Her own family was touched by cancer - and now actress Sheridan Smith, who started her career in Doncaster, hopes her latest role will help save others from succumbing to the illness.
Sheridan, of Epworth, does not like to talk how the illness affected her brother. But she feels that if her role in The C Word, which broadcasts on Sunday on BBC One, leads to women checking themselves for symptoms, then it will have been worth her taking the role.
The show is an adaptation of Lisa Lynch’s candid and inspiring blog turned book The C Word, in which she describes the reality of cancer,
Lisa contacted the actress personally to ask her to play the role.
Sheridan said: “She got in touch with me through Twitter and said she’d written a book that had been made into a script and she said, ‘I only want you to play it’. And I read this book and excuse my language but [thought] ‘Are you ******* joking?! You’re incredible and funny and amazing and strong and everything I’m not’ and she said, ‘Only you can play me’ and I’ve saved the text. I think that’s why I get emotional every time I watch it, because I think maybe she saw something in me that I don’t see.”
“It did take me a long time to decide to do it. I wanted to so badly, but I was wary of upsetting family members.” But she decided it was a subject that was not talked about and should be on the television.
The first draft of the script ended with Lisa making her book. But they had to re-write it after Lisa died.
Sheridan said: “She wasn’t there to watch us make it, we would’ve loved her on set but she’ll be cartwheeling up there. She was amazing and it was an absolute honour to have played her. I just hope I’ve done her justice.
She said Lisa’s family had taken her in like one of their own. She watched the programme with them and says they have become close
She said: “My favourite line written is when she goes, ‘I’m British, we just don’t talk about things like that’ and we don’t and it’s cancer and it touches one in three. And every single one of us, if we haven’t experienced it, will know a friend who has. And it’s not a taboo subject. It’s a hideous disease, but we’ll try and fight it.”
One scene portrays Lisa as being too weak to get out of her bath.
Sheridan says they were not until the last minute whether to put it in or not because it’s so graphic and Lisa was so upbeat and light.
She added: “But then if you’re going to show it, then you’ve got to show it for real. I’m not really allowed to talk about my brother, but one thing I really remember about my brother passing from cancer was my mum and dad carrying him up and down the stairs. Lisa was funny and brilliant and her humour was what we all adored about her, but then you’ve got to show the real side to it too. If we missed that bit out, it’d be like us going, ‘Oh isn’t it fun’.
The actress found therapy scenes in which Lisa is coming to terms with the fact her cancer was terminal were the hardest to deal with.
She said: “I found those hardest to deal with. Maybe I needed a bit of therapy and so it was cathartic, and it was the only time I was alone, without Paul [Nicholls who plays Pete]. I couldn’t get past this bloody line, [where she says] ‘So many people get through it and survive’ without crying and I didn’t want to be crying all the time, because Lisa wouldn’t.
“I just admire her and want to be her. I mean look at the state of me, sobbing into a snot rag here. I’m not as strong as her yet, but you can admire someone and go ‘wow’. If you can go through that and write a book and I get to play you, then I’ve got some manning up to do. She’s amazing and inspirational and I hope for everyone who watches it, she will be. I’m so grateful I did play her, so pleased I did it and if it makes one girl check her boobs, if we can carry on her legacy and I’ve done her any justice, then I’m happy.”