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I love being a bitch on Downton, says Maria

IRISH actress Maria Doyle Kennedy admitted that she is relishing her role as a manipulative "bitch" in Downton Abbey.

The former Commitments star and singer said that she is at ease slipping into the shoes of the most hated woman on TV.

Maria (46) has taken on the role of valet John Bates's wife Vera and said she favours characters that she can get her teeth into.

"I've got some awful things to say like, 'Isn't this tea lovely? and, by the way, I'm going to wreck your life completely'," she said.

During the first series of Downton Abbey, fans followed the subtle love story of valet John, played by Brendan Coyle, and his sweetheart, housemaid Anna.

But little was known about John's estranged wife. Now all has changed in the upstairs -- downstairs world of Downton.

John's wife Vera makes an appearance in the second season of the period drama which returned with a bang with the outbreak of World War I. Maria said: "She's such a terrible bitch - and bitches are the best to play. "I just think, 'You have to remember it's not me -- it's Vera'."