Amelia Bullmore; Actress; Scriptwriter;
Actor and writer Amelia Bulmore. Photo: Dvora @Fashionistable

Actor Amelia Bullmore has appeared in some of my favourite TV programmes: Coronation Street (Steph Barnes), I’m Alan Partridge (girlfriend Sonja) and Twenty Twelve (Kay Hope) – we’ll come onto Happy Valley in a minute. And so, it’s quite surprising, then, that when we met at a Pilates class, a couple of years ago, I didn’t even recognise her. Sharp, brilliant and funny, I always enjoyed it when we ended up next to each other on the reformers, chatting like giddy kids at a sleepover.

Amelia Bullmore; Actress; Scriptwriter;

We discovered that we were both students in Manchester at the same time, but while I was propping up the bar at the Hacienda, Amelia was touring the country with playwright Helen Edmunson and the women’s theatre group Red Stockings. It was only when we all went out for a Christmas drink that I realised that  ‘Amelia from Pilates’, was actually the bossy boss from Scott & Bailey. ‘You mean Amelia Bullmore?’ Mr That’s Not My Age asked incredulously when I got home, ‘She’s really successful; been in loads of things.’ I’d accidentally made friends with a famous person.

For the latest in my series of Creative Women at Work, I popped round to 52-year-old Amelia’s house for a chat:

TNMA: I think we can still talk about Happy Valley (Amelia appeared in series two as Vicky Fleming), what makes it so brilliant?

AB: When the series was coming to an end, I was curled up on the sofa crying when Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) was holding Alison Garrs (Susan Lynch) in her arms. It was such an epic place but you’re taken there so deftly and really believed these two women in extremis. It’s the depth and breadth of the writing, not just line for line but the experiences Sally Wainwright gives people and the choices that she makes – she handles everything in her own particular way and it’s gripping, like a really good book. The writing is so good and the actors know the characters so well, and have acted together for so long, you’re watching a real working relationship.

Amelia Bullmore; Actress; Scriptwriter;

TNMA: How do you feel about the inequality that exists in the acting profession, particularly around age?

AB: The statistics are not good. There are more leading males than females and there’s a pay discrepancy; but my experience, working in television, has been quite healthy. It’s very egalitarian, my bosses are often women.  I’ve worked with lots of female directors and producers, camera women, hair and make-up artists and there’s a good mix of all backgrounds and classes. It’s a very nice feeling, everyone contributing and getting on with their jobs.

TNMA: Would you say ageing has affected your career?

AB: It’s hard to say. I suspect what’s tough is if beauty is your identifying quality, it gets complicated. I haven’t been defined in that way and so, have more wiggle room. I’m aware of ageing and aware of my ageing self but I couldn’t say I have a clear idea of what impact it’s having on my work. When I do worry about it, I thank god I can write and can be as wrinkly as I like. In fact, my experience is a positive boon. (Amelia has written for TV – including This Life and Scott & Bailey – radio and theatre).

TNMA: As an actor, how do you work on character development?

AB: If it’s someone complicated like Vicky Fleming in Happy Valley, she is thinking in a very particular way, not like the people around her. There is a gap between what we see and what she sees –  you’ve got to get behind that. It’s a bit like DIY, and you have to do all the sanding and soaping beforehand – you don’t get your paintbrush out until you have a plan. I’m really lucky because if it’s someone who is going to do something extreme, I live next door to a criminal psychologist and so I’ll send him an email, ‘She does this, she does that…what do you think?’ We then basically gosssip about a person who doesn’t exist.

TNMA: And what about their wardrobe?

AB: Oh this is the really pleasurable bit. You’re working with the costume designer and thinking about particular clothes on particular days, what it is she’s trying to achieve. Does she need to look business-like, is she cleaning out the garage, or trying to seduce? This is when you really get a feel for the person, it’s a key moment and a very important step towards assembling that person. They’ve got your body but you have to work out whether they dress it well, whether they cover or reveal it. Sonia (Alan Partridge’s girlfriend) was a good one, she was dressing to attract and always showed her silhouette. When I go into M&S, I often think Jill Murray (Scott & Bailey) would kill for that dress. When you play someone long enough, you get into their fictional tastebuds.

TNMA: How would you describe your own personal style?

AB: It’s interesting because I realise that now I’m 52, I wear the same thing again and again. I’m not frilly – I like pattern and print in the home but never wear it. I want to be feminine and I do want to look sexy but I don’t want to look like I’m trying. I would rather feel a bit scruffy. I don’t want my hair too done or clothes that match – I feel good in jeans and neat jumpers and am more likely to feel frumpy in dresses and skirts. I aspire to be gamine, if someone mistook me for a French person that would be the highest praise.

Amelia Bullmore; Actress; Scriptwriter;
All photos: Dvora @Fashionistable

TNMA: You do love a jumper – I can’t wear them anymore because of the hot flushes, how do you cope?

AB: So far, for me overheating is a nighttime event. Though I have noticed that if I get embarrassed or something, during the day, a hot flush can piggy-back that. It’s an opportunistic flush, piggy-backing a moment of embarrassment – I explode with heat and feel as if I’m purple but in reality I’m probably just a bit pink…



21 thoughts on “Creative women at work: Amelia Bullmore

  1. You were next to my acting icon at a Pilates class and didn’t recognise her?? Did you check who was on the other side
    Sandra Bullock? Helen Mirren? Seriously though Amelia is an inspiration to every woman actor particularly to those of us who are both mature and aspire to be a fraction a good as her playing Jill Murray! And to think I considered buying the same wallpaper that’s on her stairs………..

    1. Wouldn’t that be fantastic, Maureen…Amelia is quite unassuming and so it was easily done; and the wallpaper and green carpet in the hallway are stunning.

  2. Excellent article . . . and addition to your “Creative Women at Work” series. Really enjoyed reading about this woman who is as attractive inside as she is on the outside.

  3. Wonderful,intelligent and inclusively easy article to connect with and be inspired with. Great questions and cool and hip answers in a conversational style. Thank you. Love the prints and colours in her home. Now I will definutely look up those shows to watch(i dont watch tv) as reruns or “netflix”.

  4. Oh… I love her. She was great in Scott and Bailey.. loved the clothes in that show too. I’ve never seen “Happy Valley”… wonder if we’ll get it over here in Canada. In fact all of the Sally Wainwright series I’ve watched have been brilliant. Thanks for his post, Allyson.

  5. I shall have to pay more attention to my fellow students in the Pilates class this week. My husband laughs at my inability to recognise anyone – including himself! I agree with Amelia about patterns and frills and love the cardigan she’s wearing in her lovely photo. Also about aspiring to be gamine and being mistaken for being French.

  6. I really loved her as Gill in Scott & Bailey – the whole team was excellent but I thought Amelia Bulmore was the best of a brilliant bunch of talent. (Followed closely by Lesley Sharpe, who is also pretty amazing.) My husband and I always found Gill in particular to be so absolutely effortlessly believable, and sometimes I would remember with a jolt that the woman on screen was actually an actor who was acting and be amazed all over again. What a pleasure to watch that level of skill.

    Just found out that Netflix in the US now has Season 2 of Happy Valley so guess what we’ll be watching tonight! And now that I know Amelia Bulmore is in Season 2, looking forward to it even more. For anyone who hasn’t yet seen Season 1, you are in for a treat. Two thumbs up to anything by Sally Wainwright.

  7. Wonderful actress and obviously a wonderful human being , lucky you to have made such a lovely friend.
    I share her preference for a gamine, non girly look.She looks amaaaaazing, her look really really suits her.
    Love the black sandals , any idea of brand?

    1. Zanna, I asked Amelia and she said they’re from Timberland but she bought them about three or four years ago. I’ll let you know if I see something similar.

  8. I’m SORRY I do not know who she is BUT SHE IS PRETTY!
    I do the REFORMER!!!!!!!!!!LOVE THAT CARRIAGE as they call it here in the USA!I think I may have told you that once before!!!!SORRY……….
    I want you to know in the morning in bed before I really open my eyes I am doing the face massage that YOUR Book told us about…….MY sinus is AWFUL this year and I feel it has really helped me!I just wanted to pass that along………….
    I am loving ALL the photos of the ROYAL FAMILY……..they have been BUSY this month.There was hint that maybe they are expecting AGAIN………….DO you know anything LONDON GIRL???

  9. Stunned that you didn’t mention Amelia’s part in Channel 4’s ‘Power Monkeys,’ in which she is priceless as the sceptical member of the Donald Trump campaign entourage. Catch it while you can.

  10. Amelia Bullmore, Maxine Peake, can act anyone off the screen, AND they can write beautifully, too! What is it with these Northern Women [ not forgetting the twin Saints Sarah Lancashire and Sally Wainwright] Don’t it make you sick….?!

  11. I loved Amelia in 2012 – she stood out in such a strong cast. Britain has a strong seam of wonderful acting talent that’s not based on looks or age – just terrific talent capable of telling a story. Her comments suggest someone so down to earth and fun – I’m so jealous she is not in my Pilates class! Thanks for a great post on an inspiring woman

    I also loved the sandals!

  12. This article is an absolute delight! I discovered Amelia through Scott & Bailey and have since hunted down as much of her work as I can, so I am certainly what you might call a fan. I absolutely adore hearing about how actors come to inhabit their characters and details like how costuming and a character’s style is shaped by the actor, so this entire article is catnip to me. And I am unreasonably delighted to know that Amelia thinks about Gill’s fashion sense when she’s out and about. The photos, too, are absolutely stunning – everything about this article is such a treat. Thanks for asking her such interesting and insightful questions, and you have my eternal jealousy for your casual strking up of a friendship with such a fantastic lady :).

  13. Love working out on reformers and so exciting about your new friend. She is so beautiful and down to earth! I live in Canada but have seen her in lots of BBC productions. She was also in my favourite series, Sherlock, the one about the hound – can’t wait for Series 4 to finally arrive this winter!

  14. Wow. You described exactly how I dress. I do not like frills or lace or anything too complicated. Been there, done that when I was younger. We try to do “fashion” when we are young and make the mistake of wearing fads that don’t suit us. Now, I wear classic styles, and maybe a fancy top. I love comfortable shoes. Dresses just do not suit my body now. The most important idea for me when dressing is too feel comfortable with what I am wearing and not feel like it is a “costume”.

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