AFTER going through seven rocky years that would have seen the toughest star crumble, Sheridan Smith has vowed: “I had a bit of a moment – but now I’m back.”
While juggling her stage and screen career, the Cilla and Funny Girl actress had to cope with her father dying, then splitting from her partner Jamie Horn, a year after she gave birth to their son, Billy, now three.
Sheridan Smith reveal she’s gone through seven rocky years but is backCredit: Radio Times Christmas issue
The actress with Billy at Shirley Valentine curtain call in March this yearCredit: Getty
Sheridan, 42, went through the pregnancy and delivery in the middle of the Covid pandemic, and the 2020 lockdown meant she was denied much of the support a first-time mum would normally receive.
She said: “He came three weeks early. I was, didn’t know what I was doing. No nurses could come, or grandparents, so it was just me and Jamie and Billy.
“And in a way you get that special bond. There’s nobody saying, ‘I’ll take him, you have a rest’.
“I was confused at first, but it naturally comes, doesn’t it?”
The one thing Sheridan couldn’t do was rein in all her TV work, which is why in 2022 she seemed to be constantly on our screens, with roles in four dramas, Channel 5’s The Teacher, BBC One’s Four Lives, Sky One comedy Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything and ITV’s No Return.
Now, after fronting a hugely successful West End run of Shirley Valentine this year, she has made a gritty five-part thriller for Paramount+, The Castaways.
In the past, all-rounder Sheridan has even dabbled with game shows, as a judge in ITV singing contest Starstruck last year and fronting the 2021 BBC One dog grooming contest Pooch Perfect.
And while she was making shows in the midst of lockdown she still had to perform her mum duties.
She told Radio Times: “Everything had to be studio-based, with strict Covid rules.
“I was still feeding. I remember inter-viewing somebody on Pooch Perfect with two breast pumps under my top.”
But filming, particularly abroad, meant that juggling parenthood and being a partner to boyfriend Jamie, as well as being a famous face on TV, became increasingly stressful.
Sheridan, who has talked openly about her anxiety and panic attacks, learned a particularly painful lesson while making The Teacher in Hungary in 2021, when Covid was still causing huge disruption.
She said: “We were all meant to fly to Budapest, but Jamie tested positive. When he did come out with Billy, restrictions were so strict we couldn’t go outside.
“They were stuck in the flat so they went back, and I missed Billy so much I swore I’d never do it again.”
Then, in 2021, just a year after Billy was born, she had the added trauma of splitting from Jamie, an insurance broker, after three years together.
Only now has she emerged from the emotional ordeal and finds she can be philosophical about the split.
Sheridan — who last month posted selfies looking loved up with ex-boxer Dave “Rocky” Ryan — said: “It will always be amicable, and Billy is loved by two families.”
But she still has painful reminders of the past seven years, particularly the moment in 2016 when she lost beloved dad Colin to cancer.
She admits she had a meltdown after losing her father, who performed with her mum Marilyn as a country and western duo.
Sheridan unravelled at a time when she was firmly in the spotlight playing Fanny Brice in a West End production of Funny Girl, and that only made it all the more difficult.
The same year she says she nearly died after deciding to come off anti-anxiety medication.
At the time she was staying in a hotel for the TV Baftas, where she was up for a gong for her role in BBC One drama The C Word.
She said: “In my crazy mind I thought, ‘I don’t wanna be in rehab — I’ll do it myself’ so I went there and I just stopped my tablets.
“What I didn’t realise is that if you stop the tablets abruptly, you seizure. And to cut a long story short, I got seizures five times and got rushed into A&E.
“Weirdly, a friend of mine rang me and she came to the hotel. It’s a miracle she did. It was like someone was looking out for me.
“She’s the one who got me breathing again.”
Sheridan revealed that it was around that time that she started covering herself in tattoos — many a symbol of pain and loss.
It is something she now regrets, particularly as she had to strip off more for new drama The Castaways, which sees her character, Lori, struggling to survive after a plane crash in a remote, jungle-covered island in the Pacific.
She said: “Normally I can get away with cardigans or long-sleeve shirts, but wrecked on a tropical island?
“I had a call three hours before anyone else. I couldn’t use my usual make-up to cover them up, it had to be waterproof.
“So three people were dabbing away every day to cover it all.
“I’ve never regretted my tats so much. I’ll never have another one. Actors, just don’t do it! It’s the most ridiculous thing. I hope I’ve put Billy off tattoos for life.”
But Sheridan admitted The Castaways did help to turn her into the more in-control, svelte woman we see her as today, even if she had no idea just how making the show would challenge her.
She said: “It’s the most physical part I’ve ever done. Running up and down a beach, climbing trees to pick fruit, jumping off cliffs, going through jungle, falling over, cutting my legs, then they say, ‘Go again, a few times more’. I lost so much weight.”
And it soon turned out she may not have been the ideal choice for the role.
She continued: “I couldn’t swim. Once, when I was little, I went in the deep end and right under, so I’m scared of going out of my depth.
“I’m terrified of heights. And spiders. At one point during filming I lay on the ground with spiders, little scorpions, all sorts.
“Why would you take a job that’s got swimming and heights and a cliff edge and insects? Facing all my fears . . . ”
The five-part drama is based on author Lucy Clarke’s bestseller about a plane that disappears over the Pacific in a storm, with everyone on board thought to have perished.
Lori, her character in the drama — which has some seriously thrilling plot twists — is one of the few to survive the crash.
Her struggle to make it on the island is played out while her sister at home, Erin, played by Céline Buckens, struggles to find out what has happened to her sibling. Erin is guilt-ridden, as she was meant to be on the same doomed flight.
A bonus for Sheridan was not having to get glammed up for the role, which she has often had to do to play some of her best-known char-acters, including the late TV entertainment legend Cilla Black in 2014 and Elle Woods in her hit stage show Legally Blonde from 2009 to 2011.
She said: “It’s so much fun.wet, dirty, scratched, shorts or bits of clothing from the luggage in the plane, getting more and more wild as Lori goes from wallflower to beach warrior queen.
“That transition was such fun.”
And this time Sheridan didn’t have to face being apart from Billy, as she was allowed to have him at the set in Greece when they filmed The Castaways last June.
She said: “He had a ball — two nannies, rides on the crew’s quad bikes — and I could snuggle up with him at the end of every day.
“I don’t know what I’ll do when he goes to school. I’ll have to take work nearer home. But Mum and Dad were always gigging when we were kids and we had lots of babysitters.
“As long as you’re loved and fed and know Mummy’s coming back soon . . . ”
- The Castaways is on Paramount+ this month. The Radio Times is out this week.
Sheridan had to cope with her father dying, pictured above with her dad in 2011Credit: Rex Features
Sheridan as Lori in new drama The CastawaysCredit: THE CASTAWAYS 2023 © Clapperboard Studios/Paramount+/Photographer: Marq Riley