Karen was sentenced to eight years behind bars for her involvement in the fake kidnapping of her daughter Shannon Matthews in 2008.
Tonight, Sheridan takes centre stage in the BBC drama which follows the notorious case from the perspective of Julia, Karen’s neighbour and friend, who attempted to raise awareness of Shannon’s disappearance and bring her community closer together.
Speaking at a recent screening for The Moorside, the actress told press including Express.co.uk that she was “full of admiration” for the woman who went above and beyond during the search for Shannon, as well as standing by Karen even after the truth about her involvement in the case was revealed.
She explained: “Julie never wanted to see the bad in Karen and she never wanted to give up hope. When everyone else around her could kind of see [the truth], she just didn’t want to admit that.
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The Moorside's Sheridan Smith hails Julie Bushby for standing by Karen Matthews
Moorside: The real story
Tue, February 7, 2017
Moorside: The new BBC drama follows Sheridan Smith, as Julie Bushby, in the search for missing school girl Shannon Matthews. Here's the real story behind the programme.
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Julie never wanted to see the bad in Karen and she never wanted to give up hope
The Moorside's Sheridan Smith
“I have so much admiration for everyone on that estate and all of the people that we met when filming but especially the women and especially Julie who just refused to give up.
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“I just think that’s so admirable and, like I said to Jeff [Pope] the other day, women like that, if you give them a chance there’s nothing they can’t do.”
The 35-year-old added that she enjoyed taking on the role of a real person and learning more about them ahead of filming.
Discussing her transformation into Julie, Sheridan commented: “Julie is more strong than me – she’s a tough cookie – but she’s got a heart of gold, a real heart of gold.
Sheridan stars as Julie Bushby in the BBC's Shannon Matthews story
“Before the scene where she discusses the cot death in the church, Julie came round to where we staying and we had a real heart-to-heart the day before filming, she really helped me. I got to love her.”
She went on to say that it was “really nice to lose yourself and become a different character”, which she joked explained her dramatic make under and hair style for the role.
Executive producer Jeff Pope explained that when his team looked at how they could adapt the story of Shannon’s disappearance for television, they realised early on that it should be through the eyes of Julie and her friends.
Julie stood by Karen Mathews after it emerged she was behind her daughter's kidnapping
Julie Bushby pictured heading to Shannon Matthews court case
“When we looked into the story we found it was really a story of the women of that estate and they tried so hard and came together so wonderfully,” he commented.
“I was talking to Sheridan the other day, and there was a great quote when she said, ‘When you empower someone like Julie Bushby, there’s nothing she can’t do but it’s not often in her life that Julie gets empowered’.
“So, that’s the story that we followed and that enabled us to take it all the way through the fight: The hope, the joy when they found her [Shannon], and then that terrible betrayal.”
The Moorside airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One.