Sheridan Smith announced to star in new BBC One drama The Moorside Project

As a nation, we only ever saw [this story] from one perspective and I hope this drama will capture what it was like to be at the centre of that community - how they responded and lived through it.Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One
Date: 08.01.2016     Last updated: 25.01.2016 at 11.46
Category: BBC One; Drama; Casting
Sheridan Smith (The C Word, Mrs Biggs, Cilla) will star in BBC One drama, The Moorside Project (working title) which is due to commence filming this Spring.

The drama is made by ITV Studios and the same award-winning team behind the acclaimed Appropriate Adult. Sheridan will star as Julie – chair of the Moorside residents and tenants association and prominent in the desperate search to find Shannon Matthews.

Sheridan will be joined by Sian Brooke (who recently starred as Ophelia opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet) as friend and neighbour Natalie, Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley, The Syndicate) who will be playing Christine Freeman, and Gemma Whelan (Mapp And Lucia) as Karen Matthews. This drama will give a fresh perspective on a front page story we all remember, focusing not on the crime itself but on the community that lived through it.

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.

Sheridan says: “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.”

Jeff Pope comments: “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.”

Neil McKay adds: “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.”

Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC One, says: "Drama has the ability to tackle sensitive subjects from different perspectives and consider the impact of a crime rather than the crime itself. This was an extraordinary story of our time that rocked a community and thrust it under the media spotlight. As a nation, we only ever saw it from one perspective and I hope this drama will capture what it was like to be at the centre of that community - how they responded and lived through it. On BBC One it's important to bring human stories to life and allow the audience to come to their own conclusions.”

Written by Neil McKay, directed by Paul Whittington (Mrs Biggs, The Widower, Cilla) directed by Ken Horn and executive produced by Jeff Pope for ITV Studios, Head of Factual Drama, and Neil McKay and Lucy Richer for the BBC. Commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC One and Ben Stephenson, former Controller of BBC Drama.

Notes to Editors

This drama is not focused on Shannon Matthews herself; her abduction is not portrayed nor her experience during the time she was missing. The drama tells the story of the women who led the campaign to find Shannon. Karen Matthews is not the central character.

Jeff Pope and Neil McKay worked together on the award-winning drama Appropriate Adult, which looked at the story of serial killer Fred West from the point of view of trainee social worker Janet Leach. They have a reputation for factual drama based on detailed research that focuses not on the crime itself but on ordinary people caught up in events, whose perspective gives a fresh eye on these important news stories.

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.

SJP