Sian Brooke

Sian Brooke

The Blue Lights and Sherlock star on characters, compassion, and her favourite places in south west London…

There has been no shortage of TV dramas based on the life of a cop but Blue Lights broke away from the usual approach by showing the story from the point of view of a group of rookie cops. It was also set in Belfast, thrusting the action straight into the gritty heart of city policing, divided communities and criminal gangs.

A second series was hot on the heels of the success of the first, and more are on the horizon. For Sian Brooke, who plays Constable Grace Ellis, it has been a fantastic role to take on.

She says: “I love playing her. I admire Grace because she is brave and willing to stick her head above the parapet. She has a strong sense of wrong and right in a crazy world.”

Sian is no stranger to the work of the police, with her father having served in the force. “It gave me an insight in that you see the person behind the uniform. Also, it meant I had the advantage of a hotline to my dad. I could ask about how things work, such as the ranks, the protocol and the acronyms. He’s been really supportive and fortunately loves the show, which is a great relief!”

She also researched as much as she could about Belfast, its turbulent history, and policing in the city. “I felt a sense of responsibility to try and understand as much as I could. I delved into it and watched documentaries, I spoke to lots of police officers and we went out in the patrol cars. You try and digest as much as you can to make it as authentic as possible.”

In series two, Grace has to pull her gun. “Obviously I knew they carried guns, but hadn’t really considered how that decision to draw your weapon might affect you. Then there are the things a police officer there has to do as part of their routine such as checking under your car each morning [to check for bombs] and varying your journey home. That’s hard to comprehend.”

It’s been a busy time for Sian. As well as Blue Lights, she has been filming for Supacell. Created by Rapman, it is about a group of ordinary people in South London who develop super powers. “My character is in the corporate world, and she is quite a departure from Grace. I’m lucky in that I’ve got to play quite different characters.”

Sian plays Karen in Trying, about a family that adopts, which is now in its fourth series. “Karen is opinionated, unlikable, hard to please, and rude. I love playing her.”

She also turned her hand to another totally different character for Eurus, Sherlock Holmes’ sister, in the BBC series Sherlock. “She is devoid of feeling or compassion, she’s sadistic. I really enjoyed doing the part so I don’t know what that says about me!”

Her versatility has extended to stage roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company, too. What would she like to take on next? “I don’t have a dream role. Maybe when I was younger I did, but now I just follow the flow of things. I started out in classical theatre so maybe more of that. There are a lot of genres I’d like to do – maybe a nice period drama or even an action movie.”

Sian, 44, lives in south west London with her husband Bill Buckhurst, who is an actor and director, and her two children. When she gets time off, she enjoys being outdoors with the family. “I love walking along the river in Kingston. We also take the bikes to Bushy Park or nip up to Wimbledon Common.” They also enjoy Sunday lunches at Spring Grove and dinner at The French Table in Surbiton.

She keeps fit by running, mentioning Wimbledon Common and Nonsuch Park among her favourite routes. “Running is so good for brain and body. It’s my saving grace.”

She’s done Wimbledon half marathons and has just entered the ballot for the London Marathon next year. As for her ideal day off? “Not to really plan anything but to drive out for a day at the beach in the sun with the family and some good food. As long as I have my kids, my husband and I’m outdoors with yummy food I’m in a very happy place.”

Sian is originally from Staffordshire. She has been acting since she was 11, as a member of the Lichfield Youth Theatre, before training at RADA. As to what keeps her passion for acting alive? “The people. That is one of the big joys. I’ve worked with phenomenal people, and it’s never the same as you are continually working with different teams. There’s always something new to learn.”

Image by David Reiss