Sheridan Smith: “It was pressure” playing Cilla Black

The star of ITV's new musical drama reveals that she was too shy to ask the famous TV presenter and singer for advice

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Set in iconic ’60s rock and roll Britain, when the Beatles had just been signed, ITV’s Cilla follows the one woman to come out of the Liverpool music scene during this time. Sheridan Smith dons her false teeth and belts out Cilla Black classics from Anyone Who Had a Heart to You’re My World during the three-part series, but says it wasn’t easy.

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“I’ve grown up watching [Cilla Black],” she said, “I was in awe of her.” Smith explained that she read Cilla’s biography every day to prepare for the part, and watched numerous YouTube videos of the singer, before actually going for a meal with her.

“We went for dinner, I was really starstruck,” said Smith, “really nervous and I think I babbled away at her… It’s a huge responsibility because I didn’t want to let [her] down.”

Cilla Black (known as Cilla White or Swinging Cilla at the beginning of her career) was introduced to Beatles manager Brian Epstein by John Lennon, who convinced her to perform for him in the Cavern Club.

“She was in a man’s world. I just admire her strength,” said Smith. “She was up against the Beatles and these male bands [in the charts].”

If the upcoming series is a success, would Smith be tempted to follow in Cilla Black’s footsteps and host Blind Date and Surprise Surprise? “I’d love to!” she says, “but there’s only one Cilla, come on…”

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Cilla premieres on ITV1 at 9pm, on 15 September. Watch the trailer below…