Sheridan Smith to star in Shannon Matthews drama

Sheridan Smith, who will star in new BBC drama The Moorside Project.

Sheridan Smith, who will star in new BBC drama The Moorside Project.

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Bafta winning actress Sheridan Smith will star in a new BBC drama about the kidnapping of Dewsbury youngster Shannon Matthews.

The Moorside Project begins filming in spring.

Karen Matthews, who was imprisoned for her role in daughter Shannon's disappearance. Picture: PA Wire.

Karen Matthews, who was imprisoned for her role in daughter Shannon's disappearance. Picture: PA Wire.

Miss Smith plays Julie, chair of the Moorside residents and tenants association and prominent in the desperate search to find Shannon.

Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in the Moorside estate in Dewsbury in February 2008. She was discovered 24 days later at the home of Michael Donovan, less than a mile away. Her mother and Donovan were jailed for kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

The two-part drama will reveal how a group of women brought their community together in their attempt to find a child who disappeared in their midst. The focus of the drama is on the spirit and determination of the women at the forefront of the campaign and the impact on them when the truth about Shannon’s disappearance was finally revealed.

Miss Smith said: “The story is a fascinating mixture of what I thought I knew and a whole lot more that I had no idea about. The themes of faith and trust in human nature, and the way the whole community came together really inspired me.”

The drama will not portray Shannon’s abduction itself, nor cover her experiences whilst kidnapped.

Producer Jeff Pope said: “For a short period of time the nation’s focus was on a small corner of West Yorkshire as a young girl went missing in suspicious circumstances. By the time Shannon Matthews had been found alive, we perhaps felt we knew all there was to know about the Moorside estate and the people who lived there. But what we discovered as we researched into this fascinating story is that those conclusions were drawn far too quickly.”

Writer Neil McKay said: “This drama takes us into the heart of a story and a community that was defined more by prejudice than genuine understanding. It has been a privilege to research and write. To have the story brought to life by such an outstanding cast, led by the extraordinary Sheridan Smith, is a truly thrilling prospect.”

The drama also stars Siobhan Finneran, Sian Brooke and Gemma Whelan, who will play Karen Matthews.

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