Siobhan Finneran interview: ‘Downton’ star is back in ‘Happy Valley’ final season

Downton Abbey star Siobhan Finneran returns to our screens this winter.

Seven years after the second season, BBC One’s acclaimed crime drama Happy Valley is back at last for “the final chapter”!

From the creator of Scott & Bailey and Gentleman Jack, the gritty series began in 2014, a couple of years after Finneran quit her role as Sarah O’Brien in Downton.

On New Year’s Day, the third season of Happy Valley finally arrives.

Watch the trailer here:

The official synopsis for Season 3 reads: “When Sergeant Catherine Cawood discovers the remains of a gangland murder victim in a drained reservoir, it sparks a chain of events that leads her straight back to Tommy Lee Royce.

“Her grandson, Ryan, is now sixteen and has ideas of his own about the kind of relationship he wants to have with the man Catherine refuses to acknowledge as his father, leaving Catherine’s sister Clare caught in the middle.”

Sarah Lancashire (Last Tango in Halifax) once again stars as Sergeant Catherine Cawood.

She’s joined by returning cast members James Norton (Grantchester) and Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey), with original actor Rhys Connah as Ryan.

Here Siobhan Finneran chats about playing Clare one last time:


How does it feel to be back filming Happy Valley?

“It’s lovely to be back filming again, it’s a great team and we’re very lucky that a lot of the crew that filmed with us in series 2 are back to shoot this series.

“It’s that old cliché, we are quite a happy little family – yeah, it’s quite a treat to be back filming with those guys.”


Where do we find Clare at the beginning of Season 3?

“She has sort of moved on a little bit from the last series because she is now living with Neil, her boyfriend, so she’s now moved out of the house that she shared with Catherine. But she’s still there a lot of the time because they kinda have the care of Ryan.

“Clare’s in a good place this time around, I think the second series we saw her and she’d fallen off the wagon but that’s not happened for some time, as far as we know.”


How would you describe Clare’s character?

“Clare is the very, very devoted sister to Catherine. They’ve got an amazing relationship which is, I think, one of the reasons the audience love it so much – because it’s very real and honest.

“Clare is quite fragile, she’s always been quite fragile and Catherine has always been her rock. When we see her this series she’s more settled and happier.”


What about Happy Valley are you most proud of?

Happy Valley is the sort of telly that I like to watch, where there are very real, believable characters. So the stories might be a little bit extraordinary but the way that the real characters deal with that, I enjoy watching that kind of thing.

“I’m very proud to be part of it because it’s really loved, it’s a really loved show.”


Tell us about Sally Wainwright’s writing and why her scripts are so special?

“As an actress when you get a Sally Wainwright script you can’t actually wait to get on set and do it. It’s very easy to sit and get lost in two, three, four, five, six hours’ worth of her stuff.

“The characters and their personalities are there so we’ve just got to add a bit of flesh to those bones really.”


Do you remember your first day on set for series one?

My first day of filming on Series one was in the mission – Clare answering a call from Catherine, I think Clare was preparing a sandwich but I can’t remember what the conversation was about. I will have been a nervous wreck, I always am day one of a job.


Thinking back did you have any idea back then the series would become so big?

“I can remember reading the opening scene from series one where Catherine is trying to talk someone down and arms herself with a fire extinguisher and sunglasses and thinking this is really special.

“I think I read the whole series in one evening. But I don’t think you can ever really know that something you’re working on is going to be received well, you just hope having witnessed first-hand the work that’s been put into it that it is!”


Do you have a favourite memory from on set on Happy Valley (on or off screen)?

“My happiest memories on set are the scenes with Catherine and Clare, the catch up chats with cups of tea and a smoke or the big explosive ones.

“I love the relationship between the two sisters and it’s what people talk to me about most when they talk about the show. I love working with Sarah, it’s magical and I think that shows in the scenes, there’s a genuine love and affection between us.”


Season 3 premieres in the UK on BBC One on Sunday 1st January 2023, with all six episodes streaming on BBC iPlayer.

In the US, it’ll be exclusively on the AMC+ premium streaming bundle.

The first two seasons of Happy Valley are available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.