Sheridan Smith leads the cast of BBC1’s one-off 90-minute drama Care, which airs on Sunday 9th December at 9pm.
“In a nutshell, Care is an incredibly powerful film about a young mum struggling with her two girls – and what her and her family do when her mum develops dementia,” says Smith.
The drama also stars Sinead Keenan and Alison Steadman, and was co-written by newcomer Gillian Juckes and acclaimed screenwriter Jimmy McGovern.
Here are the characters you need to meet – and the actors who play them.
Sheridan Smith plays Jenny
Who is Jenny? A single mum of two girls. She has recently been through a messy split from her husband Dave, but they are still in regular (and awkward) contact because of their daughters Sophie (Macy Shackleton) and Lauren (Lola Shaw).
Jenny works full-time at the supermarket, and relies on her wonderful mother Mary to provide childcare. However, in the opening minutes of the drama, Mary suffers a devastating stroke and develops dementia. Jenny’s life is turned upside down as she attempts to get her mother the treatment and care she needs.
Smith says: “When I realised what the script was about and I read it, I cried all the way through it. It really moved me.”
She adds, “Lots of people will be going through the same situation. They’re just a real family and it could happen to anyone, up and down the country. It’s very important.”
What else has Sheridan Smith been in? The acclaimed actress has starred in The Royle Family, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Gavin & Stacey, Jonathan Creek, Cilla, Black Work, and The C Word. On the West End stage her theatre credits include Funny Girl, Legally Blonde, and Little Shop of Horrors, and she also has two Olivier Awards, a Bafta, an OBE and two Emmy nominations to her name.
Alison Steadman plays Mary
Who is Mary? Jenny’s widowed mother. Alison Steadman describes her as “a lady who is full of life” and a “fun granny” to her grandkids Sophie and Lauren. But “the rug is pulled right from under her in a flash” when she suffers a stroke and goes on to develop dementia.
Steadman says: “The terrifying thing for me is that it could happen to any of us at any time, and when it does happen, as a human being you have no control. There’s nothing you can do to help yourself. You are totally dependent on medical staff and doctors and family. Suddenly this woman who is full of life and zest and chat… she can’t speak. She can’t communicate.”
What else has Alison Steadman been in? Steadman’s career spans 50 years, from 1977 classic Abigail’s Party to 1986’s The Singing Detective to her scene-stealing performance in Gavin & Stacey. Steadman has earned an Olivier, an OBE and two Bafta nominations, and you may also recognise her from Hold the Sunset, Butterfly, Fat Friends, Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, or 1995’s Pride and Prejudice where she played Mrs Bennet.
Sinead Keenan plays Claire
Who is Claire? “Claire is the daughter who ‘lives away’, which brings with it its own complications when dealing with a sick parent,” actress Sinead Keenan explains. “For her own reasons, Claire can’t be there in the same way as Jenny can with the day-to-day caring for her mother.”
That said, she loves her mother and feels guilty about her absence, which leads her to advocate “fervently and aggressively” for her mother when she is able to visit.
“The story is also quite close to my heart,” Keenan says. “My nana and papa lived in Belfast and both went through the NHS system in their final years. My nana had Alzheimer’s and although the care she received was administered wholeheartedly by those we came in contact with on the front line of the NHS, battling our way to get that care was challenging, to put it politely.”
What else has Sinead Keenan been in? The Irish actress starred as werewolf Nina Pickering in Being Human. She was Mel Jones in Little Boy Blue, Bronagh in London Irish, and Kelly Kawkins in Moving Wallpaper, and she has also appeared in Doctor Who – playing Addams in The End of Time.
Kevin Doyle plays the Chairman
Who is the Chairman? An important figure Jenny and Claire encounter in their journey to get their mother the care she needs.
What else has Kevin Doyle been in? You are perhaps most likely to recognise him as the valet Joseph Molesley from the TV series Downton Abbey. He has also starred in Happy Valley, The Lakes, Coronation Street and the The Crimson Field.
Anthony Flanagan plays Dave
Who is Dave? Jenny’s ex-husband. They have been through a messy breakup but, when we first meet them, are yet to get officially divorced.
What else has Anthony Flanagan been in? He played policeman Tony in Channel 4’s comedy drama, Shameless. Since then he’s been in Versailles (as Bastian) and The Terror (as John Morfin), and also made appearances in episodes of The Crown and Doctor Who.
Care airs on Sunday 9th December at 9pm on BBC1