The Inventory: Lesley Sharp

‘Jobs you don’t get, friendships that fail – they just take you in a different direction’

Award-winning actor Lesley Sharp, 49, has appeared on stage, in film and on television. Her best-known TV roles include those in ‘Clocking Off’, ‘Bob & Rose’ and ‘Scott & Bailey’.

What was your earliest ambition?

To live in London. It always felt like this magic place.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

State school, a comprehensive, Formby High School. I always felt my life wasn’t going to start until I finished school. I worked at the V&A, in the department of education and science, and then as an office junior for a firm of chartered surveyors. Then I went to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Who was or still is your mentor?

Tina Gibb, now Tina Morton, who ran the local drama group at the Formby theatre club. My teenage years were very difficult, my mum was very ill and it was a place of refuge and escape. Tina encouraged me, believed in me and took my ambitions very seriously. It was her belief that got me to drama school.

How physically fit are you?

Very. I do bikram yoga as often as I can – and if I can’t, I’ll go for a run.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

In your twenties, if you’ve got one or other burning brightly you can make headway, but I think as you get older you have to have both. One without the other can be a millstone round your neck.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No.

How politically committed are you?

I’m a great shouter at the TV but, to my shame, I don’t get out and march. I feel pretty disillusioned about the politics and politicians in this country – and angry.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I try.

Do you have more than one home?

No.

Most wanted: a massive house on Palombaggia beachfront, Corsica

A massive house on the beachfront in Palombaggia, Corsica.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Clothes.

In what place are you happiest?

In Cornwall, with my family.

What ambitions do you still have?

To play some amazing roles at the National Theatre in London. And to work in the US with people like the Coen brothers and Martin Scorsese.

What drives you on?

I want to stay open. I don’t want to shut down the possibility of new ideas, new ways of seeing the world.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

It’s to do with the ongoing creation of and investment in my family.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Any disappointments are disguised opportunities. Jobs you don’t get, friendships that fail, things that you don’t do well – they just take you in a different direction.

Future ambition: to work with Martin Scorsese

She’d go: “Wow, you don’t look too bad, and you’re still doing it – you’re one of those old birds in the rehearsal room. Good for you.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Live by the sea and open a little guest house. And maybe try another country and see if I have any luck elsewhere. Maybe Italy.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I believe that the energy we have as living human beings is still part and parcel of the universe at some level and makes a difference.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

10. There are caveats, but where I am now is the sum of everything that’s happened so far and that’s fine and dandy by me.


A second series of ‘Starlings’, starring Lesley Sharp, starts this month on Sky1

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

More on this topic

Suggestions below based on Lesley Sharp

Ghosts, Duchess Theatre, London

In his directorial debut, Iain Glen has cast himself as a sanctimonious prig and butt of humour. As a programme essay notes, Ghosts has become funnier over the years, and most of the laughs are at the expense of Pastor Manders’ moral certainty, childish credulity and rank hypocrisy. Glen gives the pastor a distressed Morningside accent, as if he has just popped over to the Norwegian island on which the Alvings live from his parish at Edinburgh’s Holy Corner.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Vaudeville Theatre, London

At the end of a play about a young woman with an amazing talent for impersonating musical divas, it rather sends out the wrong message for a press agent to hand out a list of who was being impersonated. I was shocked to find that that American-accented rendition of “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” was after all meant to be the British 1960s pop singer Dusty Springfield. “I Have Confidence” came across as equal parts Julie Andrews (as intended) and Connie Fisher. Diana Vickers (a star of the 2008 series of television talent show The X Factor) is on far firmer ground with the title character LV’s favourites Shirley Bassey and Judy Garland, although the more she belts Garland the more accuracy she loses.