An all-night talk helped Sheridan Smith to bring Shannon Matthews drama to TV

Sheridan Smith in The Moorside
Sheridan Smith in The Moorside
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It was a part Karen Matthews never managed to carry off convincingly: the anguished mother grieving for a missing daughter.

In public, she prayed for her nine year-old to come home safe. But in private, her body language gave her away.

The actress Sheridan Smith, who stars in next week’s BBC1 drama about the Shannon Matthews kidnap in Dewsbury nine years ago, told yesterday of an all-night conversation with the neighbour who led the 24-day community campaign for the girl’s return, which helped recreate the atmosphere on the estate that came to stand as an emblem for working-class Britain.

Julie Bushby has said she felt “used and abused” when she discovered Matthews had been involved in her daughter’s faked disappearance, in an attempt to claim a cash reward. Matthews was later jailed for eight years.

In the two-part drama, The Moorside, Mrs Bushby is portrayed by Smith, who hails from Epworth, near Doncaster.

She gained insight for the role by consulting Mrs Bushby about how she had dealt with the loss of her own child, to cot death syndrome, she told Radio Times.

Smith said: “There was a really emotional scene I had to play where my character talks about losing her baby boy to cot death. She stayed up all night with me discussing what had happened and how she had coped, just to help me play the scene.”

Smith said Mrs Bushby also helped her with her fears over her sick father, who died just before Christmas.

She said: “At the time I was so worried about my dad, but I learned a lot from her that night about staying strong for those you love and for that I’ll always be grateful.”

However, Smith said she had been “too starstruck” to become close to another of her subjects, the singer Cilla Black.

“I did get a bit tongue-tied meeting Cilla and I was too star-struck to take up her offer of ringing her any time if there was anything extra I wanted to ask her, ” she said.