KAREN Dunbar has been finding her footing on the tricky streets of Shieldinch as part of her latest role.

The Scottish actress will be temporarily ditching her comedy roots to step into shoes of a jilted wife in a one-off episode of River City.

“I don’t know what you’ve been told, but I’m going to tell you something different”, she says about her latest character.

A synopsis describes Francesca Simpson, estranged wife of Pete Galloway (Andy Gray), as shrewd and calculating – but Karen is having none of it.

“I feel like I know her a bit better. I don’t know if she’s been painted as manipulative, but in her/my defence, she’s got good reason to be and I think the keen eye of the viewer will work that out.

“I’m interested to see what the viewers think – whether she’s justified or whether she’s at it, whether they sympathise or are angry at her. I can’t wait.”

The 46-year-old actress and comedienne who hails from Ayr, jumped at the chance to be involved in the show after hearing all about the character.

As if by fate, the filming schedule fitted into her busy diary, which has seen Karen split her time between writing her first play and performing Shakespeare in London.

Investigating the complicated inner workings of the Shieldinch residents including Francesca’s backstory with estranged husband Pete and Caitlin (Gayle Telfer Stevens) was first on Karen’s to-do list after being sent the script.

“Probably about 75 per cent of preparation is done in my cavernous mind”, she explains.

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“The rest is when you’re on set, in costume with the makeup on and when I can get what voice I’m looking for.

“Francesca’s voice is not too far from mine but it’s not a caricature or anything because it’s a drama.

“Preparing for a role I go a wee bit too far. I love investigating where they’ve come from and what their back story is.

“For me, Francesca had to be shrewd and calculating, she was put in a position.

“I think the majority of the viewers might come down on the understanding side of the shrewdness... I’m totally defending us here!”

Having just come back from working with The Donmar theatre company, Karen had her drama hat firmly on going in to production.

“The last character I was doing for a length of time was playing Casca in Julius Caesar.

“He’s one of the conspirators who makes the first stab at Caeser. That is a serious role, very far from comedy so it was a nice change.

“The only intensity at River City I felt was turning up and getting lost in the building.

“Andy and Gayle were in my scenes and sometimes we had to calm ourselves down from laughing or talking about some film we’d seen.

“If you’ve got a solid character, you’ve got something to anchor yourself to even with the nerves and I had that with Francesca.”

Karen has managed to capture the heart and humour of Glasgow through her roles in Chewin’ the Fat and the Karen Dunbar show.

The same authenticity of Glasgow and Glasgow culture, in all its different forms, is what drew her to River City.

“It’s completely authentic and it’s got some fantastic storylines that aren’t too far out there”, she says.

“It’s got some tough issues that it deals with and that is helpful for viewers that have been going through things, which I know they have been, so I’ve got a lot of respect for it in that way.

“The quality of the acting is great as well. I would love to go back in the future and let the viewers see more of Francesca and more of the non-shrewd side but for now I’m just too busy.”

Working in the city since the late 80s has allowed the much-loved comedienne to build up a strong group of friends, or “comrades”, in the industry.

It’s that sense of togetherness that Karen believes drives the Scottish entertainment industry and its successes.

“We’re aw there for each other.

“There’s a comradery. I seen people I worked with years ago during filming and it was absolutely lovely.

“Any job I’m going to in Scotland which has got people I’ve worked with before is always lovely and there’s always good ‘Bon ami’ about it.

“I feel so supported and that’s what I think is the essence of what we’ve got in Scottish entertainment.

“London is very similar except I’ve got to watch my pronunciation because no one understands me.”

Career highlights have been accomplished north and south of the border where she has built up a solid fanbase.

She cites her appearance in Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games opening ceremony as an experience which she is still struggling to process.

“There was one particular year I did Gay Pride and it was just one of the days where the sun was shining and the crowd were there.

“I’d worked in the gay scene for many years but it was when I was going to TV so I’d left all my jobs in the gay scene – it wasn’t like a goodbye but it was a touchstone.

“When I look back, I think what a day it was. They wouldn’t let me off the stage!

“River City, although it was just two weeks, it’s right up there in the top ten career highlights, it was great.

“It was a good enough challenge that it wasn’t brain busting but I like a bit of a stretch and I was stretched and supported.

“When we did the Shakespeare trilogy – Caeser, Henry IV and The Tempest – I just didn’t believe we could do the three plays in one day, but we did.

“I’m not really an emotional fish but I was greeting at the end of it with surprise and a mixture of emotions.”

As well as eagerly awaiting viewers reaction on the opinion-dividing Francesca, Karen is preparing for her first solo-written show to take to the Oran Mor stage.

Running from the October 23 to 28, #71 follows the story of 71-year-old Chrissy, who has invited two of her oldest friends over so she can make a big announcement which could tear the group apart. Karen’s character suffers from severe fibromyalgia and is housebound – a role which she admits was “challenging”.

“Writing the play is another thing. I thought I could write a play and that would be it, but oh, my god!

“It had be tweaked and changed and that was a real challenge.

“Medicinal marijuana comes into it which is controversial.

“But I like a wee bit of controversy, I like people to leave arguing.

“It’s been a challenge to be authentically a 70-year-old woman who is housebound, which doesn’t sound like a comedy.

“I’m interested to see how the Edinburgh crowd will take to it but to be honest I’ve worked in both cities and I don’t find them much different.

“I worked in the gay scene for seven years and I found both audiences great... but maybe because that was me.”