Get ready for some more tearjerker telly this winter, as a very special new BBC1 drama is just about to hit screens. You'll see two Gavin and Stacey actors as you've never seen them before, as Sheridan Smith and Alison Steadman play a mother and daughter in a codependent relationship, which will feel all too real for some viewers. Smith will be playing the starring role, Jenny, who's made to take care of her mum (Steadman) after she experiences a severe stroke. It certainly sounds like hard-hitting stuff, but is BBC1's Care based on a true story?
The one-off, 90-minute drama, which airs on BBC1 on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 9 p.m., should make you hold your loved ones a little tighter this festive period. Care is based on many real life stories, but it's informed especially by the experiences of one of the show's writers, Gillian Jukes, according to The Observer. Its message is so powerful it even made Steadman, who plays Jenny's mother Mary, consider her own health.
She told Good Housekeeping, "Initially we see the character as very lively — Mary is a lady who is full of life. She loves her grandkids and spends a lot of time with them […] She’s a very bright, strong lady. And then the rug is pulled right from under her in a flash."
She continued, “The terrifying thing for me is that it could happen to any of us at any time […] and when it does happen, as a human being you have no control [….] Suddenly this woman who is full of life and zest and chat […] she can’t speak. She can’t communicate," she added. Steadman took inspiration for her character by visiting a stroke unit, to speak to survivors, as well as talking to a doctor who specialises in strokes and dementia — which Mary suffers from in the show, according to Good Housekeeping.
The show's writer, Jimmy McGovern, who was also the brains behind The Street and the Robbie Coltrane starring Cracker recently told The Observer: "I know we’ve got Brexit and all that going on but it would be great if this drama helped to start a debate about care,” and added that "It’s a question that needs to be addressed rather than dodged, as it is now.”
It's not McGovern's first time tackling dementia, as he first explored the debilitating effects of the illness in his drama series Moving On, which aired on BBC One back in February. However, this time around, instead of honing in on the "moving on" aspect, "they’re all about the onset and how people cope," McGovern told The Observer, but McJukes' real life experiences served as inspiration in particular, because "it was about the hoops you have to jump through to get your mother into care.”
As in Moving On, McGovern uses a personal relationship to illustrate the larger, social issues at play, and the strain they put can put upon families. If it feels all too real, that's because it is.