Stella. Stella (Ruth Jones). Copyright: Tidy Productions
Stella

Stella

  • TV comedy drama
  • Sky One
  • 2012 - 2017
  • 58 episodes (6 series)

Comedy drama written by and starring Ruth Jones as Stella, a single mother struggling in the Welsh valleys. Stars Ruth Jones, Joanna Riding, Piers Ahia, Patrick Baladi, Craig Gallivan and more.

Ruth Jones interview

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Michael Jackson (Patrick Baladi), Stella (Ruth Jones). Copyright: Tidy Productions
Stella. Stella (Ruth Jones). Copyright: Tidy Productions

Ruth Jones talks about what's to come in Series 4 of Stella, why she's such a fan of Dawn French, and other topics...

Stella is in a good place as Series 4 gets under way. She's very much in love with Michael and couldn't be happier in her nursing job. Surely something's going to rock the boat?

This year, it's Michael's story. Without giving too much away, he makes a stupid mistake and ends up paying for it. It's about his demise, so to speak, and then his redemption.

Does Michael go through a bit of a mid-life crisis?

He does buy a motorbike. Things aren't going great for Michael career-wise. Although he's set up a business on his own, he's getting rubbish clients and is working from the house, which isn't ideal.

In the first episode, he knocks down the adjoining wall between his and Stella's house and, basically, it's the start of everything going wrong.

Then there's the addition of Ramon Tikaram from Casualty, who plays Mr Honey. How does he fit into the story?

Mr Honey is a consultant on the general medicine ward, which is where Stella is doing her nursing training. He lacks any social skills whatsoever and is a very serious man, but, weirdly, seems to warm to Stella. She brings out the fun in him.

Talking of cast, the show has a great ensemble, but is there anyone you particularly enjoy working with?

Aunty Brenda [Di Botcher] is always a joy. Me and Di were talking, actually, about getting this very Welsh expression, there you are, which is used to reaffirm something, into the script, so listen out for that. A few pop up in episode four when Aunty Brenda is accused of making everybody sick with her rice salad.

Stella is a big hit, with a fifth series already ordered. Why do you think the show has struck a chord with viewers?

People make friends with the characters and feel they can relate to them because they're so down-to-earth.

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Stella (Ruth Jones), Mr Honey (Ramon Tikaram). Copyright: Tidy Productions

Do you find it difficult to keep the show fresh?

One of the benefits of having so many characters is that you have options. The danger, though, is making sure you don't repeat things. You'll have a character that won't appear in one series, but will be back in the next, or, you'll focus on a particular location and then move away from it. This year, we've got a new location, Alan's café. It's all about keeping things moving.

Have you got an endgame in mind for Stella?

No, not really, we didn't even think we'd be doing a second series. You always know where you're going to end each series, but I haven't thought further than that.

I remember someone saying to me, the great thing about Stella is that nothing happens and it's wonderful [laughs]. I took that as quite a compliment because the show is character rather than plot-driven.

In a recent interview, Mathew Horne said the people he'd learned the most from were the women he'd worked with, singling out Catherine Tate and yourself. Do you keep in touch with the Gavin & Stacey lot?

Not really, although not for any bad reasons. Jo Page's husband James Thornton popped up in Stella last year, playing hairdresser Marcus.

You just go in phases, dropping each other texts every now again. I speak to Alison [Steadman] intermittently and am obviously still in touch with James [Corden]...

...who is doing so well, what with the release of Into The Woods and his upcoming chat show in the States.

I know. It's absolutely brilliant.

Would you like to write with James again?

We would do if we had the time. Definitely.

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Stella (Ruth Jones), Michael Jackson (Patrick Baladi). Copyright: Tidy Productions

Do you prefer the acting side of things, or the writing and producing?

Performing can be intense, whereas production is broader and covers a bigger area. Sometimes it's nice just to be an actor and, in a couple of years' time, I think I'll have more chance to do that. But, I mean, I'm in such a lucky position to have a production company and to be making a successful show. I'm chuffed and am really enjoying things as they are at the moment.

Are there any other genres you'd like to tackle?

Not genres, no, although I would like to write a book. I haven't got a concept yet, but I think I'd really enjoy it.

Looking back over your career so far, what lessons would you say you've learned?

When I first started out, I remember saying to someone, "oh, I don't want people to be annoyed with me, I don't want to have conflict with anyone". He said, "you are going to fall out with people, it's bound to happen and you've just got to accept that. It's business, it's not personal". I wish I'd been more aware of that on the way and kept things more at arm's length.

Is there anyone you particularly admire in the industry?

Kay Mellor gave me my first break and I'll always be indebted to her. I did Fat Friends and then she gave me the chance to write on it, so I wrote an episode. Prior to that, I'd given her a script called Marsha's Story, which I must re-read. It was probably terrible, but Kay was so kind and gave me some feedback.

I learned a lot from her stylistically, like the way she does dual dialogue, two characters talking at the same time. I try to employ that in my scripts. Kay is incredibly talented and I remember emailing her to say how grateful I am. She wrote back and said she was so proud of me and how much I'd achieved with Stella.

How about your wish list? Who would you love to work with?

Dawn French - I'm a mad, crazed fan. I went to see her one-woman show, 30 Million Minutes, and it was wonderful. Funny, but very, very moving. It's her life story and she tells it in such an unpitying way.


Stella is on Sky1 on Fridays at 9pm, and repeated on Wednesdays at 9pm.

Published: Monday 2nd February 2015

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