I Think We're a Great Team; after the Huge Success of Gavin & Stacey, Ruth Jones Has Devised a Far More Gentle Comedy Drama, Which Is Produced by the TV Company She Runs with Her Husband. as the Countdown Begins to the First Episode of Stella, Karen Price Meets the Couple
If you were responsible for creating one of the most popular TV characters of modern times, chances are you'd be tempted to follow your tried and trusted format - or lock yourself away and not even think about replicating your success.
But as well as developing a new series, Ruth Jones has ensured that her latest heroine is a complete contrast to Gavin & Stacey's brash, leather-clad Nessa.
Stella - which is also the title of the comedy drama for Sky 1 - is a single 40-something mother of three who faces daily battles as she raises her children in the South Wales Valleys.
"If you make something successful like Gavin & Stacey do you then say: 'I'd better not make anything else because it might not be as good and then feel I've failed?'" says Ruth, who co-created the award-winning sitcom with her friend James Corden.
"You can't live like that. It's exciting to try something new."
Her latest character has also allowed the versatile actress to show yet another different side to her - physically as well as emotionally.
"Stella's kids are her priority and therefore her appearance isn't a priority," she says when I meet her at her Cardiff home.
"She doesn't have a lot of money or inclination so she lives in rugby shirts with no make-up and her hair in a ponytail.
"I wanted to look different from my other characters so I went for blonde with very serious root problems," she laughs.
In real life, it's hard to spot a glimmer of either character in Ruth, who's sitting on her sofa with her long dark locks pinned back and wearing little - if any - make-up.
Smiling constantly, she's warm and friendly and, unlike Nessa or Stella, she also has a solid relationship. In fact, Ruth and her husband, David Peet, run Cardiff-based Tidy Productions together. While they are responsible for a number of radio and TV projects, Stella is their biggest commission to date.
"David produced the first thing for TV I did (the sketch show Throw Another Log On The Cottage) and it just seemed like the obvious thing to do," says Porthcawl-raised Ruth on setting up the company three years ago.
"I realised that because of Gavin & Stacey, work was going to change and I could potentially be going off to places so we thought: 'Why not work for ourselves and make our own shows?'" David, who's sitting beside his wife, adds: "It enabled us to work together and have more creative control and encourage new talent as a company."
One of the first projects from Tidy Productions was Sunday Brunch - a two-hour show for 12 weeks on BBC Radio Wales which was presented by Ruth.
The star of Fat Friends, The Street and Tess of the d'Urbervilles developed her interviewing skills and even quizzed BBC Radio 4 Today host John Humphrys, who's renowned for his tough line of questioning.
"It was a really good learning curve for me as I learned about presenting," admits Ruth, who's since gone on to host her own TV seasonal chat shows, including Ruth Jones' Christmas Cracker, which was on BBC Two last week.
She even hosted one edition of Sunday Brunch live from Las Vegas after flying to the city in the Nevada desert to film a Comic Relief video with Tom Jones and Rob Brydon for the single Islands In The Stream.
"David found us a radio studio in the middle of nowhere and because of the time difference we had to get up in the middle of the night and drive to the studio," she recalls.
There was also an outdoor broadcast in Barry, the town now famous as one of the locations for Gavin & Stacey.
"There were about 1,000 people standing there watching a radio programme!" she laughs.
"Robert Plant was one of the guests and so was James Corden and we announced there would be another series of Gavin & Stacey."
David admits the radio series was the perfect start for Tidy Productions. …