Helen gleefully tells how “Bodybag” is still “as bad-tempered as ever and grumbling all the time. At the start of this series she is very determined to get her status back as she lost her pips in the last series – rank means everything to her. She excels herself as part of the riot squad in the siege and soon gets her proper position back, which makes her a lot happier.
“Sylvia is very very nasty, particularly in the first two episodes. I mean, she comes into her own in the nasty stakes! She is ‘old school’ and vindictive. She thinks that people who have committed a crime should be punished. She does not agree with Helen Stewart’s (Simone Lahbib) softly softly attitude. She thinks that they should be locked up 24/7 with no association - and watching television and learning hairdressing is ridiculous!
“When I play Sylvia I walk in very flat shoes which push my weight forward which makes me look fatter. I walk with what I call my wet knicker walk! Originally I wanted her to wear a skirt, but when I did my research at a prison in Winchester I was told by the prison officers, “a skirt in a women’s prison? You must be mad, the hands will be everywhere” – so we settled for the culottes. They are wonderful as they are so unflattering. It’s just the look I wanted for her!
“I have to say that I am getting more and more like Sylvia. I can feel myself in supermarkets sighing and grumbling and trundling along – hopefully I’m a little daintier and nicer in real life! My husband still thinks so!”
Helen Fraser went to stage school as a boarder at the tender age of 9 (“I had one of those mothers”!) and has never looked back. Her television career reads like a who’s who of comedy with plays by Alan Bennett, seven series of Dick Emery and The Two Ronnies to name but a few. She has lived in the Suffolk countryside for 30 years, with her husband Peter (an Oscar winning sound recordist). They met on the film set of Billy Liar when Helen was playing opposite Tom Courtney. Living in a little village, where “it is five miles for a loaf of bread!”, Helen loves to garden and cook and luckily has a husband who loves desserts!