Right from its opening scene – where a suspect is chased under a bus and his head squashed like a jam doughnut – No Offence marked itself out as a gripping cop show like no other. The brainchild of Shameless’ Paul Abbott, it smashes together lightning-paced police drama with dark comedy and lashings of soap opera. At the centre is impulsive detective constable Dinah Kowalska, played by Elaine Cassidy, who we caught up with on the phone ahead of the second series beginning tonight (January 4th) on Channel 4. Key to No Offence’s success, she told us, was the Paul Abbott factor.

“It is like when you really like a band and you are waiting for their next album,” she said. “No Offence felt like his next album after Shameless, even though he has written films and stuff since. Paul’s writing is unique. It is just about three degrees left of reality.”

Another draw for Cassidy was the chance to do something different after two series of The Paradise followed by Brian Friel’s Fathers and Sons at the Donmar.

“It was the same era and I thought ‘bloody hell, I’m going to get stuck in a corset’. I am always looking for something that is different to what I have just played. I want to keep getting better and be challenged.”

Cassidy’s work in series one earned her an Irish Film and Television Academy award nomination – and what’s extra impressive is that she did it on one leg.

“I had a severe injury in filming and couldn’t walk,” she revealed. “That was very frustrating because I found myself in scenes leaning on things. I knew that wasn’t Dinah’s body language but there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t walk on my ankle.”

Elaine Cassidy

Now healed, Cassidy said the shackles were off when it came to the second series. “Year two it surprised me how physical she was. This time I really felt the full force of it because I was able bodied. She really feels everything. When she is feeling something emotionally it really goes into every orifice in her body. It is lovely when you get surprised by a character or when they take you somewhere you hadn’t expected.”

And a full-on performance is not all we can expect from the second series when it kicks off in January. A batch of new actors have refreshed the cast, including Sarah Solemani’s new DCI and Rakie Ayola’s gang boss Nora Attah.

It is the latter whose presence drives the series, as well as some inevitable repercussions from the firecracker climax of the first (which we won’t spoil for anyone yet to catch up).

“She will be prominent to the series,” said Cassidy. “It’s a kind of cat-and-mouse trying to get her. It is not about what happened at the end of series one but it does crop up every now and then – because it was kind of a big thing that happened.”

Cassidy admits making No Offence was difficult but she was in no doubt about returning. And while the Irish-born actress is used to not working in her own accent, there was an added pressure of mastering the one spoken by the in-laws.

“I rarely work in my own accent, so that doesn’t faze me. But obviously this one was different because when D-Day comes 50 per cent of my family are sat there judging it.”

She even went as far as hiding her developing accent from her husband, Salford actor Stephen Lord, but she got the seal off approval she needed on a phone call from her brother-in-law halfway through the series airing.

“He’s not one to give compliments willy-nilly, but if he gives you a compliment he really means it,” she said. “We were having a little chat and he said ‘you’re accent, it’s pretty good. I believed you’re from Manchester.’ I just thought ‘Oh my god, that’s like an Oscar’.”

Cassidy chatted to us on the phone from Ireland where she is filming a joint Canadian/Irish production drama called Acceptable Risk, set in the high stakes world of big pharmaceutical companies.

She said: “It’s kind of like maybe the Bourne Identity meets the West Wing. It’s a very smart six-parter. The plot is so solid, the dialogue is so smart. It is quite sophisticated and the discussions that it opens up are very much of the now, so it is a good time to be be doing it.”

Filming has already completed on her next big screen project too, Strangeways Here We Come. While it shares a name with a Smiths album, Cassidy explained it has nothing to do with the band but was an equally homegrown Manchester project. Written and directed by first-timer Chris Green, it co-stars Michelle Keegan, Lauren Socha (Misfits) and her husband Lord, who also co-produces.

“Terry Christian curated the music and he went on the hunt for all unsigned bands who were Salford-based. It was made with local money, it was shot in the flats. It is a very authentic, funny film.”

Strangeways Here We Come unites Cassidy with her husband on screen for the first time since 2009’s Dr Hoo. But it wasn’t as strange being on set with her other half as it could have been.

“It seems like we work together all the time. When you have got scripts to read it is quite nice having someone else in the industry to share an opinion. We work together on a daily basis, we have our own family – that’s bigger than any production when you have got kids.”

No Offence starts tonight at 9pm on Channel 4

This interview was conducted by Jim Palmer on behalf of HeyUGuys