The Bafta winning actress, who scored a huge hit as Cilla Black in last year’s ITV biopic, has unveiled a huge makeover for her new role, which is based on Julie Bushby, chairwoman of the Moorside residents and tenants association, who was prominent in the desperate search for the nine-year-old from Dewsbury Moor, who went missing after a school swimming trip in 2008.
The two-part drama will look at how Smith rallied the community to find Shannon and the impact the revelation that her 24-day disappearance was a hoax had.
Shannon was discovered 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.
Smith, who is from Epworth, near Doncaster, 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 programme is being shot by the ITV Studios behind Approproate Adult, which told the story of trainee social worker Janet leach, who was asked by police to sit in on their interviews with Fred West.
Writer Neil McKay has promised that the drama will take people “into the heart of a story and a community that was defined more by prejudice than genuine understanding.”
The drama also stars Siobhan Finneran, best known for the Bradford-set film Rita, Sue and Bob Too; Sian Brooke and Gemma Whelan.