Sheridan Smith returns to our screens this week playing a down-on-her-luck office cleaner who takes a huge gamble. Here, the Cilla star tells us more...
For her latest TV role, actress Sheridan Smith is playing an office cleaner with serious gambling debts, who sees a way to turn her life around when she ventures into the murky world of insider trading in ITV’s new six-part drama Cleaning Up, starting this week.
Single mum Sam (Sheridan) works hard through the night cleaning offices in Canary Wharf to provide for her two daughters, Alice and Lily. But with an online gambling addiction that’s seen her rack up huge debts, Sam knows she needs to find a way out of her financial hole… and fast!
One night shift, Sam overhears dodgy stock-market trader Blake (Brief Encounters’ Ben Bailey Smith) secretly plotting some ‘insider trading’ – buying stocks and shares for personal gain through having access to confidential information.
Despite it being highly illegal, Sam thinks this could be the answer to all her problems and hatches an elaborate plan with friend and co-worker Jess (Trauma’s Jade Anouka) in order to get a piece of the action. Will their gamble pay off?
We caught up with Sheridan, 37, in one of Canary Wharf's swanky office blocks to find out…
What can you tell us about Sam?
"Sam’s a single mum, she’s a great mum but she’s struggling. She’s working as a cleaner on a zero-hours’ contract trying to make money but she’s got a gambling addiction and is massively in debt. She’s a very flawed person, which I think viewers will relate to. It’s interesting to play someone who’s that flawed but who still has a good heart."
What’s Sam’s relationship like with her estranged husband Dave (played by The Musketeers’ Matthew McNulty)?
"Sam and Dave have split up and, when we first meet them, they’re going through mediation. Because of Sam’s gambling addiction, Dave wants the kids to come and live with him, so their relationship is really strained. Dave has also got a lot more money than Sam, so he can buy the girls new phones and stuff; things that Sam can’t do. This drives her to want to do more."
Wanting to find a way out of her situation, Sam ends up getting involved in insider trading…
"Sam’s really savvy and really smart; she just hasn’t had the breaks in life or the opportunities that other people have had. But being a gambling addict means she’s good with numbers and has a very quick mind. So when she hears what Blake is up to, she does some research and picks up this ‘insider trading’ thing really quickly."
Does Sam really think she can get rich quick?
"Sam knows she’s onto something massive! Sam and the other cleaners are like this ‘invisible army’; all the stockbrokers don’t acknowledge you’re even there. So of course she thinks: ‘Hang on, I could be onto something really big here’. It’s that buzz Sam gets from gambling; she’s a real risk taker."
What Sam’s doing is illegal, though, do you think viewers will sympathise?
"I hope so. This drama is asking the question: if you had the opportunity to make big money even though it’s illegal, would you take it? I think a lot of people would think: ‘Well, if the bankers are doing it, then go on girl!’ I know I would. Sam believes she’s not hurting anyone and she sees it as her chance to get out of all this debt she’s in and make a better life for herself and her kids. I’m hoping people will be willing her to do well."
Your character is a cleaner – what unglamorous jobs have you done?
"I worked in a burger van in Doncaster before I moved to London. I got free burgers and I absolutely loved it! I loved chatting to people and getting them to share their stories. So I’ve been a burger van girl but never a cleaner. I had a cleaning lesson for this role. I learnt that cleaners use different coloured cloths on different things - green is for wet, yellow is for glass and red is for the toilet. And you should never spray polish directly onto a desk in case it goes on the computer. So I had to learn all these little quirks. That said, I don’t clean at home at all!"
We’re thrilled to see you back on our screens in this drama and also Care, which was shown recently. Are you happy to be back doing TV work?
"Oh, I’m SO pleased to be back. I do enjoy doing theatre work and making music [Sheridan’s second album, A Northern Soul, was released in November 2018] but it’s good to be back doing this again. I love filming. I love the camaraderie on set; everyone on this shoot is at the top of their game. It’s been a joy to come to work every day."
Viewers certainly love watching you. Why do you think you’re so relatable?
"Ah, I don’t know. It’s nice if people think I’m relatable. People are very kind. Even when I’m going through bad times they stop me in the street and give me cuddles. Acting is just a job, I’m no different to anyone else."
If you had all the money in the world would you give up acting?
"No, I love it too much. I’m just grateful to be doing it and I just hope I can get the work. I love working and I love meeting people – it feels like family every time you go onto a job, I guess. No, I don’t think I could ever give it up."
Cleaning Up, starring Sheridan Smith, starts on Wednesday January 9 at 9pm on ITV.
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