With her recent Bafta trophy, for the title role in Mrs Biggs, keeping her two Olivier awards company on the mantlepiece, Sheridan Smith is undoubtedly the British entertainment industry’s girl of the moment, with a solid reputation as one of the UK’s most versatile young actresses, successfully straddling television, film, serious stage work and musical theatre. But all of that hard work leaves very little time for the actress to play.
Sheridan’s romantic life has been rather less eventful of late, she reports. ‘I have been working so hard, I haven’t been on any dates for ages,’ she says, without self-pity. For two years, she dated her Gavin and Stacey co-star, James Corden, and she was briefly linked to Reg Traviss, Amy Winehouses’ ex, but she is now single and lives alone in London with her three dogs, one of whom is a pug called Barry Manilow. ‘I have been single for three years, and I‘ve been enjoying kissing the odd frog but I haven’t found my prince yet.’ She’s not in any hurry though, she says. ‘As soon as you hit 30, people start rushing you – they think you should be settling down, getting married and having babies. I feel like I’ve got plenty of time.’
In Dates, 31 year-old Sheridan, who first made her name in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Gavin and Stacey, makes a return to comedy, as Jenny, recently single and emotionally raw, dipping her toe into the murky waters of internet dating for the first time. She doesn’t have a great deal of luck, unfortunately, encountering a raft of prospective partners whose appeal dramatically dwindles as the increasingly horrifying dates draw on.
‘I think the sweet thing about Jenny is that even when alarm bells are ringing, she tries to stay positive, tries to think these guys might not be that weird,’ laughs Sheridan. ‘I would be out of the door at the first sign of lunacy.’
‘I have lots of mates who have done it, and one friend who even met her husband that way, so I know it does work for people. But, the horror stories I have heard over the years too,’ she laughs. ‘I’ve always said to friends that we should write them all down. It’s such a great idea for a series.’
Bryan Elsey, who created Skins, has beaten Sheridan and her friends to it, penning the nine-part series navigating the nerves, sexual confusion, crises of confidence, misunderstandings and lies of those looking for modern love online.
Unlike her on-screen character, Sheridan has not yet joined the massed ranks of the internet daters, but she has, she admits, been on her fair share of dates that have ended in disaster, most notably when one suitor spent the evening sinking red cocktails, which made an unwelcome reappearance on the night bus home. ‘The bus was very busy, so we were standing up,’ Sheridan recalls. ‘Suddenly, I noticed that he had gone green, and before I could ask him if he was alright, he had thrown up all over me and my new dress.’ Unsurprisingly, it was their first, and last, date.
She has also, she confesses, bailed on a date solely because of some dubious footwear. ‘I was on a double date with a friend, and when we turned up, the guy I was supposed to be with was wearing sandals and socks. I made my excuses and left before I even got to the table,’ she laughs. ‘I feel terrible admitting that – I am not usually bothered what anyone is wearing – but I did feel that sandals with socks was taking things a bit too far.’