TV interview: Sarah Lancaster

Sarah Lancashire as Caroline in Last Tango in Halifax.
Sarah Lancashire as Caroline in Last Tango in Halifax.
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Sarah Lancashire celebrated her 50th in October, but she doesn’t pay much attention to landmark birthdays, or ageing, for that matter.

She’s on the set of the third series of Last Tango In Halifax, a show she believes has been “a quietly groundbreaking piece”, in terms of facing ageism head on.

At the story’s centre are the lovestruck Alan and Celia, played by Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, the former childhood sweethearts who reunited as septuagenarians and enjoyed a Christmas wedding in the last series.

But they’re not the sole focus of the plot. Sally Wainwright’s script also follows Alan’s troubled daughter Gillian (Nicola Walker), and Celia’s uncompromising daughter Caroline (Lancashire) and their subsequent relationships.

“It’s a joy doing Tango. I’d do it ‘til the day I die, frankly,” enthuses Lancashire. “It’s so beautifully written, I’d turn up to read two lines a day just to be part of this piece.”

She’s keen not to divulge too much about her upcoming storyline, but does reveal that despite a tumultuous start, thanks to Caroline’s insecurities over her sexuality, she and partner Kate (Nina Sosanya), who’s now heavily pregnant through sperm donation, have found contentment.

So much so, that Caroline pops the question.

“I suppose they’ve just settled into this life of domesticity, really,” explains the Oldham-born actress.

The ceremony takes place at a registry office but with one notable absence, her mother Celia.

“She refuses to go, admitting she just can’t handle the idea of them marrying. It’s one step too far for her, which is great, because it shows there’s an integrity and continuity to Celia.

But “catastrophic events” are set to take place this series, which will ultimately reunite Celia and Caroline.

Lancashire can’t say what they are - “I’ll be shot!” - but notes that viewers will “see the full spectrum of who Caroline is”.

“That’s the brilliance with Sally [Wainwright], just when you think it’s all settled and lovely, something will come out of left field that you haven’t anticipated at all.”

Although notoriously private, there are times when Lancashire is required to face the flashbulbs, such as the Baftas, where she won the award for Best Supporting Actress for Last Tango back in May.

She describes the win as “shocking and delightful”.

“What a lovely thing, to have your work recognised by your peers, but it was a big shock and wasn’t expected.