(Photo: Getty Images)
Happy birthday, Brenda Blethyn! The Vera actress turns 77 this week, so we're celebrating with 10 of the many reasons we appreciate her.
1. She really goes all-in when shooting Vera.
Blethyn has said that after shooting each season of the detective drama, her "body comes home a month before [her] head" because she focuses so completely on each script. She told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I start work on it a month before we start filming, for practical reasons, really. Because it's not filmed chronologically, I have to know where her head is at any given time. And aside from that, I like to give my penn’orth of thoughts on the script, and if I can guess something that's about to happen, it has to get changed because we don't want people working it out!"
2. She is a grafter from a humble background.
Blethyn grew up in Ramsgate, an English seaside town, amid the tough austerity of the post-War era. She was the youngest of nine children born into a working-class family where money was tight. "It was deprived, but we never saw it that way," she told the Daily Telegraph. "We lived on very little but we didn't know that. When a friend's mum acquired an electric iron, we thought it was the height of luxury and good fortune. All the laundry was done in the sink. My job was to hold the wet clothes as they were going through the mangle. Everyone was hard-up back then but we laughed a lot."
3. She is very present on Twitter.
4. She is a BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning actress.
Blethyn won these awards – and earned an Oscar nomination – for her performance in 1996's Secrets & Lies, a British indie film directed by Mike Leigh. She stars in the poignant drama as Cynthia, a deeply anxious middle-aged woman whose humdrum life gains some excitement when she reconnects with Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), the daughter she gave up at birth. It's a sad, surprising, and ultimately life-affirming watch.
5. She earned another Oscar nomination for 1998's Little Voice.
In this acclaimed dramedy movie, Blethyn plays Mari, the domineering mother of an incredibly timid young woman (Jane Horrocks) who has a remarkable gift for imitating the voices of old-school singing stars. It's a complex role – Mari is selfish but also a little pathetic – that Blethyn makes tender and very believable.
6. In acting terms, she is a relatively late bloomer.
In her twenties, Blethyn worked in an admin role at a bank while pursuing acting as a hobby. She then trained at Guildford School of Acting and made her professional debut, on stage in London, at age 30. Her parents were super-supportive and came to every show she was in. "I never wanted to know where they were sitting. When I came on I could hear my mother whispering 'That’s my girl,'" Blethyn told the Daily Telegraph.
7. She is also a seasoned sitcom veteran.
Blethyn has recently appeared in the socially conscious British sitcom Kate & Koji, which ran for two seasons in 2020 and 2022. Earlier in her career, in the mid-1980s, she starred opposite Simon Callow in the fondly remembered sitcom Chance in a Million, playing the loyal girlfriend of a man whose life is filled with strange twists of fate. You can check out her slapstick skills below.
8. Her marriage to artist Michael Mayhew sounds very much like "relationship goals."
The couple married in 2010 – after what Blethyn has said was "a 35-year engagement" – and live in London and Ramsgate. "He is kind and honest – he tells the truth, even if it's what you don't want to hear, such as saying the Armani outfit I had bought to present an award at the Golden Globes in 1998 didn't suit me," Blethyn told The Guardian. "He was right, so I bought another outfit, which was much better. He is Taurus and I'm Pisces; my dad was Pisces and my mum was Taurus. So long relationships might be something to do with the stars."
9. She's a real animal lover.
You may remember Blethyn's cockapoo, Jack, from this infamous interview on U.K. daytime show This Morning. When Jack gets a little too friendly, Blethyn, to her credit, takes it all in her stride.
10. And finally, she has no intention of retiring.
Hopefully, this means we may get at least a couple more seasons of Vera. "My parents worked until their dying days, and I fully expect to be doing the same," Blethyn told Good Housekeeping in 2021. "Mum had about six jobs to put food on the table and Dad spent the latter part of his life working in a ladies’ dress shop as a handyman. They instilled that work ethic in me; if you want to earn some money, you’ve got to work for it. I enjoy being busy, too, so I’ll always find something to do, even if it’s painting a wall!"
Do you have a favorite Brenda Blethyn role?