Barbara talks about her starring role as Anita Braithwaite in the hit Granada TV series.

What sort of a character is Anita, Barbara?

At first when I read the script, I thought she was rather a bit of a "tart with a heart", but in fact I don't think that's true. I think she is basically a good person, but has a sort of savage and cold streak.

In what way?

I think she can be quite calculating and is immensely selfish - and so, like most actors, I'm very interested in the horrible side of her character. I don't want to just be nice people all the time!
And I hope that that part of her comes out, because if she was too soft-centred she would be perhaps a little bit too stereotypical. But I don't think she is like that at all. Because she is a Scot, I think I got to know her character very quickly, and I sort of played her like tough west-coast Glasgow would be.

She's very street-wise - and she has no illusions about her relationship with George Ferguson, her boyfriend who comes to visit her once a week. I mean, he comes really to sleep with her once a week - on the quiet and his wife doesn't know anything about it. He's obviously got plenty of money because he pays all her expenses, so she just carries on her life and once a week they meet each other. I think she thinks that's what relationships are really like, perhaps she does long for George to love her, but she doesn't long for another relationship.

But she doesn't really love him though, does she?

I think it's the nearest thing she gets to love. She likes her physical relationship with him, although it's only once a week - she enjoys it, it brings a lot of warmth into her life. And I think she does love George in her way, that's why she's so devastated when he does what he does...

But she is slightly dizzy...
Yes, she is, yet she thinks that, because she isn't a prostitute, she's a slight cut above eveiybody else. She's an interesting character, Anita, because she's much more complex than at first she appears. I think she is seen as a rather dizzy, tarty figure - but I think she really does have a bit more depth to her. She is genuinely fond of Rose and Carol, and yet she doesn't want to be associated with how they make their money, apart from making a few bob on the side if they need a roof over their head, of course...

But do you think that in Kay's mind, she is meant to be the acceptable face of prostitution, in that she is still living off a man? One of the questions that Kay wants the audience to face is at what stage would I sleep with somebody for something....

Of course, of course. That was also the sole topic of conversation amongst all of us - all of the actresses talked about what actually makes the woman take that step and I think it is very interesting what Kay has raised here. I would say that Anita actually is a very interesting character because she shows, if you like, the unacceptable face of other women's relationships. I'm not saving that, as a result, you have to draw the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with prostitution, but Anita doesn't haven't a particularly good time either.

Effectively, we could draw the conclusion that there's not much to be written home about having a steady relationship with a man, unless it's the right kind of relationship.,.. and obviously Anita and George's relationship is not the right sort of relationship. They're holding themselves up like a pair of sort of crazy bookends - she and George - you know, if one moves the whole lot collapses.

How did you actually approach the role? Did you do any research for it?

The only research I did was in Bradford, with the rest of the people I was working with. I thought that was very important. If I was going to play her as a Scot, I wanted to get a kind of feel for Bradford. I do actually know Bradford relatively well as I used to work in West Yorkshire folk clubs many years ago. I spent time then wandering about in Bradford... getting to know it and eating curry with various people who ran folk clubs, and I used to stay with a couple I knew who lived just outside Bradford.

I soaked up a bit of the atmosphere, and familiarised myself a little bit with the twilight world in which prostitutes and their friends operate.

So this was actually going out on to the streets, watching the girls at work?

Yes, which I did with Geraldine, Cathy, Ruth gemmell, Sue Milton, the make-up designer, and Sue Peck, the costume designer. We didn't really do anything controversial, we just got into costume and walked around to see whether we fitted in. We didn't do anything - we didn't try and mingle with the people, we kept very much to ourselves, but it was quite a weird thing to do. But what was really beneficial was meeting the working girls themselves, and going on to the pub where people gather, and to be around Lumb Lane and just see where everything was supposed to happen.

What did that give you?

It gave us a reference. It was almost like soaking up the atmosphere, like a sponge - and also meeting the working girls gave us, I suppose, a sort of "matter-of-fact" attitude to what they do in their everyday lives.

Had you got a pre-conceived idea about prostitution before you went into this? Did your views change?

No - I don't think it did. Because I'm not particularly from a sheltered middle-class upbringing, I have lived in cities.
I've seen prostitutes and I have worked in the West End. I just realised very early on in my life that there were women who made a living by selling their bodies - and that they should never be condemned.

What has always intrigued me is what makes us who we are, what makes the difference between me and a prostitute and whether it is possible for anybody I know to step over in the way that Gina does. She has financial problems, and I think very often that the basis of most of it will be financial - I don't think many people do it for pleasure. It's a means to an end and, let's face it if you were going to get lots of money and you were going to be able to buy a house, buy a car, do all the things that one might see as making a huge difference in one's life and you thought that nobody would find out - then you might just do it.

Has the series altered your opinion?

It's made me realise that there are all sorts of different people who come to prostitution through different roads and things happening in their lives - I'm not saying I didn't know that before, but I'd never thought about it before and Kay has made me think about it.

And is that what you hope the series will do - make people think?

Oh yes I would hope that the stigma, if you like, of prostitution is removed by this series. Here you have a murder/drama and the heroines are prostitutes and general low-lives, and I think that's pretty good. It's one in the eye for the upper class, one in the eye on behalf of the under class, really. And I think it's very good to make people aware.

Do you think a lot of women will identify with the journey these women are making?

Oh yes.... Of course they will. But I also think that it won't alienate men. I think it was feared that maybe the men would be seen to be big bad wolves, but I think it just shows up everybody's vulnerability. The series is not just about prostitution - it follows the journey that these four women take through their lives, and friendship is the binding factor of this.

Did you all band together as actresses off-screen as well?

Absolutely. There's no doubt about that. I felt that I was the most inexperienced person on the set as I hadn't done much television drama before and I wanted to be able to keep my head above water. Now that's what I hoped for, what I actually achieved was that I very quickly fell into being very friendly with the cast. Everybody liked each other enormously and there were no problems at all, and I learned a huge amount from Geraldine, who helped me a lot. So much so, in fact, by the time we got to some rather tricky bits that we had to do towards the end - like a scene in the pouring rain at 2.00 am in Ashton under Lyne, I'd got the courage to misbehave and I got hysterics in the middle of it

Is this the first really big, concentrated series that you've done?

As an actor, yes. I had wanted to act for some time, having got a taste of it with Blood Brothers. Unfortunately, until Taggart (which I did 3 episode of) and Band Of Gold, I wasn't offered anything that I really wanted to do. I was offered things that were either very lightweight, or weren't very good I wanted to do television drama or a film.

Did you approach television acting with some trepidation?

Last year I was in Blood Brothers again, I did another 20 weeks, so I knew I could do the acting. What worried me was the technical things. I've done a lot of television and I'd done a lot of filming, but not as an actress - and it was just much more complicated than I had ever experienced before.

More acting to come?

I'd love to do more, yes. Very much so.

So you want presumably both the singing and the acting to weave together....

Yes, I want it to go in parallel. When I finished Band Of Gold I went off again on the second leg of a tour, and I am just about to go in the studio and make a new album. I'm just waiting to see what people think about my contribution in Band Of Gold because, if it is well received, it would definitely open another door for me.