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Vera - Series 4 on DVD: A Chat With David Leon

03/06/2014 09:24 BST | Updated 30/07/2014 10:59 BST

David Leon was born in 1980 in Newcastle upon Tyne. A decade ago he made his film debut in Oliver Stone's Alexander, and went on to feature in hit BBC drama Cutting It, and Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla. I spoke to the actor, producer and director about playing DS Joe Ashworth in hit ITV drama Vera; working with national treasure Brenda Blethyn, and his thoughts on being a pin-up.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CHARACTER, DS JOE ASHWORTH, IN VERA?

He's sort of a bad boy turned good. He could have very much ended up on the other side of the law and ended up behind bars. It strikes me that he ended up in that kind of environment where a lot of his friends ended up that way, and he was one of the lucky ones. As a consequence it's instilled within him a very strong family values, and the constant battle for him, the conflict within him is finding the balance between his work life and his home life, especially with his kids.

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Vera Series 4 out now on DVD ITV Studios Home Entertainment

He adores his kids more than anything else. One of the things I really love about playing the character is we see a lot of characters and detectives who are very troubled.

They have a very weak moral code as it were. It's clear that he has a bit of an edge to him.

As I say he may have come from the wrong side of the tracks, but he has a very strong humanity. It's quite a rare thing that you see in characters these days.

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Vera Series 4 out now on DVD ITV Studios Home Entertainment

HAS HE CHANGED MUCH OVER THE YEARS?

Well his core values have remained the same. We see in this series him becoming jaded by the circumstances. His wife is becoming more and more demanding of him, as is Vera, and he's caught between the two strong women who always demand a lot of him, and as a consequence he feels caught in the middle. And that's before you take into account the role and the work he does, I suppose it would be very demanding for anybody.

HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH THE NATIONAL INSTITUTION THAT IS BRENDA BLETHYN?

(Laughs) You're right; that puts it quite well. She's a bit of a national treasure. 'A privilege' is probably a better way of putting it. We've always got on since day one. I've been very lucky. I've been able to learn an awful lot, not just about work.

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Vera Series 4 out now on DVD ITV Studios Home Entertainment

It goes without saying that if you're standing next to somebody who's as experienced and talented as she is, you can only learn, but I think just as a person, she really sets the tone. It doesn't matter whether you're cast or crew and whatever capacity...we work incredibly long hours in bleak conditions a lot of the time.

The locations we go to are often beautiful, but quite often they're an hour-and-a-half's drive, and when you're doing that six days a week for five months, it can become quite testing actually.

We're very fortunate to be doing the job we're doing, but it's quite demanding. When you have someone like Brenda who sets the tone and makes everyone realise how fortunate they are to be there...

You see this woman who, I don't think she'd mind me saying, is of a mature age, it makes people like myself and younger members of the crew realise that if she can do it... well we're not complaining. You've got to follow suit sort of thing.

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Vera Series 4 out now on DVD ITV Studios Home Entertainment

SAFE TO SAY YOU'RE THE EYE CANDY OF THE SHOW FOR SOME VIEWERS

I would never say that, but if that's the case it's very flattering. I like to put that emotion to one side and focus on the work, but that's a side issue and if people appreciate that side of things that's very flattering.

DO YOU GET SOME INTERESTING FANMAIL FROM HERE AND IN THE STATES?

Yeah, I get bizarre requests on a regular basis. You take it with a pinch of salt and I'm fairly grounded. The day that goes away you probably start to miss it to be honest with you, but for the time being you just concentrate on the work.

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Vera Series 4 out now on DVD ITV Studios Home Entertainment

IS IT EMAIL OFFERS OF MARRIAGE?

You don't get emails any more. You get a lot of things through social network, on Twitter and things like that. I'll get regular marriage proposals and things sent to me, fanmail and stuff like that - from guys and girls you know? (laughs). It's nice to know you've crossed that divide.

YOU MUST BE THRILLED WITH HOW WELL SERIES FOUR ALONE HAS DONE IN THE RATINGS

Yeah, well this has been the most successful series so far. It's only a four episode series. It's not like Doctor Who or Downton Abbey where you have roughly 12 episodes, so an audience has time to realise it's on in the first place. To maybe miss a couple of episodes, go back to ITV Player and catch up with a couple of episodes. It stays in the nation's psyche for a period of time - maybe three months.

Something like this, one of the things that's special about it is that you have four sort of self-contained feature films. They come and go within a month, which means it stays very fresh - you never feel over exposed.

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Vera Series 4 out now on DVD ITV Studios Home Entertainment

An audience never really has time to get bored of it.

To be doing in the region of eight million - when all the figures come in from ITV Player, they're top figures. I mean it's more than 10 per cent of the entire population, and in this day and age when you've got a million channels, and distractions like the Internet and so on, to be doing those kinds of numbers, especially into a fourth/fifth series. So it's very flattering, and personally I think it's just reward for all the hard work.

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:: Vera Series 4 out now on DVD ITV Studios Home Entertainment