Blogtor Who takes a look at one of this week’s Doctor Who guest stars, Siobhan Finneran, who plays Becka Sharpe in The Witchfinders.
Born in Lancashire in 1966, Finneran took a theatre studies course before embarking on a career that has seen her star in some of the most popular and acclaimed shows on British television. She has proved her admirable range in a succession of well-loved dramas and comedies alike, whilst still finding time to appear in select stage and film productions.
Read on for just some of Finneran’s career highlights!
Siobhan Finneran In TV Drama
Finneran has appeared in both series so far of the BBC crime drama Happy Valley. The show is led by Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood, a divorced police sergeant reeling after family tragedy. Finneran plays recovering heroin addict – and Catherine’s sister – Clare Cartwright, with critics lauding the realistic and captivating sibling dynamic between the two. Happy Valley has not only been well received amongst both viewers and critics, but also picked up BAFTAs for Best Drama Series in both 2015 and 2017; the latter year also saw Finneran nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the show.
A notable role for Finneran came prior to Happy Valley when she appeared in ITV’s Downton Abbey, the period drama charting the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family. She appeared in the first three series as Lady Grantham’s scheming maid, Miss O’Brien, whose time in service at the Abbey came to an end when she left to seek employment in India. Her time in the show saw her, along with her fellow cast members, share the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Most recently Finneran played police officers in two of last year’s crime dramas. ITV’s The Loch featured Finneran as DCI Lauren Quigley, a detective brought in from Glasgow to lead the investigation into a grisly murder in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. Earlier in the year, Finneran had appeared in BBC drama The Moorside. Based on the 2008 kidnapping of Shannon Matthews, the two-part drama focused on the community and police response to the nine-year-old’s disappearance. Finneran starred as the family’s liaison officer, DC Christine Freeman, with The Moorside also featuring Big Finish companion Sheridan Smith as the family’s neighbour Julie Bushby, who rallied the community during the search.
As well as an early stint in Coronation Street, Finneran also counts amongst her numerous drama credits parts in Clocking Off, Wire in the Blood, Dalziel and Pascoe and Casualty. In 2013 Finneran appeared in the second series of The Syndicate as Mandy, one of a group of five hospital workers whose lives are turned upside down on winning the lottery:
Siobhan Finneran In TV Comedy
Although drama features prominently amongst Finneran’s past roles, she’s also been proving her comedy credentials right from the beginning of her career. Some of her earliest roles were in shows such as Josie – a sketch show fronted by comedian Josie Lawrence – and The Russ Abbot Show, with a later part in the Russell T Davies comedy drama Bob & Rose.
Finneran’s best-known comedy role, however, was in the ITV sitcom Benidorm. She starred as the fiery but fiercely protective Janice Garvey, a regular holidaymaker at the resort along with husband Mick (Steve Pemberton), their two children and her mother Madge (Sheila Reid). Joining the show as part of its original cast in 2007, her family unit was a fixture for seven series before leaving in 2015.
More recently, Finneran appeared in the revival of the ITV comedy drama Cold Feet, which returned to screens in 2016 after originally airing between 1998-2003. The most recent seventh series, which aired last year, saw Finneran debut as glamorous Cheshire housewife Nikki, who develops a close bond with show regular David (Robert Bathurst).
Siobhan Finneran On Film
Although Finneran is best known for her television work, she actually got her professional start in the 1987 film Rita, Sue and Bob Too. The comedy drama starred Finneran as Rita, one of two babysitters (alongside Michelle Holmes’ Sue) who become involved in an affair with their employer, Bob (George Costigan).
Since then Finneran has appeared in films such as the award-winning Boy A, French thriller Un Illustre Inconnu (Nobody From Nowhere) and the 2013 British drama The Selfish Giant, which gained Finneran a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the British Independent Film Awards that same year.
Finneran’s most recent film is last year’s Apostasy. She stars as Ivanna, the mother of two daughters in a drama exploring the rifts created in their family when life circumstances prove incompatible with their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses:
Siobhan Finneran On Stage
Finneran’s most recent theatre role was in the National Theatre’s 2014 production of 3 Winters. The drama followed the fortunes of a single Croatian family through three distinct periods – 1945, 1990 and 2011 – with Finneran playing the older Masha, a character linking all three time periods.
Other stage roles for Finneran include An Inspector Calls at the Nottingham Playhouse and Port at the Manchester Royal Exchange. In 2005 Finneran starred in the Manchester Royal Exchange/National Theatre production of On The Shore of the Wide World, sharing the stage with former Doctor Matt Smith in one of his first professional roles.
As well as being set to reprise her roles in the forthcoming new series of Happy Valley and Cold Feet, Finneran has several more new projects on the go.
Two of these are new commissions for ITV, due to air in 2019. As well as a guest role in The Widow, produced in conjunction with Amazon Prime and starring Kate Beckinsale, Finneran will also feature in crime drama A Confession. The six-part series will see her play Elaine O’Callaghan, whose 22-year-old daughter Sian goes missing after a night out. The investigation into her disappearance is led by DS Steve Fulcher (Martin Freeman); his desire to solve the case sees him go to extraordinary lengths, potentially costing him his career and reputation.
Finneran is also set to appear in the upcoming British film Pond Life. The feature follows a group of friends from a quiet fishing village in Doncaster as they embark upon an unforgettable fishing expedition. As well as Finneran, the film will also see appearances from fellow Doctor Who Series 11 guest stars Shaun Dooley (Epzo, The Ghost Monument) and Julie Hesmondhalgh (Judy Maddox, Kerblam!).
In this week’s episode of Doctor Who, the TARDIS team arrives in a small Lancashire village during the 17th-century witch trials. From the trailer below, these trials appear to be led by Siobhan Finneran’s character, Becka Sharpe, in league with King James I (Alan Cumming) – but what does this mean for the residents of Bilehurst Cragg, and for the Doctor and her friends?
The Doctor Who adventure continues…
Doctor Who continues this Sunday at 6.30pm GMT on BBC One and at 8pm EST on BBC America with The Witchfinders by Joy Wilkinson. For further broadcast times in your region, check local listings. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill(Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien) and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).
The Witchfinders guest stars Alan Cumming (King James I) and Siobhan Finneran(Becka Savage) and is directed by Sallie Aprahamian.
The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz arrive in 17th-century Lancashire and become embroiled in a witch trial run by the local landowner. As fear stalks the land, the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt. But is there something even more dangerous at work? Can the Doctor and friends keep the people of Bilehurst Cragg safe from all the forces that are massing in the land?