Accrington actress, Julie Hesmondhalgh, says she hopes ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office will bring about some change in the postal industry.

The show, which started on Monday night (January 1),  tells the story of Alan Bates (Toby Jones) as he and other sub-postmasters and postmistresses fight to clear their name after being wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a defective IT system.

Julie, a former Coronation Street actress, plays Suzanne Sercombe who is Alan’s partner. Julie spent an afternoon with the real Suzanne, in order to prepare for the role.

She said: “I got a little bit of a sense of who she was, and her background and her life and relationship with Alan, and what they've been through

“I think there is such a deep and abiding love and respect between those two people, one that is quite rare and precious. Suzanne has, in lots and lots of ways, put her own life on hold and sacrificed huge amounts to this cause.

“I don't think she had a choice in that really, in that it happened to them. They didn’t cause it. But she's stood by him every step of the way, unquestioningly.

“She's no walkover, not a little wifey at home by any stretch of the imagination. I get the impression that sometimes it's been hard because she's quite a strong personality.

“I feel like Alan has been so much the face of this campaign and the leader of it, that she has retreated into the shadows a little bit… she's done that willingly because she absolutely loves and respects him and because she shares a sense of justice and right and wrong.”

The 53-year-old said she already knew about the Post Office scandal before landing the role.

She said: “I was incredibly interested in it. And to play a real person? I mean, it's everything that I would want from my career actually.

Lancashire Telegraph: Mr Bates vs The Post Office is a new four-part drama series coming to ITVMr Bates vs The Post Office is a new four-part drama series coming to ITV (Image: ITV)

“The most satisfying jobs that I've done in my life have been telling stories that I really believe in, and that I feel shift people's perceptions about something or bring something to the forefront of people's minds in ways they hadn't considered before.

“I’m absolutely passionate about drama being able to do that. That's probably in no small part because of being in Coronation Street for so many years and seeing hearts and minds change, witnessing it for myself how that programme has such a far-reaching impact when it talks about an issue.

“So I really jumped at the chance to tell this story and I felt really passionately about it because I believe in stories about ordinary people. Of course it’s ‘ordinary’ in huge inverted commas because everybody's extraordinary in this story, but them taking on the establishment, taking on that world is just so inspiring.

“In this world where we can feel very powerless sometimes it's a really great message to be telling people as well, and one that we don't focus on very much in the drama.

“ I think it’s a really important point that had they had a proper union this might not have happened. Immediately the union should have gone, ‘Our members are coming to us saying that there is a glitch in the system, get it sorted out.’ It is a huge, huge failing, that an organisation of that scale didn't have an effective union.”

Julie,  who also appeared in television shows Broadchurch and Happy Valley, hopes the show can “rattle the powers that be” and bring about positive change in the postal industry.

She said: “Although I really, really believe in drama’s power to change things, I also believe in dogged process and years and years of application and hard graft - and in this case that hasn't done anything for the sub-postmasters.

“So what I hope is that it will rattle the powers that be to an extent that somebody does something. Because I think that it's happened over so many years, it's been so protracted the whole issue and I think that people kind of think, ‘Oh, it’s over now,’ because the scandal has come out. And obviously it isn't. There’s still the public inquiry and the compensation.

“I hope that somebody will go, ‘Right, the public are on to this now, and we have to do something about it; we have to make this right.’ Even if it's to make MPs look good to their constituents or whatever, I just hope it happens because that’s all I care about — that there is some justice.”

Mr Bates vs The Post Office is about "the greatest miscarriage of justice in British legal history", according to ITV

Summarising the new TV drama, ITV said: "For more than a decade, the Post Office wrongly accused, harassed, and prosecuted hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters for theft, fraud, and false accounting due to Horizon, a defective IT system.

"This is the real life story of their 10-year battle to prove their innocence culminating in a trial, and paving the way for more than eighty wrongful convictions to be overturned.”

You can watch Mr Bates vs The Post Office on ITVX. The second episode airs tonight (January 2) on ITV1 at 9pm.