Kay Mellor has always put women centre stage.
“That’s where they belong, in my world,” says the acclaimed, Bafta-winning writer of Band Of Gold, Playing The Field and Fat Friends.
“My mother was such a strong influence, and my aunties. There are a million and one things that women have to do, whereas men are more single-minded.”
But it’s not always been easy to forge ahead with female-focused series, she admits: “Sometimes I’ve had situations where I’ve had to say to the casting director, ‘He is her husband. She’s the lead’.”
In The Club, her drama about pregnancy, birth and the changing nature of relationships that babies bring about, is another fine example of her efforts paying off.
The first series followed six very different couples who bonded in their local parentcraft class; each dealing with their own unique issues - from paternity fears to debt, divorce, and even death.
It was a ratings hit, and Leeds-born Mellor was soon asked to come up with ideas for a second run. She remembers the meeting she had with Polly Hill, the BBC’s controller of drama commissioning.
“She said it would be really nice to have a sense of a new series, rather than a retuning one, so I said, ‘What about some new characters?’,” reveals Mellor, who turns 65 next month. “I think she would’ve been happy with one new character, but I decided to have four.”
The new faces are pregnant surrogate Shelly (Gemma Dobson), who’s rented out her womb to gay couple Andrew (Andrew Buckley) and Nathan (Paul Nicholls), believing it’s the perfect way to make some easy money, but her mum Maxine (Sandra Huggett) isn’t so sure.
“This is something that’s happening more and more, and it’s interesting because there are emotions, there are insecurities,” remarks Mellor. “Can you let a child go if you’ve given birth? What does that do to you? What rights do the men have who’ve provided the sperm? What legal status do they have? It’s a whole new area to mine for me. I found it fascinating exploring those themes.”
Mellor has admitted she has a soft spot for schoolgirl Rosie, played by Hannah Midgley, because she was a young mum herself - and “against all odds, we stuck together”.
“Rosie’s still with Jude [Danny Breeze] and they’ve moved back into her dad’s flat,” explains Midgley, 22, who’s also appeared in Emmerdale. “She’s found it really difficult, harder than she thought, but she’s got her family unit and that’s important to her, and she still has the support of Kim.”
The actress believes it’s an important storyline. “There are so many girls out there who, at 15, have fallen pregnant and not known what to do. It’s a terrifying situation for them to be in, so it’s important to portray it sensitively.”
In The Club returns to BBC One on Tuesday, May 3