JOANNA Vanderham has found the only clear space in her new house to talk to me. All around her are the boxes she and her partner have yet to unpack in their new home. All around her, but just out of sight.

That’s the advantage of Zoom, I say, you can edit your surroundings.

“And you can have a nosey,” the Scottish actor adds. “Did you see that BBC news thing where a woman had an adult toy just in the background?”

Vanderham points to a small shelf above her head. “So, this shelf here is going to be the adult toy shelf.

“They do say actors should have a secret. Going into a scene they say, ‘You should have that thing that gives you a glint in your eye.’ Maybe that will be mine.”

Quite the introduction. But if you need more, Joanna Vanderham is 31, and has been on our screens since she was a teenager. She was still at drama school when she made her debut in a TV adaptation of Martina Cole’s The Runaway (winning an Emmy nomination for her efforts) which aired in 2011. A year later she was the star of the BBC costume drama The Paradise. Of late she’s been seen in HBO Max’s martial arts drama Warrior and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

As well as busy, she’s funny, smart, talented. Frankly, I suspect the glint in her eye is locked in.

The Herald: Joanna Vanderham: Photographer: Aldo Filiberto Styling: Patricia Machado Hair: Ashley Cockrell Makeup: Jana Reininger. Joanna Vanderham wears White Shirt by Bite, Skirt by A.W.A.K.E., Socks by Simone Rocha, Shoes by Vagabond, Earrings by Hillier Bartley Joanna Vanderham: Photographer: Aldo Filiberto Styling: Patricia Machado Hair: Ashley Cockrell Makeup: Jana Reininger. Joanna Vanderham wears White Shirt by Bite, Skirt by A.W.A.K.E., Socks by Simone Rocha, Shoes by Vagabond, Earrings by Hillier Bartley

Originally from Scone in Perthshire, she now lives in the middle of a “vegan village” in Hackney, four streets away from her last address. She only got the keys at the end of October, so there is work to be done.

“It needs a bit of paint,” she says, looking around her. “I’ve realised with decorating I just want to take my time with it. It’s not top of my list to get the paint rollers out. It’s been a long year.”

Most of it Vanderham spent working in Glasgow. She has recently wrapped an upcoming BBC drama Control Room, which sees her play opposite Iain De Caestecker. She filmed that straight after finishing the long-awaited BritBox crime drama Crime (filmed in both Glasgow and Edinburgh) based on Irvine Welsh’s novel and written by the author.

Vanderham plays DS Amanda Drummond (“an obsequious woke liberal” according to fellow officer Dougie Gillman played by Jamie Sives), who teams up with DI Lennox (Dougray Scott, no less) to track down a child murderer. Support comes from a cast that also includes Ken Stott and Angela Griffin.

To be honest, I tell her, watching the first episode it took me a while to spot her. I was looking for long blonde hair. But she’s short-haired and brown in Crime.

“It’s a fun, different look for me,” she says, “and I think it lent itself to a slightly more serious performance. Not exactly fading into the background, but definitely giving myself space to watch.

“I feel like when you’re blonde you’re often being watched. But when you’ve got brown hair, you’re able to be one of the spectators and that is so useful for Drummond.”

Scabrously funny as you might expect, Crime may also be one of the most successful translations of Welsh’s hooligan energy and deep empathy to the screen. Scott gives his all in the central role and Vanderham becomes more and more visible as the drama progresses.

“While we were filming Irvine actually said, ‘I’ve written a couple of extra scenes for you because I’ve been seeing your work coming in and I wanted to give you something really juicy to do.’”

The Herald: The cast of CrimeThe cast of Crime

Welsh, she says, is the reason she wanted to be involved. “He’s iconic,” she says. “We were watching Trainspotting in drama school. And to get the opportunity to be on one of his shows … I had high expectations for it. And he doesn’t disappoint. His juxtaposition of the serious and the hilarious and the gross … It’s humanity and its Scottish humanity, so what was quite exciting for me was, ‘How do I fit into this?’”

Vanderham fits in very well, it should be said. What was the line in the script that you were most looking forward to saying, I ask her?

“It was the one to Dougie Gillman. ‘Has anyone told you how repulsive that mole on your chin is, and how perfectly it goes with the rest of you?’

“That is such an Irvine-ism, the fact that he can put so much depth in an insult. That’s not just a surface thing. That basically insulted every fibre of his being in one line.”

Just before we speak, I tell her, I’d just watched her being headbutted on the show.

“Which was so much fun to film. I said, ‘There’s got to be a way that we can have blood dripping.’ So, I had this sponge that was full of blood, and it was up my nose.

“Afterwards, we’re standing outside and I’m doing the scene where I had the icepack and I’m holding it on where I had been hit on the face and Dougray takes the ice pack and says, ‘No darling, up here. They want to see your face.’”

Vanderham says she wanted to play Drummond “as much like myself as possible.” So, let’s put that to the test by asking her Drummond-related questions.

Joanna, I say, are you attracted to a French accent?

“Yeah, I think so, probably,” she says laughing.

I do love a Geordie accent, I tell her. In turn, she admits to liking an Irish accent. Well, naturally, the Northern Irish part of me thinks.

“The Republic,” she qualifies. Ah well. “The classic. I can never do it which is part of the appeal. It’s almost too close to mine.”

The Herald: Black dress by Bite Tulle shirt by Simone Rocha Earrings by Hillier BartleyBlack dress by Bite Tulle shirt by Simone Rocha Earrings by Hillier Bartley

Have you ever had therapy?

“I have. That scene was one of the new additions and I read it and I was like, ‘Did we talk about this?’

“I think therapy is brilliant and I think everyone should go. I was like 23 or something and an actor I had worked with said, ‘Jo, I think you should think about therapy.’ And I was like, ‘No, I’m fine.

“And then three years later I went, and I thought, ‘He was absolutely right. I wish I had done this sooner.’

“Now I really advocate for everyone to go if possible. I don’t think anyone is perfect.”

Finally, have you ever been headbutted? “No. I think the closest I’ve been to being in a fight was I was filming The Paradise and I was very drunk, and I don’t even remember what was said but some woman walked past, and my friend had to guide us away because we had somehow upset her. To this day I still don’t know what we did.”

With all her combat training she would be handy, surely. Vanderham’s not sure. “In stage combat you have to see it coming. They always tell you when you throw a punch in real life you go like that …” She illustrates. ‘It’s short and sharp. But when you throw it for the camera it’s big and wide. So, I think they’d see it coming and stop my fist in mid-air.”

What is the weirdest thing you have to do as an actor, I ask her at one point, the thing that if you stand back and look you think, is that really part of my job?

“The weirdest thing is sex scenes. No one else has to go through that at their work.”

I first met Vanderham at the Edinburgh International Festival eight years ago. Even then in her early twenties she had been in a Hollywood movie (What Masie Knew), The Paradise and worked with Stephen Poliakoff in his BBC drama Dancing on the Edge. She’s been busy ever since on stage and on screen. Has she ever been on the dole?

“No. But I’ve had to learn to fill my time when I’m not filming. I’ve started writing and producing and I’m getting more involved in how stuff is made and its interesting because it makes you much more humble as an actor. You realise what stage you join the project. And it’s basically right at the end.

“This whole thing,” she says of Crime, “has been a juggernaut and it’s been championed by the writers and producers whose heart and soul has gone into it and right at the end the actor comes along and gets all the attention. We really are just a cog in the machine”

Joanna Vanderham grew up in Scone in Perthshire. When she’s back in Scotland it is still the first place she goes to. “Going for a walk in my village makes me feel ‘home home’. And now I’ve got my dog, so she often comes with me. I take her on adventures around the village.”

When she’s allowed, that is. “Most of the time it’s helping my mum. I’m the sibling that left and so when I come home it’s my turn to do the jobs, helping clean out the spare room or something.”

She spent most of last year’s lockdown in Scone. “I helped my mum with the charity she set up called Masks for Scotland. We spent most of our time fundraising and distributing PPE.”

Her mum Jill Belch is Professor of Vascular Medicine at Ninewells in Dundee. Her Dutch businessman dad Tom was a travel agent when she was growing up, one of four children.

When she told her parents she wanted to be an actor they in favour? “My mum initially said, ‘You should go to uni first and try and get a degree, have something to fall back on.’”

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Instead, Vanderham applied for drama school and got in at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

“In my first year I was at my dad’s. I think it was Christmas. And I heard him in the living room talking with my brother and sister who both went to uni and are doctors, and he said, ‘Look, we’re going to have to set up a bank account for Jo so if she’s ever waiting tables, we can help her in this.’

“I’d overheard this little magical gift of support from all of them really early on and then I got The Runaway and I’ve been working ever since.”

Her mum once told her that if you hadn’t made it by 28 she needed to do something else. What might that something else have been, I ask her?

“I think it would probably have been psychology, I think that’s partly why I’m an actor. I find humans very, very interesting. That’s one of the things that got me through … Let’s describe them as the interesting things that have happened in the last five years.

“Like when Brexit happened. Choosing to try and understand why people voted the way they voted rather than just feel my emotion about it was quite a helpful process.

“It helps to have a basic understanding of it when you’re creating characters and working on scripts. I think I could do that and be happy.

“But this is another thing I’ve learnt during lockdown. So much of my sense of being is tied up with the fact that I’m an actor. And then for months you’re not allowed, and I was going, ‘Well what am I? Who am I? I’m definitely not an essential worker.'”

As a kid she’d visit her relations in Holland and they’d come to Scotland to visit, so maybe it’s understandable that she has found Brexit hard to comprehend.

I ask her did she feel European growing up. “I don’t know if you can feel European. I feel Scottish, but I live in London. I wish borders didn’t exist. Is that a big hippy thing to say?

“I think nationalism is a bit nonsensical. I think it’s bred in people so they will go and fight wars that don’t need to exist.”

What is the most Scottish thing about you, Joanna? “I’m a dreadful Scottish person because I can’t handle the cold and I’m now vegan, so I don’t eat proper haggis.” She pauses, thinks. “I can ceilidh dance really well.

We talk for a moment about the things she hasn’t done. “I want to do Hedda Gabbler. There are a couple of things that I’m working on myself because they don’t exist, and I want them to. They’re exploring not just women but the state of humanity at the moment and how we interact with each other and it’s very exciting.”

Irvine Welsh writes about masculinity and in many ways that’s what Crime is about. Here’s a nice, easy question, Joanna. What is wrong with men?

“I think what’s wrong with men is that they aren’t given room to cry. I think they need to be shown how to live in the world as it becomes a more equal place because if we forget to do that and we just demand that there is space made for those who have been in the minority it will breed resentment and it just won’t work.

“I don’t think it’s that there is anything wrong with men. I think it’s that there is something fundamentally wrong with the society we live in.”

Joanna Vanderham says her acting hero is Kate Winslet, that she doesn’t like lying politicians and that she can’t sing (she had to have cognitive behavioural therapy when she was cast in Othello to allow her to get through it). She can sleep nine hours a night if she’s allowed and she has a new house to decorate.

I leave her to unpack, surrounded by boxes but clearly not boxed in.

Crime is available exclusively on BritBox now