Sarah Lancashire shares her Tango joy

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Last Tango In Halifax has returned to the screen bringing shock, wedding bells and drama for actress Sarah Lancashire who has spoken about her character.

Sarah, who plays Caroline in the BBC One romcom series, has revealed more about her role in the popular show, which is set in Calderdale.

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 offspring 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,” she said.

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.

“She’s always been very reserved about the relationship, accepting but cool, and marriage is one step too far.”

The mother and daughter have had their clashes over the years but share “a very deep abiding love”.

“So Caroline’s deeply wounded by this admission of non-acceptance,” continues Sarah, who has three sons in real life, two from her first marriage to Gary Hargreaves and one with her second husband Peter Salmon, the TV executive she met while she was playing Racquel in Coronation Street.

But “catastrophic events” are in play in 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.”

She admits she owes a lot to her friend and collaborator. “Having two of Sally’s projects, it doesn’t get much better, does it?”

However, originally, she wasn’t available when she was first approached about Last Tango, Sarah reveals.

“I was doing Betty Blue Eyes on stage,” she explains, “and then we closed early and suddenly I became available. How fortuitous was that, really? Talk about being in the right place at the right time.”

After being blown away by her performance, Wainwright went on to write Happy Valley specifically with Sarah in mind.

Does she believe things happen for a reason? “I do,” she says, after the briefest pause. “I’m very philosophical about stuff like that.”

But if the musical hadn’t finished early, she insists she wouldn’t have felt bitter seeing someone else in the role and enjoying the subsequent success.

“I never do, because the truth of it is, it’s very rare as an actor that you can watch anything on screen without having a mate in it somewhere, and you want the piece to work for them,” she states.

“At the end of the day, on the most fundamental level, it’s their livelihood - and you want them to be able to pay their mortgage,” she adds. “We’re no different to other people; we all do this to pay our mortgages.”