There’s just no stopping Ruth Jones.
She’d been plugging away as an actress for a number of years, but pairing up with James Corden to write Gavin And Stacey, the multi-award-winning show that gave birth to phrases like ‘What’s occurring?’ and ‘Tidy’, proved a pivotal point, rebranding Jones as one of the most talented comedy-drama writers on the scene and making her a household name.
The writer and actress went on to create Welsh comedy drama, Stella, which returns for a third series this month.
She’s not the only female writer doing well on the box - Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate, Sally Wainwright’s The Last Tango In Halifax and Jessica Knappett’s Drifters all prove that women are finally having their voices heard.
Just don’t ask Jones about it.
“I get a bit wary when people ask me about women writers,” she says. “People think I’m going to come up with some great feminist statement and I’m not.”
It was actually Mellor – the creative talent behind shows including Band Of Gold, Playing The Field, A Passionate Woman – who gave Jones her first writing break, back when she played Kelly in Mellor’s show Fat Friends between 2000 and 2005 (Corden was also in the series, which is how the pair met).
The Welsh star, who today looks chic in a black and white dress, showed Mellor a script she’d written.
“It must have been terrible,” she says, looking back.
That wasn’t the case, of course. Mellor offered Jones the chance to write an episode of Fat Friends and later, an episode of The Chase.
“I emailed her the other day actually,” says Jones, 47. “I said: ‘I just want you to know that I’m really grateful to you for what you did’.
“With someone as successful as she is, she didn’t have to give it away, but she did.”
She might now be a big success in her own right, but she still has moments of jealousy.
“I was watching The Last Tango In Halifax the other day. I wish I’d written that,” she says. “I don’t think that often, but that’s the area I enjoy writing – character-led comedy drama.”
Jones is queen of characters, from Gavin And Stacey’s Ness and Uncle Bryn to Stella’s Alan Williams and Paula Kosh.
She’s always been interested in people, she says.
“I know this might sound boring, but I watched a series called Cathedrals on BBC Four.
“There were some interviews that were fascinating,” she says.
“You can make assumptions about people by the way they look and then they’ll come out with something that’s really moving. I just think people are intriguing.
“The number of times I watch a documentary and go, ‘People are amazing aren’t they?’ Because they are.”
She’s said in the past that the Welsh valleys are particularly full of characters.
“If I have said that, I probably miscommunicated it,” she says now.
“But what I love, being Welsh myself, South Wales in particular, is that there’s a sense of latching onto the melodrama of situations. The accent lends itself well to great big reactions.”
No one does big reactions better than Stella’s eccentric relative, Auntie Brenda (Di Botcher).
Jones isn’t sure she’d want to be friends with Brenda in real life: “She would drive you insane, but on the other hand, she’s someone you’d want on your side.”
In general, though, she and her husband David Peet, who she co-created Stella with, have a soft spot for their characters.
“I love them all,” she says. “David and I often say it feels like they really exist.”
And in a way – they do. The locals who live on the street where Stella’s shot are very much a part of the show. In fact, when the series was nominated for the British Academy Cymru Awards recently (the Welsh Baftas – it picked up three gongs), Peet organised for the residents of the street to attend the evening.
“It’s just as much their show really,” says Jones.
Belinda – the woman who lives in Stella’s house – is a nurse, and in the new series, so is Stella.
“We wanted to give Stella a bit of a fresh start. Now the kids are older, she’s decided to go into nursing and she absolutely loves it.”
Hospitals present ample opportunity for black comedy, something that the show, which features an alcoholic funeral director, specialises in.
“We’ve got a new character who’s a nursing tutor. We have to apologise in advance to all real nurses though,” says Jones, “because it doesn’t resemble proper nursing training in any shape or form. We took complete comic license to do what we wanted.”
Stella’s not the only one going on a journey in series three.
Eldest son Luke is having a baby with Zoe, daughter Emma has become a hairdresser, youngest son Ben has transformed into a grumpy teenager and Alan finally finds a bit of happiness.
On top of that, having sworn men off for good, Stella gets a new neighbour - Michael Jackson, played by Patrick Baladi of The Office fame, who causes quite a stir.
There are also a few moments inspired from Jones’s own life, including an incident involving an apple.
It was inspired by an argument Jones had with Corden.
“We were writing at my house - he was eating an apple and he put the stump in my neighbour’s bin,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘What are you doing?’
“And he said, ‘It’s just a bin’. But it was my next door neighbour’s bin, and we had this big debate.”
Stella aside, Jones is now focusing on her and Peet’s company, Tidy Productions, and is looking for a new show.
“Something that isn’t a Ruth Jones project,” she says.
“It’s been amazing to have Stella, but all of our energy has gone into it and we need to think about life after Stella.”