Redhead Sheridan Smith loves going back to her roots as Mrs Biggs in Great Train Robbery TV series
Award-winning Epworth actress Sheridan Smith says the former wife of train robber Ronnie Biggs gave her "great support and advice" as she portrayed her in a five-part TV drama based on her life.
In Mrs Biggs, the actress plays long-suffering Charmian Biggs alongside Ashes to Ashes star Daniel Mays, who will play the fugitive thief.
Sheridan headed to Australia to film the show, which tells Charmian's story from the moment she met Biggs, a small-time south London villain, through to his involvement in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, which netted his gang millions of pounds in used bank notes.
"That's why I have the red hair – it's been a nice change for me," laughs Sheridan, who is a natural blonde.
Book a table for 4 and get £10 off with this voucher. When ringing quote: “This is Scunthorpe” promotion. Your email address.......................... (if you want to receive vouchers in the future)
Terms: Cannot be used with any other offers or vouchers. Print voucher or show us the voucher on your phone.
Contact: 01724 281289
Valid until: Monday, June 24 2013
"The story follows the couple from the Fifties when they met, right through the Sixties and to Australia.
"Ronnie's wife, Charmian, was on set with us and she's such an amazing woman. She was on hand to give me advice and support me – I was lucky to have her there."
But the chance to return to her roots is something self-confessed country bumpkin Sheridan relishes.
"In London, I have close mates but it's a different lifestyle to back home," says the actress.
"It's great to be able to have some time out and come back home to see family. You can easily get swept along into that world of celebrity when you're in the industry.
"I would much rather go for a quiet drink in the local pub with my dad."
Working in an industry that is so demanding, she admits she has been her own worst enemy at times, not giving herself enough time off, taking job after job, with no break in between.
Not only did Sheridan's parents have dog-sitting duties while she was working at the other side of the world, but they also had a small matter of a red carpet do to attend in her absence.
It was while she was Down Under, Sheridan triumphed for a second time at the Olivier Awards.
After her 2011 Best Actress in a Musical win, this year, the prestigious awards recognised her work as Doris in drama Flare Path, with Sheridan winning Best Performance in a Supporting Role.
"Because of the different time zone, and the fact I didn't think I would win, I was fast asleep in bed when it was announced," says Sheridan.
"I woke up to lots of texts and felt gutted I couldn't be there. I'd sent a speech just in case, as all nominees do, so that appeared on screen.
"My mum and dad were there, working the red carpet like the famous faces.
"Dad was there in his little dickie bow, telling everyone it was his 'little girl' who had won."
Family is something that plays a big part in Sheridan's life. As soon as she can escape her hectic lifestyle in London, she heads home for some rest and relaxation with her nearest and dearest who, incidentally, set her on her path to stardom.
Her introduction to the stage came at an early age through her parents, who are a country and western duo called The Daltons.
"They used to gig seven nights a week," says Sheridan, whose brother, Damien, is also in a band.
"I sang with my mum and dad and when I first performed, I just got the bug."
Her TV career took off 15 years ago when she appeared in BBC sitcom Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps and since then, she has appeared in other popular shows such as Gavin & Stacey and Benidorm.
She also won the role in the second series of BBC1's hard-hitting drama Accused, which was on our screens earlier this week, starring alongside comedian John Bishop.
And her success on screen has been matched by that on stage. With two Olivier awards under her belt, she says live performances are her true love and have inspired her to try out new roles.
In September, Sheridan will be treading the boards at the Old Vic but this time in a completely different part to any she has done before.
She will be playing the title role in Hedda Gabler – often seen as one of the great dramatic roles in theatre.
"I took Hedda Gabler as it's something so different and outside my comfort zone," said Sheridan, who admits she is nervous about the eight-week run at the Old Vic.
"Flare Path is where I got the bug for trying new things, as it was so different to anything I'd done before.
"As an actress, if you carry on doing the same thing, you can get put in a box.
"With Legally Blonde, I was playing a ditsy American – Hedda Gabler is the female Hamlet.
"If you don't try new things, you will never know. You can become boring.
"I will then be doing A Midsummer Night's Dream with David Walliams in July 2013. Shakespeare's something completely different again."
A mid-summer break to return home has been the perfect prelude to her Hedda Gabler rehearsals.
"There have been times when my work has overlapped and you feel as though you never stop," said Sheridan.
Mrs Biggs will start on ITV at 9pm on September 5.