A 13-hour working day doesn’t sound like much of a break, but for actress and mum-of-two Tamzin Outhwaite, filming the latest series of New Tricks was “more of a rest” than being at home.
“Someone cooks you food and gives you lunch, people make you laugh, and then someone does your make-up, so really I only had to worry about myself,” the former EastEnders star says with a smile.
It’s been a tough year for the 43-year-old, who divorced in April and had to balance looking after her two daughters Florence, six, and two-year-old Marnie Mae - with shooting series 11 of the popular BBC One police drama.
Outhwaite was introduced at the end of the last series as DCI Sasha Miller, who heads up the crime-busting team of retired police officers, following the departure of DSI Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman).
In addition to the long working days, she and co-stars Denis Lawson, Dennis Waterman and Nicholas Lyndhurst were also required to film the occasional night-shoot.
“I’ve got a nanny, she lives in now. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her,” says the actress.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between Sasha and Sandra - both are blonde bosses with a no-nonsense approach. But Outhwaite was keen to make the new role her own.
“The key for me was to not watch too many episodes, because I think then you might fill your head with expectations that you don’t need,” she explains.
Besides, DCI Miller and her much-loved predecessor have different styles when it comes to crime-solving - from Sasha’s collaborative approach to her use of technology (“I don’t think they’d even seen anyone using an iPad to look at photos,” Outhwaite notes). And, as evidenced in episode one of the new series, her suggestion that differences are resolved by “hugging it out”.
Despite the stellar cast and impressive audience figures - the first episode of series 10 attracted 7.5 million viewers - the show doesn’t receive as much attention as other high-rating programmes.
“You get a push at the beginning when something first comes out, and then it becomes part of the furniture, something that’s always on,” Outhwaite notes.
“I was in a show a long time ago that was constantly being beaten [in the ratings] by a New Tricks repeat. I thought, ‘There’s got to be something in this that has a secret ingredient’. When I really started watching it, it jumps out at you because there’s this camaraderie, as well as the whole police side of things.
“And also, the majority of the public that are watching it probably feel some kind of an affinity towards these people, because they’re not hotshot cops with guns. It’s ordinary people solving stuff.”
With two more series of New Tricks in the pipeline, and a role in comedy play Breeders, there’s little chance for Outhwaite to catch up on that much-needed sleep.
She’s also been tracing her family history for the new series of BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?, an experience she clearly enjoyed.
“It was a really happy, lovely story. There was nothing dark or too serious,” she says of her findings.
“It made me feel quite proud to be in my family.”
New Tricks returns to BBC One on Monday, August 18.
Tamsin’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? airs on BBC One on Thursday, August 21