Katherine MacAlister talks to Angela Griffin about life before, during and after Lewis

Angela Griffin was only supposed to appear in one episode of Lewis and then die in a bungled police investigation at the hands of a deranged murderer.

But such was her screen persona and charisma, that the Lewis script writers saved Det Sgt Lizzie Maddox right until the bitter end.

Sadly, just as we were getting used to her, Lewis then ended permanently after nine series, meaning Oxford’s landmarks and its incessantly high murder rate are no longer gracing our TV screens.

Angela moved on, alongside Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox to pastures greener. But with the entire Lewis series being launched on DVD for Christmas, we managed to catch up with her to find out if the popular actress misses Oxford.

“In every sense,” she says mournfully. But having just bought a cottage in North Oxfordshire, you may be seeing more of her than you think. “I fell in love with Oxfordshire while we were filming Lewis, and wanted to stay in the area, so now I spend far too much time at Soho Farmhouse in Great Tew,” she admits.

“I absolutely love it there and have girlie weekends away with Amanda (Holden) and Sarah (Parish). So now our family spends every weekend in the Cotswolds, and weekdays in London where the children are at school. So we do get the best of both worlds, which I feel guilty about.”

Why? “You sound like my mum,” the 39-year-old bursts out laughing. “She’s always saying: ‘you worked hard for it so enjoy it’.”

Angela has been working hard since first appearing on our screens in Emmerdale aged 16, with long-running parts in Coronation Street, Holby City, Cutting It, Waking the Dead and Waterloo Road, so was Lewis an easy transition?

“They were all so welcoming – professional, lovely and funny. I made some very good friends, but then Lewis is like an institution. So I was over the moon when they decided to keep me and I had a fantastic time for two amazing years.

Did she have an idea of who DS Lizzie Maddox was when she took on the role? “She wasn’t as feisty as some of the characters I’ve played, I’m not nearly that calm in real life,” Angela laughs. “DS Maddox was so tenacious and diligent, even if most of her work was thankless – I had to work hard for that not to irritate me – because she doesn’t mind, she just rises above it and gets on with her job. But she also had a saucy side.”

Lewis was ITVs biggest global ITV export until Downton came along, broadcast in 270 different territories. “It’s absolutely massive, but I’ve been so busy working I don’t know whether I’ll be recognised in Japan or not,” she smiles.

Famously down-to-earth, Angela is refreshingly candid about life in the fast lane. Last time we spoke she had just experienced the longest hiatus of her acting career, a year-long stint after having her second daughter, and wondered if she would work again. Instead she branched into theatre, namely One Man Two Guvnors and then the comedy Breeders with Tamzin Outhwaite, to rapturous reviews, after which came Lewis.

And what tickles her fancy the most? “Being on stage,” she says instantly. “It gives me such a buzz. I absolutely love TV but it doesn’t scare me in the same way and I love that fear – not on opening night of course when I’m stood in the wings and asking ‘why am I here? Why do I put myself through this?”

  • Laurence Fox, Kevin Whately and Angela Griffin in Lewis

“I always feel as if I’m having a heart attack and then I get out there and think ‘this is why’. It’s like bungee jumping or jumping out of planes. It’s total immersion and pure adrenaline. So I couldn’t do anything else,” she explains, “and that’s exactly why I went into acting in the first place, to tell someone else’s story.”

Juggling work with a busy home life, Angela adds: “My daughters are old enough now to understand what I do when I go to work, and that I love my job and couldn’t be without it. So I never moan about working because, as an actor, you want to be busy.”

As for the future, Angela’s got plans in New York, a TV part on the backburner and talks with theatrical agents, all very cloak and dagger, but knowing Angela we won’t be able to part with her for long.

Weekend has got a set of the Lewis Series 1-9 boxset and Lewis Series 9 DVD to give away. To win, answer this question: Who plays DS James Hathaway? Send your answers to macky@nqo.com with your name, address and contact number by December 17. Normal Newsquest rules apply.