Alison Steadman on playing a stroke patient in BBC1’s Care and why she hopes the drama will make people think about the pressures on the NHS

BBC1’s moving one-off drama Care, penned by Jimmy McGovern and Gillian Juckes, explores the strain of looking after a sick loved one. It sees Sheridan Smith play mum-of-two Jenny, whose life is torn apart when her widowed mother Mary, played by Alison Steadman, suffers a stroke.

Jenny tries to care for her at home, but as Mary’s needs prove too much for her to cope with, she begins a fight to get her mother the best care that she can.

Here Alison Steadman reveals all to TV Times about her emotional role in Care…

TV Times: You worked with Sheridan on Gavin & Stacey (Sheridan played Rudi, the sister of James Corden’s Smithy and Alison played Pam). What has it been like teaming up again?

Alison Steadman: “It’s been lovely. We didn’t have much together in Gavin and Stacey because her stuff was with her brother fighting like five-year-olds, which was the funniest thing! Sheridan is a brilliant actress. She is 100 per cent committed when you do a scene with her, so it means you can really have a go at it.”

Alison Steadman in Care

Alison Steadman as Mary in Care, which also stars Sheridan Smith

TV Times: Tell us about Mary

AS: “Mary is a lively and fun woman and suddenly she has this stroke and it changes her life . Then it’s the story of her and her daughters and how they all cope and also how the NHS copes. When you love somebody and you see them changed into a different person, it’s painful to witness.”

TVT: What was the appeal for you?

AS: “It’s a challenging role but one I approached with relish because I thought it was such a worthwhile piece. And Jimmy McGovern is such a good writer that I thought whatever he gives me I can trust.”

TVT: What have been the biggest challenges?

AS: “It’s hard to learn ‘gobbledegook’ but it’s good because you’ve got to think in different ways. You see life from a new perspective but it’s frightening. It’s hard too because I have to do the part with no make-up or with white make-up. I need a ‘lipstick part’ after this!”

TVT: Did Care make you think about the pressures on the NHS?

AS: “Yes, the NHS does its best but it’s stretched. It has just had its 70th birthday and we wouldn’t be without it but it needs millions and a complete revamp. Something like this will hopefully make people think. It will be a good wake-up call. It’s about human beings that need care and if the services are not good enough, it breaks your heart.”

Care – starring Alison Steadman and Sheridan Smith – airs on BBC1 on Sunday 9 December at 9pm