Few ex-soap stars slough off the stigma of appearing in a populist serial and go on to be taken seriously elsewhere. But Corrie girl Suranne Jones has done just that. After nearly half a decade spent playing brassy lass Karen McDonald on the Street, the actress had no trouble finding work when she left in 2004. Ever since then, Jones, 32, has picked her jobs carefully, making one quietly excellent call after another. But we first took proper notice again in 2009, when she got the lead in ITV1’s Unforgiven. Jones played Ruth Slater, a woman trying to rebuild her life after serving 15 years in prison for the murder of two policemen.
More hefty roles followed, this time on BBC One’s Single Father and the second series of Five Days. A few weeks back she even had sci-fi sorts nodding vigorous approval when she played Idris in a Doctor Who episode written by Neil Gaiman.
Now, Jones is back with ITV and onto another hit. Scott & Bailey (9pm, Sunday) is a six-part, nearly all-girl cop show. Jones plays Rachel Bailey, an impulsive DC who relies on her instincts and her motherly, sensible partner Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp). They’re on Manchester Met’s major incident team, which means they track killers and bring them down. It’s a stock set up, but cleverly coloured with a magnificent script by Unforgiven’s Sally Wainwright. And there are no weak links in the supporting cast: hard-jawed Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) and Rachel’s creepy barrister boyfriend Nick Savage (Rupert Graves).
Jones, let’s not forget, has previous in law enforcement: she played a detective in BBC1’s Five Days and was anything but plodding in the part of pushy, exhausted DC Laurie Franklin. Rachel Bailey is similarly bolshie, insecure and brave, and Jones inhabits her strengths and her shortfalls like they were her own. TV cops always have their most meaningful conversations in their squad car, and the ones had by our leading ladies exude just the right balance of tension and warmth. Their chemistry may come naturally but the plotting has been precision chiselled. It should guarantee Scott & Bailey gets a second season.
Moreover, it’ll help cement Jones’ reputation as one of few soap actors to have made the transition to heavy drama. You can’t imagine her career ebbing off anytime soon, and if Hollywood were inclined to take on pretty but peculiar looking actresses in their 30s, I’d say she should book a plane ticket.