Ruth Jones steps out of Gavin & Stacey’s shadow in new series of Stella

THERE’S only one topic of conversation that’s sure to ruffle the feathers of the lovely Ruth Jones – namely Gavin & Stacey, the award-winning comedy she co-created with James Corden.

Wearily, she confirms an American pilot might go ahead. “I mean it could happen but then I could win the lottery. It’s literally like that at the moment,” says the 46-year-old writer and actress.

Smiling but looking mildly exasperated, she says she wishes she was being paid the rumoured £5 million for the pleasure of writing said pilot and then decides to set the record straight regarding another report.

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“There is going to be no more Gavin & Stacey on our screens,” she states.

You can understand her frustration because she’s moved on, having written the acclaimed comedy drama Stella, which is now back for a second series.

“Obviously because of Gavin & Stacey, the expectation was very high,” says Jones on debuting Stella last year.

“Even now people are talking about Gavin & Stacey, which is fine. I’m not really that bothered by it as it shows how strong its popularity was, but I was worried people were going to say Stella wasn’t as good.”

She needn’t have worried. The ten-part series, which is set in the fictional Welsh town of Pontyberry, became Sky1’s most watched comedy to date and earned Jones a Bafta nomination for her portrayal of the titular character.

“I think the characters that live in Stella’s world are so varied and rich,” says Jones of the show’s popularity.

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“There are so many of them and they’re a joy to write for. Perhaps this is a sign of my mental state but I sort of think they exist, which helps when I’m writing them,” she says with a chuckle.

She doesn’t work alone, though, as she created the series along with her husband David Peet through their company, Tidy Productions.

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“It’s great working with him,” says Jones. “It could have its ups and downs because you could end up only talking about work, so we have to draw a line and go, ‘Right it’s gone 6pm now, let’s stop talking about work’ and that seems to work quite well.”

The pair keep a whiteboard in their kitchen, which is where they think up most of their ideas. “We have a good laugh while we’re doing it,” says Jones.

“I just hope that translates into the script but we’re enjoying ourselves.”

In the first series, 40-something divorcee and mum-of-three Stella fell for the handsome, younger Sean but their relationship was soon rocked by a blast from the past in the form of Stella’s first love, Rob.

“She’s so confused because Sean was completely out of the blue,” explains Jones. “He’s ten years younger, absolutely gorgeous in his decorator overalls and he really brought Stella out of herself. She started to ditch the rugby shirts and dyed her hair and started to like herself more, I think.

“But then Rob bloody comes back into the equation, and he’s her first love and has got this kind of connection with her that they’ve had since they were 17,” she continues, as if she’s forgotten she’s the one who wrote the storyline.

So who’s likely to win Stella’s heart?

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“Well, she can be quite feisty so likes a challenge and I think that’s why Rob unsettles her because he challenges her,” says Jones.

While Stella is at the heart of the series, a huge part of the show’s appeal lies in the eccentric characters who populate Stella’s life.

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“As we got to know all the characters in Stella’s life, we realised there was a lot of potential for them, so what we’ve tried to do with series two is explore their lives a bit more.”

Viewers will see how Stella’s teenage daughter Emma and her husband are coping with parenthood “and how they deal with him being at medical school and her being at home with the baby,” says Jones.

Elsewhere, Stella’s eldest son Luke falls in love, and her Aunty Brenda arrives in town and proves a force to be reckoned with.

“She tells it as it is, is very melodramatic, always sees the gloomy side of life and knows everyone else’s business.”

Like the first series, there will be a couple of famous faces popping up – Olivier Award nominee Paul Kaye appears as a new age relationship therapist.

He’ll no doubt be in demand when cracks begin to appear in the marriage of Stella’s best friend (and the town’s funeral director) Paula and her husband, Dai.

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The pair’s previous saucy “adventures” prompt a question about the “sexploits” of the Pontyberry residents.

“I think sex on screen’s just got great potential for comedy because it just looks funny,” says Jones.

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“I like the idea of after sex a couple talking about what they’re going to have for tea. You know, ‘We’ll have that cauli, it’s on the turn’. I love the pedestrian minutiae of day-to-day life.”

And with Stella she’s “got licence to be a bit mental”.

“You can have a horse in the house and people having sex in a coffin. It’s great for me. I have a ball!”

The second series of Stella continues on Sky1 tonight