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Why Kenny Doughty's Vera exit could have been the end of beloved ITV series

Brenda Blethyn almost didn't return to the detective series

Kenny Doughty as DS Aiden Healy and Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope in Vera Christmas special © Stuart Wood/ITV
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
January 4, 2024
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Vera makes its highly-anticipated return to ITV on Sunday night and while viewers will no doubt be over the moon to see Brenda Blethyn reprise her role as the titular DCI, the actress came close to departing the show for good at the end of the last season.

Ahead of the series 13 premiere, Brenda revealed that she "didn't want to do any more" episodes after Kenny Doughty announced his departure from the popular crime drama, but was persuaded to reprise the role after the show's producers secured David Leon's return

Brenda Blethyn as Vera Stanhope, Kenny Doughty as DS Aiden Healy in Vera© ITV/Shutterstock
Brenda Blethyn didn't want to return after Kenny Doughty's departure

David, who portrayed Joe Ashworth from series one to four, will return as Vera's trusty sidekick in the new episodes, taking over from Kenny, who has played DS Aiden Healy since 2014. 

Talking to ITV about David's comeback, Brenda explained: "After we filmed The Rising Tide at the end of 2022 I didn't want to do any more without Kenny Doughty, who had decided to leave. But I said, 'I'll think about it if you can see if David Leon is available to return as Joe Ashworth.' And so they did and here I am."

DAVID LEON as DI Joe Ashworth and BRENDA BLETHYN as DCI Vera Stanhope in Vera
© Stuart Wood/ITV
David Leon reprises his role as DI Joe Ashworth in series 13

She went on to reveal that she was "broken-hearted" when David first departed the show after season four and was "overjoyed" after learning the news of his return, adding that Vera and Joe's relationship "worked so well". 

Brenda went on to admit that she doesn't plan on filming "many more" series of the drama. "I wouldn't have continued if David had not agreed to come back," said the 77-year-old. "I just didn't want to start another board game with somebody else when I know I'm not going to do many more. And who would want to do it anyway?"

WATCH: Vera actress Brenda Blethyn talks long filming schedule for ITV show

Thankfully, David is returning and fans can look forward to seeing Joe and Vera team up to investigate the death of a young man following a car collision in the opening episodes.

Speaking about the circumstances surrounding his comeback, David explained that he "hadn't considered" returning to the show when one of the producers reached out. 

"It was something I hadn't really considered previously as being an option," said the actor. "Although it was a question, I had probably been asked by Vera fans and others every day since I left at the end of series four, with Joe last seen on screen in 2014.

Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope, David Leon as DI Joe Ashworth in Vera series 13 © Stuart Wood/ITV
Vera and Joe investigate the death of a young man in series 13, episode one

"It felt like there was some unfinished business there," he continued, adding: "So it was a nice opportunity to come back and, to some extent, tie up some loose ends."

MORE: Vera star Brenda Blethyn reveals 35-year engagement - and why she finally married

So, what can we expect from the new episodes? 

Since the show is based on Ann Cleeves's best-selling novel series, we can expect the investigations to be pulled from the books. 

In episode one, which is titled 'Fast Love', the Northumberland and City Police force are called upon to investigate the death of a young man following a car collision in a quiet country lane. 

Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope in Vera Christmas special 

© Stuart Wood/ITV
Brenda agreed to film more episodes after David returned to the show

As Vera and the team get to work, the DCI learns that the victim was a popular market trader whose antagonistic and arrogant ways may have come at a price. 

The synopsis teases: "Secrets. Lies. Betrayal. Fractious relationships and intense rivalries but who would want our barrow boy buried."

Vera series 13 airs on ITV on Sunday 7 January at 8pm.

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