What's Occurring? Stella, That's What; Ruth Jones Has Lost Weight and Written a Mammoth New Series in Which She Stars. Susan Griffin Finds out Why It's High Time She Stepped out from the Shadow of Gavin &Stacey

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Byline: Susan Griffin

RUTH JONES can't help chuckling to herself as she recalls casting the handsome object of her affections for her new comedy drama series Stella.

"I phoned Kenny Doughty, who plays Sean. Everything was fine and I was explaining the story of Stella, how they would meet and then said: 'I think Stella and Sean will finally kiss...' and the line just went dead," laughs Jones, who plays the title role.

"I was literally like, 'Oh my God'. I rang him back and said, 'I hope the prospect of kissing me hasn't put you off the job'!" It hadn't, of course, as viewers of the new 10-part series can see for themselves.

Set in the fictional town of Pontyberry in the south Wales valleys, the show revolves around Stella, a 40-something divorcee with three kids and an ironing business and an array of eccentric friends and family who populate her life.

Written by Ruth, who co-created and starred in the award-winning comedy Gavin & Stacey with James Corden, Stella is a heart-warming and entertaining look at everyday life.

She developed the concept with her husband David, with whom she runs Tidy Productions (a nifty play on the catchphrase made famous by her Gavin & Stacey alter-ego Nessa).

"We knew we wanted it to be a character-driven piece, some of whom would be a bit more extreme than others," explains 45-year-old Ruth who looks incredible in simple jeans and a blue T-shirt after her recent dramatic weight loss. Naturally attractive, she boasts a creamy complexion and bright blue eyes. Her dark hair's pulled into a ponytail and there's little trace of make-up. In short, she's a far cry from Nessa, who used to spill out of too-tight clothes and always had a heavily painted face.

"I wanted to play a mother and really liked the idea of a person who could've taken a different route," says Ruth.

"Everyone's got turning points in their life. With Stella, we wanted somebody whose life was mapped out. She was in love, she was going to do this course and then she got pregnant.

"That must happen to a lot of women and if they decide to go ahead, it's obviously going to change their life, especially at a young age."

Ruth, who doesn't have any children, felt it was important Stella wasn't disappointed with her lot.

"That's what I think is lovely about Stella - she's a real lioness of a mother," says Ruth. …