Sheridan Smith to star as Cilla Black in ITV drama from Bafta-winning Philomena writer

Jeff Pope, who triumphed with Steve Coogan at the Bafta film awards, has penned the drama about Black's emergence as a pop star during the 1960s

Two British Bafta winners are to join forces for a new ITV drama about Cilla Black.


Sheridan Smith, who picked up the Leading Actress award at last year’s television Baftas, will play the pop-star-turned TV presenter in a three-part drama scripted by Jeff Pope, who last night took home the Bafta for best adapted screenplay for Philomena, which he wrote with Steve Coogan.

Smith, who won her Bafta for her performance as Ronnie Biggs’s wife in Mrs Biggs, will follow it up as the lead in another fact-based ITV drama, Cilla, charting Black’s emergence from Liverpool’s Merseybeat music scene in the early 1960s to become a chart-topping pop star.

Black’s first number one came with her second single, Anyone Who Had a Heart, and was followed by 16 consecutive top 40 hits before she made the move to TV presenting.

Working by day as a typist, while by night performing in famous Liverpool venues such as the Cavern club and The Blue Angel jazz club, Black was friends with the Beatles and was signed by their manager Brian Epstein.

ITV said the drama would examine how she met Epstein and her future husband Bobby Willis, “the two men who came to love her and ultimately fought over her”.

Smith said she was keen to show a younger generation of viewers “what a star Cilla has always been”, while giving those who were there at the time the chance to “relive those swinging 60s”.

Jeff Pope is head of factual drama at ITV. His Bafta win for Philomena is his second, following his award in 2006 for drama See No Evil: The Moors Murders.