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New TV cop Brenda nicks Cheryl's Geordie accent

TV's latest fictional detective helped perfect her accident by listening to Cheryl Cole.

Actress Brenda Blethyn (65), who stars in the new ITV series about feisty detective DI Vera Stanhope, says the part called for a Geordie accent.

"It's a notoriously difficult accent to do, but there are so many people on TV these days. You've got Ant and Dec and Cheryl Cole," she says.

However after listening to Cole, Blethyn developed an accent local Geordies say is "on the money". Another challenge was braving the cold weather for outdoor scenes.

"Fortunately for me, I had to wear layers and layers of clothes to build up Vera's physique so I was less cold than most other people. But it was utterly beautiful up there."

The Oscar-nominated actress attributes her youthful appearance to infrequent bathing as a child.

"I've always looked young, all my family do," she says. "I think it's because when we were children we didn't have a bath. Well, we had one hanging on a peg, but it wasn't brought in very often. I really do think it's because all the natural oils weren't washed off.

"I laugh a lot. I drink plenty of water and I'm pretty content with my lot."

Blethyn is happy about returning to TV.

When she was approached about the series, based on the novels by Ann Cleeves, Blethyn tracked down the books and was immediately gripped.

"I fell in love with the character," she said. However she was also slightly shocked by Vera's original description.

"She was a huge woman, very scruffy and not very attractive and I thought, 'Hang on a minute, why did they think of me?'" Vera starts on ITV1 on Sunday, May 1.