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.

  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 3,370

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

With the second series of Stella now here, it seems a good time for an interview with Ruth Jones...

Hi Ruth. What inspired you to create Stella?

A big helping hand from [Sky boss] Stuart Murphy, who knew that David Peet and I have a production company, Tidy Productions, and wondered if we'd like to make a comedy. He thought a six-part, 30-minute format filmed in front of a studio audience, along the lines of a British Roseanne, might be the direction to go in. David and I talked about it and realised my style of writing isn't suited to a studio sitcom, although I might try it in the future. We decided it'd be better to create hour-long episodes shot on location.

Stella has a big story to tell; she has a lot of people in her life and numerous threads to weave. Stuart got the ball rolling and we picked it up, ran down the pitch and scored a few tries.

Stella is mix of laughs, and drama that many people can relate to. Have you been surprised by audience's reactions to the series?

I was really, really pleasantly surprised, and that's understating it. We adore the series and I love playing Stella but we had no idea how it would be received. I remember the first screening: David and I just sat there, feeling incredibly tense, but luckily in the first scene there were already laughs from the audience and we both let out a huge sigh of relief. From that first viewing we had an inkling that people might enjoy it. It's lovely that the response has been so positive because, in the past, people have said negative things to me about other projects, but no one has with Stella.

The Welsh valleys are almost like a secondary character. Is it important to you that Stella is produced in Wales?

There are a lot reasons why we chose the setting. David and I live in Cardiff so it was partly to enable us to live at home while filming. It's hard work and long hours and I've found that people in the industry find it increasingly important that home life remains a constant. Initially I thought Stella might be set in Bristol because I wanted to distance myself from the Gavin & Stacey association with Wales. Bristol is commutable from Cardiff too, but I don't know the place well enough to write about it. I know people could think that Stella and Gavin & Stacey are both set in Wales so must share a similar flavour, but the Valleys and Barry Island are very different places. There's such a vibrant culture in the Valleys; the accent is beautiful and peoples' expressiveness is so rich. We've brought in a lot of non-Welsh characters because it's important not to exclude anyone. There is a new character called Peschman who's Dutch, played by the brilliant Paul Kaye and Alan's ex-wife from north-west England returns. We've tried to create as broad an appeal as possible while retaining a Welsh character.

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

Coming off the back of Gavin & Stacey, did you feel a pressure to create something successful?

It's understandable for comparisons to be made between the two shows. I was expecting critics to say it's not as good as Gavin & Stacey, but ultimately Stella is a completely different show and she's certainly a very different character to Nessa. I'm pleased with how attached people have become to Stella in its own right. Anybody that achieves something, in any line of work, faces added pressure when following it up.

What can we expect from Series 2?

Lots of sex, excellent comedy and fantastic plots. The characters are broken in now and the audience has got to know them, so there's more potential in their stories. There's lots of crying, too, so you'll be put through the wringer. One of the things many people enjoy is the balance of comedy and drama, which hopefully we've maintained this run. We're really pleased with it.

Stella dropped a bit of a baby-related bombshell at the end of Series 1. How does her situation affect the rest of the family?

It starts a couple of months later when Stella is going for her scan and she and Sean are getting the nursery prepared. The last episode ended on a huge cliffhanger and had to pick up fairly soon after. We're writing Series 3 at the moment, which will begin after a bigger time lapse.

The Stella cast spans all ages - do you enjoy working with such a large ensemble?

The cast are incredibly varied and always fun to be around so there's a great atmosphere on set. We're very lucky. I've known Steve Speirs, who plays Alan, for 20 odd years and I find it very difficult to do scenes with him because a single look makes me laugh, so we rarely make eye contact in our scenes. We tend to over-Welsh things to wind each other up, too.

Have there been any incidents on set that affirm the old adage 'never work with children or with animals'?

There was one crazy day on set where we were filming a funeral sequence and the scene descends into a fight at the graveyard. It was a huge number to produce. Aled Pugh, who plays Bobby, his wife was in labour when we were shooting, and the crew kept checking in with him, asking 'how is she?', 'has she had the baby yet?' There's an element of hysteria throughout the scene, but he said afterwards that acting helped to take his mind off what was going on at the hospital. That wasn't the case for me, I'm completely camp because I was so nervous. Whenever he watches that episode he'll think of it as the day his baby was born which is such a touching association.

Paula and Dai brought much of the humour to Series 1. Was it a tough decision to have them go through a rough patch in Series 2?

Yes, but we felt their characters are so strong, especially Dai who perfectly captures Welsh melodrama, that they could handle a storyline that tested their marriage in a comical way. There's an interesting shift of power between the pair during the series, which will be satisfying for the audience to watch. There are some a particularly upsetting moments but it's handled with a tongue-in-cheek attitude so you can't help but laugh. Their partnership adds an element of black comedy to Stella.

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Stella (Ruth Jones), Alan (Steve Speirs). Copyright: Tidy Productions

What about Emma and Sunil? How will they find married life?

It's an interesting relationship because they've had huge responsibilities thrust on them at a very young age. Sunil starts medical school and Emma is the stay-at-home wife, which she's fairly happy with until she realises that while he's sitting in an interesting lecture, all she's got to do is clean up baby poo. There's a particularly good moment when Emma stands up for her man and you really see that she's Stella's daughter. It also shows off what a talented actress Catrin Stewart is.

Will Big Alan (pictured) catch a break this series? Nothing ever seems to go right for him.

Oh bless him! Steve is such a clever actor because he manages to break your heart and make you laugh at the same time. His storyline is packed with these two dynamics - he's trying to step up to the mark and be the best dad he can, but a lot of bad luck befalls him. He is the sweetest character and I think viewers will enjoy seeing what happens.

Stella is on Sky1 on Friday nights at 9pm. Series 2 episode guide

Published: Monday 7th January 2013

Share this page