WATCH: The countdown is on - sneak peak of Happy Valley 2

When Happy Valley hit our screens in 2014, it was nothing short of a real television “moment”, featuring jaw dropping, gripping, edge of the seat scenes which drew millions of viewers each week.

Viewers were hooked as stories of kidnap, blackmail and murder unfurled against the backdrop of iconic Calderdale landmarks.

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood

The first series told the story of troubled police officer Catherine Cawood, bringing up her grandson after her daughter killed herself.

Catherine’s grandson is the product of a rape committed by the villainous Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), who begins the second series in prison after being convicted of three murders.

Sarah Lancashire received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Catherine and her life in the not-so happy valley, but it’s not the first time she has filmed in Calderdale. She plays Caroline Dawson in the lighter Last Tango in Halifax, also penned by Sally Wainwright.

Sarah admits that there was a sense of trepidation when the show was renewed, because the first season was such a hit.

Speaking during filming of the second series, which airs on February 9, she said: “You think, we appear to have got it right, the first series seems to have got it right, it resonated with a lot of people.

“It seems to have received great success, critical success, success with viewers. Because it had that amount of critical acclaim across the board, really, your gut reaction is to leave it alone and not do any more with it because invariably you are trying to equalise it, and you don’t have to top it. The attempt is to just equalise the first series. I didn’t really know how it was possible to do that.

“When we shot the first piece I had no idea, at that stage, that viewers would be sitting on the edge of their seats.

“So I thought, hopefully, people will appreciate it for its great writing and I think the cinematography was absolutely brilliant. I just thought, hopefully people will enjoy this and it will receive some acclaim and notoriety.

“But I was not prepared for the amount of attention it drew to the piece, I wasn’t prepared for: Is it too violent? Is it too gratuitous?

“And people screaming at the television, as they tell me they were. I wasn’t prepared for any of that at all.”

When it first aired, the show was met with some criticism of its graphic depictions of violence. One scene showed Catherine being savagely beaten, and in another a policewoman was killed after being repeatedly run over with a car.

It’s a view she instantly dismisses - the show portrays a realistic view of what life is like for those in the force, she says.

“I don’t think the violence was gratuitous, I thought it was rather brilliantly shot and in actual fact you hardly saw anything. It was just really great direction, very clever photography,” she said.

“The brutality of the fight is what you heard, it wasn’t what you saw. I think it’s certainly police life, it happens to policewomen and policemen.

“I think had that piece of violence been aimed towards a policeman, then we certainly wouldn’t have had the amount of reaction to it that we had. It’s just that it was a policewoman.

“But it happens to policewomen too, I didn’t think it was salacious in any shape or form and I didn’t find any of the piece gratuitous.

“In keeping with the story that we’re telling, aspects of the second series are violent. I don’t think for one second think they would be titillating or gratuitous.”

As series two opens, we join no-nonsense Catherine once again and delve deeper into her world.

It’s a character that Sarah says stays with her for “24 hours a day” while filming.

“It’s emotionally consuming, but I rather enjoy that aspect of it,” she said.

“I have an admiration for her, I like her. I like how she is, I like this noble sense of justice, I really do admire that.

“I love the way that Sally creates that. She does it unapologetically and there are aspects to Catherine’s character that are not attractive aspects.

“She’s never afraid for characters not to be liked and that also appeals to me - the fact that she may be a woman who has this exceptionally high moral code, but at the same time her own moral code is in question.

“She’s rather fascinating to play from that perspective.

“It starts with a terrific piece of storytelling and a terrific piece of writing.

“What I think is great about this part is that you have a middle aged character who is not in contention with any other male character. It’s just taken as read that she can do her job very well.

“This is what Sally has created rather brilliantly. She has just placed this woman, in these circumstances, getting on with her life the best way she knows how. It’s unquestioning.”

Watch the photo slideshow to see scenes from the first episode of the second series.