Actress Sheridan Smith, 39, is considered among Britain’s best loved actresses after a number of TV roles that have included a portrayal of Cilla Black. But in 2016, while she performed in musical theatre production of ‘Funny Girl’, her mental health took a drastic downfall. Her struggles will be revealed in an ITV documentary next month, where she explains it climaxed after Graham Norton made a joke about her at the BAFTAs. The off-the-cuff quip came after she had slurred lines during a performance that was cancelled 15 minutes into the show. She realised that the public humiliation was “the final straw” before her “brain totally went off the deep end”.
The TV star admitted that she had become addicted to anti-anxiety medication prior to the awards ceremony but, after the blunt joke at her expense, decided to stop taking medication.
She “didn’t realise” that by stopping the “tablets abruptly, you seizure” and suffered five that led her to be rushed to hospital.
Smith confessed it was “a miracle” that her friend was “looking out” for her at the time because she stopped breathing and could have died.
Norton’s joke from that night was: “Let’s get things started because the sooner we get started, the sooner we can have a couple of drinks, or as they say in theatrical circles, a couple of glasses of technical difficulties.”
This referred to ‘Funny Girl’ being stopped after 15 minutes over her allegedly slurring her words – after a further 40 minutes of delays the show was cancelled due to “technical difficulties”.
When questioned about Smith’s speech at the time, her spokesperson denied claims that she was drunk.
The day after the awards ceremony and her hospitalisation, she was forced to pull out of that night’s performance of ‘Funny Girl’ due to what the Savoy Theatre described as “indisposition”.
Sheridan Smith news: TV actress recounted how Graham Norton’s BAFTA joke affected her mental health
Sheridan Smith news: TV star has played Cilla Black among other roles and in theatre productions
Earlier that day, she lashed out at a number of Twitter users and also the media when she wrote: “Well done press! U [sic] let down me, the cast & everyone who spent money to see me.
“I apologise profusely! Sorry! Sorry I’m not strong enough.”
A number of fans vented online about her absence from the show, including one who wrote: “Looks like it’s game over for Sheridan Smith.”
Another fumed: “Having to rebook to see ‘Funny Girl’ as Sheridan Smith is ‘unwell’. Any other awards ceremonies due so I can avoid the following nights.”
In tweets reported by the Telegraph, she blasted trolls who attacked her online.
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Smith wrote to one: “Sat behind your computer u little geek, love to see what u look like. Come say your s*** to my face & let’s see what happens.”
Later she added “when will u [sic] stop bullying?” over comments about her look of disappointment at the BAFTAs – where she was nominated but didn’t win an award.
In another tweet, after a number of fans and some celebrity friends rose to her defence, she wrote: “Love you [all] who have my back, beyond belief. Sorry x.”
She reflected on that tumultuous time for the ITV documentary ‘Sheridan Smith: Becoming Mum’ – which airs on September 1.
The star admitted that she found a “good place” after she gave birth to son Billy this summer and spoke out in the hope of helping other women with mental health difficulties.
Smith added: “Now I’ve got this little family and I just feel, I can’t explain it, like a contentment, a calm.
“Maybe I was looking for something in the wrong places and now I feel like I’ve found it in this little boy when I look in his eyes.”
For help with mental health issues, visit the NHS support page here.