Leading ladies Suranne Jones and Sheridan Smith are set to go head-to-head tomorrow at the National Television Awards.
Known for their powerful portrayals of feisty females, both actresses are nominated in the coveted Drama Performance category, getting the bookies in a flurry.
Suranne, 39, will be hoping to clinch it for a second time for ITV’s Doctor Foster. While Sheridan, 36, is in the frame for her outstanding role as Julie Bushby, in BBC1’s Shannon Matthews drama The Moorside.
Though they face competition from David Tennant, Tom Hardy and Jenna Coleman, bookies have Mancunian Suranne 6/2 and Lincolnshire lass Sheridan at 5/2 odds.
But with so many similarities between the self-made actresses, how can we compare them?
1. Early starters
Suranne was brought up in a staunchly Catholic household in Oldham, the child of an engineer and a secretary.
After being bullied at school, she started acting early, attending Oldham Theatre Workshop with fellow future Corrie star Antony Cotton, who she still counts as a pal.
She started performing early, as this throwback photo of her in A Christmas Carol at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre aged just 12 shows. Who’s that with her? Andy Whyment – Corrie’s Kirk.
Sheridan’s was actually born into entertaining. Brought up in Epworth, North Lincolnshire, she is the daughter of country music duo Colin and Marilyn and used to play songs with them and do plays from the age of four.
She never went to drama school, but was a National youth Music Theatre member and played Baby Jane, right, in Gypsy aged 11 at Hull New Theatre.
After starring in Bugsy Malone, she secured an agent by the age of 16.
2. Most impressive breakthrough
Acting professionally from 16, Suranne’s big break was as feisty machinist Karen Phillips in Corrie in 2000, following an unsuccessful audition for Geena Gregory.
The character, who later married Steve McDonald, became hugely popular and Suranne became a lads’ mag pin-up.
Though she said: “I was 21, and within three weeks of me joining Corrie I was in Barbados doing a bikini shoot… I was quite impressionable, I’d say yes to everything.”
She left Karen for good in 2004 and has barely left primetime screens since.
Sheridan got her big break the year before, joining critically acclaimed comedy The Royle Family in 1999.
She continued as one of our biggest comic actresses with
eight years in BBC’s Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, and two series of Gavin & Stacey.
In 2014 she became the go-to name for dramas after the BBC’s The 7.39 and ITV’s The Widower and Cilla.
3. Most iconic scenes
Millions of viewers loved watching Karen McDonald’s ongoing feuds with love rival Tracy Barlow, played by Kate Ford.
They included Tracy ruining Karen’s second wedding to Steve by announcing she was having his baby after a one-night stand.
But nothing can top one of the most shocking moments on telly last year, when Suranne’s vengeful Doctor Foster character Gemma Foster had aggressive hate-sex with cheating ex-husband Simon, played by Bertie Carvel, on the dining room table. It sent viewers and social media into a spin.
Sheridan, meanwhile, gave such a soaring rendition of Anyone Who Had a Heart during her portrayal of singer and TV icon Cilla Black in Cilla that she pulled in eight million viewers.
Sheridan also got the late star’s 1964 number one hit back into the charts.
4. Biggest award hauls
In 2009, Suranne won her first critical acclaim as a convicted murderer in ITV’s Unforgiven.
She was nominated for two TV awards for the role, but it wasn’t until she took on the character of Detective Rachel Bailey in ITV’s Scott & Bailey
that she really started to bring home the trophies.
She was nominated three times at the NTAs, and won a Royal Television Society Award in 2011.
As Gemma Foster, Suranne has won an NTA in 2016, a British Press Guild Award, a BAFTA and a Royal Television Society Award.
Sheridan won the Laurence Olivier Award for Legally Blonde in 2011 and a WhatsOnStage prize for her role in Hedda Gabler.
She won a BAFTA for ITV’s Mrs Biggs in 2013, and her first NTA in
2015 plus that year’s TV Choice Award for Cilla. She also boasts an OBE for services to drama.
5. Best at making us laugh
Suranne’s portrayal of Karen McDonald in Corrie earned her the nicknames “Posh Spice-wannabe” and “bulldog in hoop earrings”.
At the height of her Karen fame, she also showed her fun side by appearing in a 2001 Coronation Street special of Stars In Their Eyes, doing her best impression of Madonna in a blonde wig, glittery cowboy hat and white jeans.
As Cheeky Vimto-loving Janet alongside ex-boyfriend James Corden in Gavin & Stacey, Sheridan was never funnier then when they recreated Kanye West’s rap from Estelle’s American Boy.
6. Best at overcoming adversity
Suranne admitted last year she endured “20 years of bad dates” and had failed relationships with IT consultant Jim Phelan, Corrie co-star Jonathan Wrather and plumber Lorenzo Giove.
She’s finally found happiness after marrying magazine editor Laurence Akers. They met at Corrie pal Sally Lindsay’s wedding in 2014. They wed months later and now have a toddler son.
But it was bittersweet as she lost her mum Jenny at Christmas 2016 after a long illness. She said: “Becoming a mother and then losing your mother is quite, well, they both change you profoundly and you have to give yourself time to understand what’s happened.”
Suranne’s also seen it all during her charity work in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping with HIV, women’s rights and child soldier projects. Sheridan has had to cope with the loss of her brother Julian, 18, from cancer when she was eight, and of dad Colin to cancer in 2016. She quit West End musical Funny Girl last year, then reportedly jetted to a detox retreat in Turkey as she tried to recover from grief.
Her love life has been just as colourful. Sheridan was in an on-off relationship with Hollyoaks actor Greg Wood while he was separated from his wife. Last year she split with model Graham Nation.
Winner: Both strong
7. Best at making us sob
Suranne turned on the nation’s waterworks during the reunion with her sister at the end of Unforgiven, and with her pleading monologue to the camera in series two of Doctor Foster, as she begs son Tom to return home.
But it was Sheridan, who may have started out on stage and in comedies, who has really got the tear-jerking credentials.
Her portrayal of a young cancer victim in 2015’s The C Word managed to be funny and moving as she excelled in emotionally draining scenes, including therapy sessions and holidays with her husband Pete (Paul Nicholls) before her death.
8. Best transformations
Besides her Stars In Their Eyes turn as Madonna, Suranne’s best makeover came during her performance in crime drama Unforgiven, written by Happy Valley’s Sally Wainwright.
Sporting bleached locks, brunette Suranne is almost unrecognisable as convicted cop killer Ruth Slater.
Sheridan is certainly not shy when it comes to on-screen overhauls, either.
She shocked the nation by shaving her head to play breast cancer victim Lisa Lynch in The C Word, while she piled on the pounds for her role of Julie Bushby in The Moorside.
In Cilla, she donned a dramatic bobbed red wig to play the singer.
‘My picks from five closest fought categories’
By IAN HYLAND
Suranne Vs Sheridan is not the only big battle. Here are the other ones to watch…
1. TV Presenter
Nominees: Ant & Dec, Bradley Walsh, Holly Willoughby, Phillip Schofield
Talk of Ant & Dec’s winning streak being broken is simply that – talk. They earned their money on I’m A Celebrity.
Saturday Night Takeaway had a good year too. Also, splitting Pip and Holly will split their vote. They’re as much of a double act as Ant & Dec. Only difference is Ant & Dec let us in on the joke.
As for Mr Walsh? At least it’s a free night out.
2. Challenge show
Noms: I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef, Love Island
It wasn’t a vintage I’m A Celebrity, so if Ant & Dec are going to come unstuck it could be here.
Love Island was massively popular with the youngsters, and they love to vote in these awards. Also, the move to Channel 4 did Bake Off no real harm. Could this be the cherry on the cake?
3. Serial Drama
Noms: Coronation Street, EastEnders, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks
This could depend on when viewers cast their votes. If it was before Christmas I can see Emmerdale winning for the second year. But after Albert Square’s strong festive period, I can see a lot of the recent votes going its way.
4. Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award
Noms: Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, All Round to Mrs Brown’s, Celebrity Juice, The Graham Norton Show
Michael McIntyre’s Big Show should be on this list, but in its absence I’d give it to Mrs B.
Celebrity Juice is far too rude to be associated with Brucie, while Ant & Dec will be far too busy carrying all their other awards. As for Graham Norton? He never wins. It’s the law.
5. Factual Entertainment
Noms: Gogglebox, Ambulance, Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
A Gogglebox victory would be a fitting tribute to sofa legend Leon Bernicoff, who sadly died last month.
But this one will come down to who the public loves the most out of the Royal Family and dogs.
Did Paul O’Grady meet any corgis at Battersea by any chance? If he did then he can have the award and the royals can (kind of) share it with him.