough, Tony, who plays Pete. He had tickets for A Christmas Carol so we went to see it and Amelia gave us a backstage tour of the theatre. I was so gushing! I was like “Oh my god I think you’re amazing!” (Laughs) It was really pathetic, but she was so nice.
What were your favourite scenes to shoot on Scott & Bailey?
I would probably say, the interrogation. Because it was just a very focussed concentration and it’s that power play between two people which was just like Poker. Even though I don’t play Poker, so not sure why I’m using that analogy! (Laughs)
You have to be so subtle, yet I wish I could have done more in terms of interrogation, but for a screen actor I think interrogation scenes are a really great place to learn your craft. You have to be very careful in the decisions that you make.
You can’t overdo anything. You’ve got to remember how much information you know, and as the character how much information you can relay to the audience without being too “here’s a plot point”.
So they were great, but in terms of fun - the briefing scenes were fun because we’d just sit in there all day. Everyone would be there, all the supporting artists were great too and we’d all have snacks under the table and drink coffee and just watch Suranne Jones do an amazing masterclass in acting!
There’s definitely no shortage of brilliant police procedural dramas on television at the moment. Why do you think that is and what do you watch on telly?
There are so many! I was thinking about that, and I’ve done two in one year!
I don’t know, but there are so many and they’ve become so popular. You see these series popping up, but for me having done them so much, watching them would be a bit like doing work. After Holby City I couldn’t watch medical shows and having done two detective shows I probably won’t be watching many detective dramas either.
I like to be taken away from stuff that I know, so I’ve been watching a lot of American stuff at the moment. I’ve been watching Mr Robot which is such an amazing series. It’s phenomenal and the concept of it is something that I’m not familiar with.
I like documentaries as well. Making A Murderer I’ve just watched that and then The Jinx is amazing.
I mean it’s a great series, but I’m not sure if it’s coming to a natural end. When they came to the end of series 4 they all thought that was the end of it, because Amelia left, and Suranne’s character left and now it’s come back as a mini-series, a sort of one off.
But I don’t know. It’s a great series and if they want to end it, I think end it on a high. It’s had such a good run that it would be a shame to see it turning into one of those series that was successful once so just keeps going but never quite has the same momentum.
I think Suranne is amazing, so if they want to bring it back, then brilliant. But if not, then it’s done so well that they should just be really proud of the run it has had.
I really enjoyed Lucky Man and I’m pleased it’s coming back for a second series...
Aw brilliant! I kind of knew before we got it confirmed via the press, but now it’s official so they can’t go back on their word! (Laughs). It’s really good news. The response from viewers has been amazing so that’s all we can really hope.
We had such a good time making it, we don’t know what’s happening yet, we just know it’s coming back. But I love playing that character so hopefully I get to spend some more time with her!
What’s next for you?
I’m reading a lot of scripts at the moment, just trying to figure out what it is I want to do, having done so much drama recently. I’m going to America in May so that will be to see what’s on the other side of the pond.
I probably want to do more comedy, film... I don’t know! As an actor you don’t want to be doing the same stuff over and over again, even if it’s drama. I want to make people laugh. I want the world to know how funny I am... or think I am! (Laughs)