We’re on the set of the third series of Channel 4’s hit crime drama No Offence. Chatting with key cast about the upcoming run. This time, it’s series newcomer Claire Rushbrook.
Viv Deering has almost had as many bosses at Friday Street Station than Chelsea have had managers. Following in the footsteps the Superintendentendant played by Colin Salmon and a DCI played by Sarah Solemani is acclaimed actress Claire Rushbrook in the role of Marylin Merchent. If you don’t know the name you’ll definitely recognise the face because she’s appeared in lots of fantastic television from My Mad Fat Diary to Linda Green and let’s not forget Spice World The Movie. What can we expect from the new form of authority in the show? “She follows the rules, she plays by the book. She’s pragmatic and proud to have to got where she’s got by doing so. At the same time, she has a warmth and humanity about her. She’s professional and cool. She’s got no time for rule bending or anything that isn’t legit or straight up but it becomes interesting because demands are made of her as the series progresses so you see her loosening her black and white moral standards.”
How does Merchant, as a newcomer, deal with the dramatic events of the opening episode? “She deals with it in a cool, calm way, I’ve concentrated on keeping her compassionate. She’s got where she’s got by being cool, calm and level headed. She’s an outsider in that sort of respect. There is a lot at stake this series.” There sounds like there is more action this year, does Marylin get involved in any of it? “She remains upstairs so no stunts! I’ve got quite high heels so it might be a challenge!” So are we to take it that it’s not a job you would do for real? “Categorically not! It’s hardcore, isn’t it I have such respect for anyone who does it.”
How does Viv react to Merchant? “Deering, whose track record isn’t quite as conventional has a slightly guarded response to this new boss coming in but they quickly find a common ground and mutual respect. It’s a cool but ultimately decent welcome from Deering”
What was it like to enter a well-known show? “It’s intimidating because I’ve watched the show and I love the show and have long admired the brilliant cast and obviously Paul Abbot who I worked with a long time ago and have the utmost respect for. It was a big deal for me, the stakes are high and I knew playing a higher status character in terms of her rank takes a certain amount of confidence before going on set. Luckily though they were all absolutely charming and warm and welcoming so it’s a pleasure to have been invited to be a part of it.”
How was it working with Joanna Scanlan? “She’s fantastic. I’ve long admired her work. We enjoy the fact that often we’re on the same casting lists. There have been parts that both of us have been up for that one of us has got so it’s been a real pleasure to acknowledge that in a lot of ways we’re similar actresses and part of similar pieces. I have deep respect for her having watched her in the previous series and acting with her on set. She makes it seem effortless but it’s such a skill to juggle the humour and the charisma. Having played supporting roles in a lot of dramas I really respect these guys that are relentlessly in every scene of every day and going home to analyse for tomorrow. I know it’s not working down a mine but it takes serious dedication. She’s fearless and bold and it takes bravery to give a performance like that because it’s quite intimidating stepping over the line of playing it safe. She goes that extra mile. She does all that and manages to maintain real warmth on set. It’s a happy place.” It shows too, Claire’s smile fills the room.
Has Merchant any secrets you’d like to divulge? “Well, I’ve got lots of secrets that I’ve made up in my mind about her! But what you see is what you get. It’s been enjoyable to play the understanding that Deering and Merchant come to share and the respect deepens. She can see that Deering’s brilliance is often the result of her going off-piste and we her softening a little in terms of recognising the merit of that. Does Merchant’s character strike any similarities to Viv? “I’d say there are beautiful similarities” she offers with a cheeky grin.
This is not Claire’s first time filming in Manchester either: “I did Paul’s series Linda Green with Liza Tarbuck a long time ago and Stepford Wives was another drama. I did Touching Evil way back and I’ve seen him over the years but so glad to be back in his gang. Paul and the other writers are geniuses that the comedy is so subtle. Some of the lines I’ve been given do make me smile but it’s a seductive trap to fall down to start hamming it up. Heaven forfend any of us start playing it for laughs because then you’re sunk!”
“Paul writes so economically and with such personality. It’s so rich that the whole experience is on the hoof, the team are forever working on it. the joy is not knowing where your character goes and it does not matter because there’s a lot to get stuck into. Some episodes I’m in just a couple of scenes but there’s plenty to be playing with. I laugh my head off and then I’m horrified!”
Claire says her goodbyes, the beaming smile is gone and then we suddenly remember we’re sat in a portable canteen on the car park of a sports centre. Oh well. Knowing No Offence, we probably won’t see it much on screen but at least some of her lines will make us laugh!
No Offence returns Thursday 13th September 9.00pm on Channel 4