Alison Steadman: ‘It's been lovely working with Sheridan Smith again'

Alison Steadman and Sheridan Smith together in Care
(Image credit: BBC/LA Productions/Tony Blake)

Alison Steadman on playing a stroke patient in BBC1’s Care and why she hopes the drama will make people think about the pressures on the NHS

BBC1’s moving one-off drama Care, penned by Jimmy McGovern and Gillian Juckes, explores the strain of looking after a sick loved one. It sees Sheridan Smith play mum-of-two Jenny, whose life is torn apart when her widowed mother Mary, played by Alison Steadman, suffers a stroke.

Jenny tries to care for her at home, but as Mary’s needs prove too much for her to cope with, she begins a fight to get her mother the best care that she can.

Here Alison Steadman reveals all to TV Times about her emotional role in Care…

TV Times: You worked with Sheridan on Gavin & Stacey (Sheridan played Rudi, the sister of James Corden’s Smithy and Alison played Pam). What has it been like teaming up again?

Alison Steadman: “It’s been lovely. We didn’t have much together in Gavin and Stacey because her stuff was with her brother fighting like five-year-olds, which was the funniest thing! Sheridan is a brilliant actress. She is 100 per cent committed when you do a scene with her, so it means you can really have a go at it.”

Alison Steadman in Care

Alison Steadman as Mary in Care, which also stars Sheridan Smith

TV Times: Tell us about Mary

AS: “Mary is a lively and fun woman and suddenly she has this stroke and it changes her life . Then it’s the story of her and her daughters and how they all cope and also how the NHS copes. When you love somebody and you see them changed into a different person, it’s painful to witness.”

TVT: What was the appeal for you?

AS: “It’s a challenging role but one I approached with relish because I thought it was such a worthwhile piece. And Jimmy McGovern is such a good writer that I thought whatever he gives me I can trust.”

TVT: What have been the biggest challenges?

AS: “It’s hard to learn ‘gobbledegook’ but it's good because you’ve got to think in different ways. You see life from a new perspective but it’s frightening. It’s hard too because I have to do the part with no make-up or with white make-up. I need a ‘lipstick part’ after this!”

TVT: Did Care make you think about the pressures on the NHS?

AS: “Yes, the NHS does its best but it’s stretched. It has just had its 70th birthday and we wouldn’t be without it but it needs millions and a complete revamp. Something like this will hopefully make people think. It will be a good wake-up call. It’s about human beings that need care and if the services are not good enough, it breaks your heart.”

Care - starring Alison Steadman and Sheridan Smith - airs on BBC1 on Sunday 9 December at 9pm

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.