Liverpool actor Ricky Tomlinson has told critics of Cilla star Sheridan Smith to “get off her back”.
The Royle Family legend spoke out after the award-winning actress, who won critical acclaim for her TV role as Liverpool singer Cilla Black , had to pull out of West End musical Funny Girl.
Producers said their leading lady had taken a leave of absence due to stress and exhaustion when she handed over to her understudy on Thursday.
It came after she accused the press of “bullying” her after accusations were made about her reaction to missing out on a TV Bafta earlier in the week.
Ricky, who starred in the hit BBC sitcom alongside Sheridan, said she needed to give herself time to recharge as he scorned her detractors.
He said: “People need to leave her alone. They should get off her back.
“She’s great. I think the problem is she’s exhausted.
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“She needs to get away and put her feet up for a few weeks, then go back fully refreshed and that’s it.
“If I was in her shoes I’d take no notice of anyone, then have a nice break and get back to work and win a few of those Baftas.
“That would shut people up. She’s a tremendous actress.”
Sheridan, 34, was part-way through a run of performances at the Savoy Theatre of the musical Funny Girl in which she portrayed US actress and comedienne Fanny Brice.
In March she learned that her beloved dad Colin, 80, has cancer. She has described her family as “heroes” and said previously: “I just want to work hard and make them all proud back home. I know I act like a tough cookie – but I’m a vulnerable little girl who loves my family.”
Ricky starred as legendary telly-watching loafer Jim Royle in the Royle Family and Sheridan played Emma – girlfriend of his TV son Antony, played by Ralf Little.