Life's amazeballs for Twenty Twelve's Jessica Hynes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

She lost out to co-star Olivia Colman at the Baftas, but Jessica Hynes has lots to keep her happy, including two new sitcoms and a possible Twenty Twelve spin-off.

Comedy writer and actor Jessica Hynes – Daisy Steiner in Spaced, greedy neighbour Cheryl in The Royle Family and PR fruitcake Siobhan Sharpe in the now Bafta-garlanded Twenty Twelve – is telling me about her fascination with the suffragettes. "I mean Christabel Pankhurst (activist daughter of suffrage leader Emmeline Pankhurst) got a first-class degree in law, but, as a woman, wasn't allowed to practise law."

It's a topic that seems to be in the air at the moment. Last year's Tom Stoppard adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End re-introduced the world to the spunky young suffragette heroine Valentine Wannop, while the BBC factual series Tales from the Old Bailey re-created Emmeline Pankhurst's 1912 trial (before an all-male jury, naturally) for damaging property. And next month sees the centenary of the most shocking suffragette action of them all – when, on Derby Day 1913, Emily Wilding Davison died when fatally obstructed the King's horse – the subject of last Sunday's Channel 4 documentary, Clare Balding's Secrets of a Suffragette, in which the presenter declared: "We're talking about a terrorist movement."

"There were other women killed", says Hynes. "On one particular day in 1910 called Black Friday the police killed two women at a protest after Herbert Asquith's Liberal government did an about-face on the Conciliation Bill." After Asquith's U-turn on a statute that would have given the vote to one million of Britain's wealthier women, a group of suffragettes plotted to assassinate the Prime Minister, which is where Hynes first came to subject.

"I was researching a sort of Ladykillers-style comedy film about the suffragette plot to assassinate Asquith," she says. "They looked so funny and I thought that would make a great comedy, but my research got more and more serious and I thought actually, the film isn't what it's supposed to be, which is comedy. And then I realised what I wanted to do was write a comedy based on strong comic characters and put it in a proscenium setting."

The result, after several years of development, is her new BBC4 sitcom Up the Women. Set in Banbury in Oxfordshire, it stars Hynes, Rebecca Front (The Thick of It), Vicki Pepperdine (Getting On) and Judy Parfitt (Call the Midwife) as members of an embroidery circle who decide to create their own local branch of suffragettes. "It's just about a group of women who haven't got a clue and are failing badly," says Hynes. "It's a kind of character study and hopefully, on a good day, it will be a kind of female Dad's Army."

Of course, comedy thrives on conflict – it's not all sewing and sisterhood, with Front's character, Helen, belonging to a more conservative era of womanhood. Or, as she puts it: "What on earth do women need the vote for? My husband votes for who I tell him to vote for. What could be a better system than that?" Another character asks whether votes for women will mean compulsory smoking – one example, says Hynes, of many such baseless (but comedically fruitful) fears. "There were genuinely held beliefs that if women got the vote the population would die out," she says. "Also how could they vote? Their sleeves would get caught up in the ballot papers."

Up the Women has the distinction of being the last ever sitcom filmed in BBC Television Centre in London, and in the fashionable manner (think Miranda, Mrs Brown's Boys or – if you must – Ben Elton's The Wright Way) it was recorded in front of a studio audience. It's a new direction for Hynes, who has preferred the more subtle observational comedy of Spaced and Twenty Twelve.

"I wanted to do something totally different", she says. "To go to the other end of the spectrum and see what I can do when I have total limitations… just the characters, just that stage. It was really, really hard… particularly with no outside shots, no locations."

Up the Women is her second creation (after an episode of Sky Atlantic's Common People) under the wing of Steve Coogan's production company Baby Cow, and Hynes has also been working on a female superhero series for Sky Atlantic called Justine ("It's Buffy meets Kick-Ass"). But her most recent television appearance was at this month's TV Baftas ceremony, looking on as her friend and Twenty Twelve co-star Olivia Colman won the award for best female performance in a comedy programme. I had thought Hynes was going to be a shoo-in to win that award to put alongside the Royal Television Society prize for her Twenty Twelve turn as Siobhan Sharpe.

"You know what? I had a sneaking suspicion I wouldn't," says Hynes, who attended with her mother, who, being a big fan of Olivia Coleman, kept leaning across her daughter to talk to her heroine (Hynes's daughter – a Miranda fan like so many teenage girls – was rooting for Miranda Hart). "Olivia's done the most phenomenal body of work in the last few years, and I was thinking 'this is her year'."

In the aftermath of Twenty Twelve's Bafta haul, one newspaper quoted "a BBC insider" to the effect that there was "real desire" for a spin-off series featuring the same actors and characters, but in a new setting – the NHS has been one suggestion. Certainly when I visited the set of Twenty Twelve last summer, the show's creator, John Morton, told me that: 'There's been some talk about whether there can be a life (for the series) post-Olympics and it's tempting because I'd love to work with those actors again'.

"There's a few murmurings," confirms Hynes, who "unashamedly" advertises her availability for any spin-off. "I'd like to work with him [Morton] again because I think he's brilliant. I've never worked with anyone who sees his characters with such clarity. Every little 'um', 'ah', 'if' and 'but' all written with… you know… it's incredible." Or "Holy shet… amazeballs", as a certain PR guru might have put it, and hopefully Siobhan will be let loose on the English language again before too long.

'Up the Women' starts on Thursday at 8.30pm on BBC4

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?