Fay Ripley on playing Cold Feet's Jenny: People are so brave – I'm just pretending
The last series was an emotional roller coaster for Cold Feet star Fay Ripley – and this run viewers will see her character coming to terms with life after cancer. But there could be light at the end of the tunnel, she hints to Gemma Dunn
COLD Feet's Fay Ripley has been stopped in the street more than ever of late – and with good reason.
The actress, known for her role as hapless housewife Jenny Gifford on the hit ITV comedy-drama, moved viewers to tears in the last series when her character was given the devastating news that she had breast cancer.
The scenes, which saw Jenny break down and later undergoing treatment with her husband Pete (John Thomson) by her side, simply struck a chord.
"I chat to a lot of people because people want to come up, introduce themselves and tell me their story," reveals Ripley (53).
"It's often so moving I find myself hugging people on trains or in the supermarket and we'll sort of go, 'Good luck' or 'Please send your sister my love' and we'll do a selfie.
"I've also talked to a lot of people on social media about their own journeys – and I'll probably continue to, I imagine, after this series goes out," she says. "It's a huge privilege to do that because people are so brave, so courageous – and I am just pretending."
Fast forward and this series – creator Mike Bullen's ninth to date – sees Jenny return to her 'old life' after months of treatment: a transition that understandably proves more difficult than expected.
"We normally skip big chunks every time we come back, but I think the thought was that we owed it to people to pick the story up more or less where we left off," explains the London-born star, who returns alongside co-stars James Nesbitt, Hermione Norris and Robert Bathurst.
"Yes it's the end of her treatment, but it's where she's at now, and [while] it's a place of hope, mainly, it's also a confusing time where one is in limbo about exactly what the future holds and inevitably one has to unpack that bit.
"Now she's in a 'Right, let's get on with life...' [place]," she confirms. "But she's keeping a lot to herself and there's still a lot for her to deal with.
"But hopefully with the show there's a great light at the end of the tunnel. With her particular cancer and her particular journey, there's a lot of hope."
For Ripley – who has talked previously about the 'weight of responsibility' she felt playing out this story line – it's the next chapter in what has been a defining narrative for the Gifford family.
"I simply don't want to let people down," she says. "I can only portray it as truthfully as I think using my brain, empathy, and the fact that many friends and family have been through or are going through similar stories in real life.
"Everyone has got a friend or a parent or a sister or a brother that's going through something – those are the statistics, sadly," she adds.
"So this is not a really unusual, catastrophic thing that has happened that most people haven't experienced. It is very, very common."
And it's handled in a very Cold Feet way, she says.
"Different shows do things in different ways, and the thing about this show is that you'll have something that will be painfully truthful, but then you'll have something that is completely daft and makes you laugh in the next scene.
"We're in no way a documentary-style show, let's be honest, so there are elements that are real about it," adds Ripley, who landed her breakthrough role in the pilot episode back in 1997. "But then there are bonkers fantasies, fun, a lot of parties and everything else!
"That's the appeal of it: you have to stay within the show that you're in, but hopefully we've married those two elements and done all right with that."
With legions of loyal fans eager to be reacquainted with the Manchester-based gang, there's little doubt it would fall short.
So what does she make of its timeless appeal?
"There's an element of nostalgia about something coming back that you remembered," she responds, having been an integral part of the show's 2016 revival.
"[The original] came at a time in people's lives when viewers were having a baby, getting married, starting their careers, leaving home... it was the junction point in your life when you're moving into the next phase.
"Now it's come back, they've had a whole middle life to lead and they're looking at our characters and there's lots of parallel lines.
"It's also like old friends, presumably?" Ripley ponders. "People were invested enough originally that they've gone, 'Oh it's so nice to see these old pals'."
She continues: "Nobody ever stopped asking when Cold Feet was coming back – journalists, particularly, but certainly in the street. So I think in a funny sort of a way it wasn't that big a surprise."
That's not to say another series – its 10th – is a certainty: "We never know if it's going to go again until it's gone out, so it may be that that's the last series!" she says.
"Really you say goodbye for the last time, every time. We always have, we're used to it."
And does she have anything else lined up?
"Listen, I'm a working actress and I'll continue to be that hopefully," says Ripley, who in addition to acting has authored three successful cookery books.
"I keep myself pretty busy, so I feel very grateful," adds the mother-of-two. "But I'm never one to pack too much in... I really like working but I really like my life.
"I'm somebody who likes to do lots of different kinds of things – you might next speak to me and I've opened a florist?!" she teases with a laugh.
"I'm also hoping to do some more writing this year for all sorts of things, some more journalistic stuff but also some script stuff. But who knows?
"That's something I will probably do regardless of what happens."
:: Cold Feet returns to ITV today.