Tue 15 Dec 2015, 09:50
Story of the wife of the Great Train Robbery bandit.
Sheridan Smith plays Charmian Biggs
Sheridan Smith shed plenty of tears when she played the role of, Charmian Biggs in Mrs Biggs on ITV Choice (123), Mondays at 21:00.
“I remember bawling my eyes out just reading the script before I even auditioned. It’s such a moving story,” she says.
“I’d heard about, Ronnie Biggs and I thought, Charmian would be a gangster’s moll type character. Then I read the script and realised she wasn’t. I was fascinated by how Charmian and Ron were worlds apart and met - ironically - on a train and fell madly in love.
“I think Charmian’s story is one of the greatest untold stories. There’s an added layer of pressure when you’re playing somebody real. It’s their life and you want to do it justice. I was very nervous about meeting Charmian. Because I’d read the scripts and about her life I felt so close to her. But she was just amazing and such a help during the whole process. What she went through touched me so much that I wanted to make her proud.”
Charmian acted as a consultant to the production.
“Charmian was next to me at the script read through in London before we started filming. I was so aware that she was sitting next to me and how surreal it must have been for her to hear these actors saying lines that were her life.
“She was just the loveliest lady and put me completely at ease. And we became really good friends. We saw a lot of each other during the filming and I was in tears on the last day when I had to say goodbye.”
Charmian was a teenager on her way to work in London when she met Ron on that train in October 1957.
“She was from a middle class family and her dad was a headmaster. Ron was a cheeky-chappie charmer and this different world, which was exciting for her. She had a hard time with her dad and Ron wanted to take her away from it all. And she ran away with him.”
Charmian’s father did not approve of their relationship and she eventually found herself cut off from her family. “I have a very northern family and we’re very close. So I can’t imagine that. She had nobody but Ron then and must have felt so alone at times, especially when he went to prison.”
Ron’s involvement in the Great Train Robbery was to change her life forever.
“A lot of people will probably think she knew about the robbery. But she had no idea and then had to make a decision. Charmian wanted her children to have a father, so she went on the run with him.
“Of course Ron was involved but most people don’t really know the details of what happened. I think this series will explain a lot of things.
“I understand why she did what she did. When you know her side of the story it’s heartbreaking. Because they were in love, she was an incredible mum with a lovely little family. But they were always looking over their shoulder. They were never free.”
Sheridan stresses that this is Charmian’s story, being told in a drama for the first time.
“It is called Mrs Biggs. Her husband committed a crime and was on the run from the law. But she’d made her vows to him and was incredibly loyal. It may be partly because she’s of that certain generation. But also because of her love for him and the fact she wanted their children to have a father.
“My interest is in the fact that Charmian is an amazing lady and when I read her story I wanted to tell it and was honoured to be asked to do it. I hope that people will understand more about Charmian’s side of things.”
Catch Mrs Biggs on ITV Choice (123), Mondays at 21:00.