In Channel 4’s porn industry drama Adult Material, Hayley Squires turns in a leading performance that’s a perfect blend of tragic and comic: one moment she’ll have you laughing out loud, and the next, she’ll take your breath away.
But while her role as fictional, veteran porn performer Jolene Dollar seems tailor-made for Squires, the role was in fact originally earmarked for another actress.
Sheridan Smith was attached to play Jolene, but had to pull out of the project due to scheduling conflicts – and the casting of Squires, almost seven years younger than Sheridan, had unexpected ramifications.
Lucy Kirkwood (Chimerica), who penned Adult Material, exclusively told RadioTimes.com that casting the younger Squires ended up making the drama “a bit more truthful”, as it highlighted the short shelf lives of porn stars.
She explained: “It’s one of the things that’s quite interesting about porn, the comical extent your shelf life is a sort of accelerated version of a normal person’s life. In the real world, you know, ageing for women is an issue, isn’t it, globally? But maybe you start to feel like, around 45, or coming up to being menopausal, you might feel like you’re going to be not sexual or whatever – I think that happens much, much earlier in porn. So that made that transition easier and gave it quite a comic effect as well.”
Kirkwood continued: “There are lots of moments where the character, Jolene, is lying about her age in the story as well. She sort of tells Siena [Kelly, who plays Amy], you know, one number, and Carroll has another number.
“It’s a career where you’re at your peak when— you know, it’s like being a ballet dancer. Once you’re not 22, it’s all kind of downhill from there. So you just have to shift it [the character’s age] down a little bit… but weirdly that made it, I think, a bit more truthful, if I’m honest.”
Speaking about recasting Jolene, Kirkwood said, “I had worked with Sheridan before. I don’t know if I wrote it [the role of Jolene] specifically for her but she was definitely on our list early on.
“I think the huge thing that Hayley Squires and Sheridan share – and actually, Sienna, I would say, to a huge extent, too – is something that I think is really, really rare in an actor, which is to be a tragi-comedian… So I felt really lucky to find that again because it’s rare.”
Adult Material begins tonight (Monday 5th October )at 10pm on Channel 4. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or take a look at our new TV shows 2020 page to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.