HAVE you ever laughed so much you cried . . . hysterically?” Suranne Jones asks me as we start to chat.
“Well that’s me at work,” she says with a giggle. Suranne is in rehearsals for her latest play, Blithe Spirit, coming to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in December.
“It’s best to get it out of your system in the early stages. I’m worse on telly when the timescale is even shorter. Somehow that makes it all the funnier,” admits Suranne, who has just finished filming for a new BBC drama, Five Days, set to air in February.
“Once in Coronation Street we were filming a scene in the factory and one of the make-up girls had to come up and put a cold flannel on the back of my neck to calm me down,” she recalls. “I remember getting so hysterical that tears were rolling down my face. And I’ve just got the giggles with this play now.”
Suranne, from Oldham, grew up on the stage. Her first professional acting role was at age 10 but the actress revealed she still gets stage fright.
“I get nervous with every job because it's the unknown. It’s like starting at a new school. I feel unsettled until I’ve got into my stride.
“I’m particularly nervous for this play because I love the Royal Exchange. I’ve been coming for years and it makes me very proud to be from Manchester. I lived in London for a while but I’m back living on the outskirts of Manchester again. I feel really settled for the first time in years,” she smiled.
“I live near my best friend Sally Lindsay, who I’ve twice seen do this part, so she keeps telling me I’ll be perfectly fine. New scripts don't leave my side. I get in such a panic to learn them. It might seem I’m a bit behind at the minute because I’ve still got my script in my hand. It’ll work out, though. It always does.”
Suranne made her name as Weatherfield’s feisty Karen McDonald, a part she left five years ago, and she has since worked on a host of TV and theatre productions, including detective drama series Vincent and the highly-acclaimed ITV drama Unforgiven, earlier this year.
But would she ever go back to The Street?
“No, I wouldn’t go back to Corrie. I think you should move on. I’m even reluctant to say ‘never say never’ because I definitely don’t want to. I love Coronation Street and the people but I don’t miss it. I like the variety I can do now. I am a bit greedy like that.”
And there is one other thing she has vowed never to do again after playing a bisexual sex therapist in Strictly Confidential, in 2008.
“I won’t be taking my clothes off again. I had to do lots of sex scenes in Strictly Confidential and I didn’t like that. It was awful and so embarrassing to film. I think I’ll be keeping covered up in the future.”
In her current role as Ruth Condomine in Blithe Sprit, Suranne looks more like herself. Earlier this year her long dark locks were cut off and bleached blonde — an image Suranne admits she hated.
“My character in Collision was a jailbird and to have that blonde hair with the dark roots was perfect for her. Looking so different is disconcerting. It was OK at work, but on days off I’d nip to the shops and you could see people thinking that I’d chosen to look that way. People even said to me that my hair looked nice and I’d think 'you liar!'
I’m much happier as a brunette. I love my hair. In this show we have the finger waves because of the period its set in.”
Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a 1930s comedy which tells the story of a man and wife who hire a medium and get a little more than they bargained for. Suranne, who turned 30 this year, is playing a thirty-something in this production, and she is more than happy to do so.
“Turning 30 didn’t bother me at all, like it does a lot of women. I thought it was great because in your mid thirties as an actor you get better parts and it opens the door to roles you were too young for before. Saying that, I’ve played thirty-odd-year-olds for years. I must have an old face, “ she laughs.
And one thirty-something Suranne dreams of portraying is everyone favourite singleton — Bridget Jones.
“I’d love to be Bridget Jones but in a TV series. I would like to get together with a writer and create something new. That would be my dream job. I really like that character and I think 30 something women really relate to her.”
l BLITHE SPIRIT — Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, December 9 to January 23. Tickets on 0161 833 9833.