Of course, it’s the wonderful Sheridan Smith.
When I set about Googling what Sheridan Smith has appeared in, which I knew was a lot, I was actually astounded by the length of time I was scrolling through her performance list. From her debut as Matilda in Dark Ages back in 1999 to the role that landed her centre stage as Emma in The Royle Family, Smith has been constantly working.
Personally I loved her most as Rudi in Gavin and Stacey, but maybe that’s because I still love the series as much now as I did then.
Best known for her acting prowess, it came as somewhat of a surprise that Smith is such an accomplished singer. She took to the stage in the musical version of Legally Blonde in 2009 and hasn’t looked back. Later Jeff Pope who wrote Cilla (Cilla Black story) said;
So when Pope wrote Cilla, he had Smith in mind. “It liberates you because there’s nothing I knew I couldn’t throw at her,” he says, though he admits he was unsure if she could manage the singing convincingly. “[That] was the thing that was scaring me because I was thinking it could all fall apart. She went away and spent six months working on her voice, in between other jobs, and it was just … like everything else, she’s just a complete natural. The single most interesting thing in watching her work is how instinctive it is.”
Smith is the recipient of two Laurence Olivier Awards, a British Academy Television Award, a National Television Award and a BPG Award, as well as two International Emmy Award nominations. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to drama. That’s not too shabby a list for someone who was used to playing “slappers and chavs” (her words).
Smith has always been open about problems in her personal life. She stopped drinking after a series of very public meltdowns and is all the better for it. She admits to suffering with anxiety, stage fright and to the struggles she faced during pregnancy and after the birth of her son. She is a strong advocate for speaking out about mental health and the stigma attached to it.
“When I’m working alongside someone like Dame Maggie Smith, I can’t help thinking ‘I don’t deserve to be here.’ You see these formally trained actors with scripts covered in writing, whereas mine will be covered in coffee stains and fag burns. I spend most of the time feeling like I’m totally blagging it.”
For whatever reason, the tabloids seem obsessed with Smith’s love life. Frankly, I’d say, that’s her private life and something I’m not comfortable delving into. For me, she is an actor, a dancer, a singer and a damn fine woman who seems grounded enough to be a friend, even though she hob-knobs with the biggest and best in her industry.
I’ve been so lucky with the people I’ve worked with, but I’m such a fan girl. When I moved to London at 16, I saw a man from a Dulux advert on the bus, and I asked for his autograph. I was so excited; you can imagine what I’m like now – I really need to control myself.
Michael Grandage, who directed Smith in his production last year of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, says: “She takes her relationship with her audience very seriously. Sometimes you meet actors who go ‘I’m not doing it for an audience, I’m doing it for me’. Sheridan feels a huge responsibility to the people who want to come and see her and she needs to deliver for them, and she wants to create new audiences for herself. She was probably the one who was more behind the access message – getting young people into the theatre – than virtually anybody.”
So for the hours of entertainment you have provided us, AION salutes you Sheridan Smith.