Jenny Ryan - 'Causing trouble . . I've got that one cracked!'

SHE'S renowned as a versatile actress with a sense of humour who is willing to dress up in the most preposterous of costumes when required.

However, when Jenny Ryan went away for the first time in her boyfriend's orange VW camper van, even she couldn't see the funny side.

"The first thing we did was go up north – just outside Aviemore at Hogmanay – and it was absolutely baltic," she recalls. "I was told there was a heater but it was like putting a hairdryer in a fridge."

She admits that she's had more enjoyable starts to the year and the forlorn vintage van now spends many a day parked near her Leith home, waiting for the day that Jenny determines it's warm enough to go for a spin.

However, with her photographer partner Alan McCreadie and 13-year-old daughter Eilidh both fans of the van, the actress admits she may soon have to relent.

And with filming about to end on the second series of the comedy Dear Green Place, Jenny will certainly soon have no excuse not to take a holiday. The next time we'll see the 37-year-old on our screens is on Thursday in the long anticipated STV drama Cracked.

The six-part series is set in a rehab clinic located in the tranquility of the Scottish countryside, a place where people with mental and emotional problems check themselves in for some professional tender loving care.

Jenny plays Amanda, the ex-wife of the centre's art therapist Finn (Seamus Gubbins) who suddenly returns into his life after being dumped by her lesbian lover.

And although she's not a resident at the rehab centre, Amanda's mental state is far from stable as she tries to manipulate her way back into Finn's life. "She's back to cause a bit of trouble for him and although her mental state is a little unbalanced she doesn't see herself as needing any therapy," explains Jenny. "She's the kind of person who likes to blame other people and not take responsibility herself. She's in denial about her own issues and she tries to shake things up for Finn emotionally."

Although the series has been written by Clare Hemphill and Kate Donnelly – renowned for their input into the comedy Still Game – Cracked has its roots in serious drama.

The clinic's patients have some real problems – sex addiction, hypomania, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression – but viewers are likely to stumble across some dark humour.

"There is a kind of humour in some of the blackest moments and I think, as in life, you're laughing and crying at the same time," says Jenny.

With stigma and discrimination a concern for the one in four people in Scotland who have experienced a mental health problem, it is thought Cracked could bring some issues to the fore.

"I think people can be sensitive about talking openly about mental health problems which is a shame because maybe that perpetuates kind of fear to admitting certain kinds of experiences," says Jenny, considering the issue. "But we're all only human and everyone has times where they feel they can't cope.

"One thing's for certain, the role of Amanda is a real contrast to that of Jenny's River City character Tina Hunter.

"It was completely different," says Jenny. "It was so refreshing to play Amanda because she's the one who's hurting other people.

"Cracked was actually filmed three years ago and since then Jenny has joined the cast of River City and then Dear Green Place.

Last year, in some fleeting moments in Dear Green Place, we saw the former Royal High pupil dressed in a slinky black PVC catsuit as her stable girl character Michelle made comical attempts to get on a motorcycle.

However, this year she promises that viewers won't have to endure such a sight with Michelle remaining in her jodhpurs and wellies.

"There's definitely no PVC catsuits this time round," laughs Jenny. "I think I complained so much last series they just kept me in my jodhpurs."

The graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama admits she hasn't always been in such high demand and she is thriving on the opportunities.

"I just want to be lucky enough to keep working," she says. "I think the quality of the writing in Cracked and Dear Green Place is really high and so I'll hopefully work on something else like that.

"It's great to have the opportunities I've had because they've come slightly later for me. I wasn't straight out of drama college getting lots of work so I really appreciate getting work now. I don't really take it for granted."

Cracked begins its six-week run on Thursday, September 4, at 10.40pm on STV.