It shouldn’t need defending, and I’m disappointed in many ways that I have to even write this. But Sheridan Smith did nothing wrong at the BAFTAs and has every right to look a bit disappointed if something she cares strongly about doesn’t win.
I feel duty bound to defend one of our greatest actresses, arguably THE best young female TV star we have, after she was hit by abuse and people mocking her following Sunday’s ceremony.
So strong is the criticism that Sheridan feels it is “bullying”, blaming the press for her decision to pull out of yesterday’s performance of West End musical Funny Girl, and even saying she may be “driven away” to America.
But before she goes anywhere, let me explain the story behind her reaction, as I see it.
When her BBC adaptation The C Word failed to win the award for Best Single Drama, Sheridan was caught on camera without the fake smile actors normally put on .
Some viewers even took to social media to mock the actress, and to suggest Sheridan looked “p***ed off” after BBC3 drama Don’t Take My Baby won the prize instead. There was more mocking and suggestions she was a “diva” when she lost out on the leading actress prize to Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones.
Both the award nominations Sheridan was involved in were for The C Word, a one-off drama based on Lisa Lynch who was diagnosed with breast cancer and who charted her defiant struggle against the disease in a blog and a book.
This was a part that went way beyond your run-of-the-mill TV role. I think Sheridan would describe it as a life-changing role for her, or one that has had a huge impact on her life at the very least.
Before she died of cancer, Lisa knew her blog was being turned into a TV film and asked Sheridan to play her on Twitter. She accepted and, through taking on the role, became close with some of Lisa’s family. She also shaved her head so scenes would look authentic and the result was a brilliant and hugely emotional film.
At the press screening I attended in April 2015, Sheridan sat with some of the Lynch family and openly wept as the film played. Afterwards she said: “I thought, ‘what an honour I have to play her’. I might be sat here sobbing like a complete fanny but I am so pleased I did it and if it makes one girl check her boobs and carry on Lisa’s legacy, I will be happy.”
She also spoke of how the film had reminded her of her brother’s death from cancer (her oldest sibling Julian died when she was just eight) and added that the part was “therapeutic and cathartic”.
One person who has defended Sheridan since Sunday night is Lisa’s brother Jamie. In a blog post on Alright Tit, where Lisa used to write online, he admitted he would have loved to see the film win even one BAFTA. He said of Sheridan: “That bird threw everything at that role, literally everything. It was so important to her to get it right, and boy did she get it right.
“People may never be able to fully appreciate how much it meant to her and how emotional it was. We got to see it first hand in filming, and trust me that girl is special.”
So before you think about posting any criticism of Sheridan, bear in mind why this role was important for her, how emotional it would have been to win and be able to talk about Lisa and her legacy on stage, and perhaps how she was feeling attending the BAFTAs with some of the Lynch family.
Anyone who still thinks Sheridan did anything wrong is missing the point and I think the criticism is totally unfair.
Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor of the Daily Mirror