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Sheila on set today
I had the honour and pleasure of meeting Sheila Reid this week - now most widely recognised as the razor tongued perma-tanned matriarch from the ITV hit comedy series "Benidorm". However, in real life you couldn´t get further from the truth - which is a great credit to her acting abilities. In the series Madge has a sharp northern accent, often spouting caustic remarks but Sheila is very softly and well spoken - the polar opposite to the character which she plays.

We met in her dressing room at the Sol Pelicanos hotel - an entire floor is booked out by Tiger Aspect Productions for the cast and all the extras for the duration of filming. They will have been here for just over 3 months and Sheila told me that they only had a 1 week break - when the majority went back to the UK. But individual actors are not necessarily filming every consecutive day so end up getting odd days off during the week, dependant on the scene they are shooting - cast and crew work 11 days over a two week period. During her time here both her husband and sister have visited - enjoying the resort and all that it has to offer. The cast all stay in apartments on the outskirts of Benidorm and do in fact socialise when not working.

Sheila attended drama school and began her career on the stage - she holds a most distinguished theatre career. She started as a "Weekly Rep" in Colchester and recalled that she had to even provide her own costumes for six pounds a week - that´s six old pound by the way! Each job lasted a week, hence the name and she had to learn her lines in that time too. Roles then slowly started to increase to two then three weeks, which was great as she had longer to learn the part. A great opportunity then arose with a part in "Half a Sixpence" starring Tommy Steel and directed by John Dexter - who also happened to be the associate director of the National Theatre. This paved the path for Sheila to audition for the National and she won a place, remaining there for 7 years followed by a period at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

In character....
Probably her most prestigious time were spent sharing the stage with Sir Laurence Olivier in a production of Othello but throughout the 60´s she had parts in all the acclaimed titles such as The Crucible, Three Sisters - a play by the Russian author and playwright Chekhov, both of which were directed by Olivier and latterly Sweeney Todd in the 90´s. Sheila said that television came late in life for her by todays standards, but she is relishing it. She adores the role of Madge, especially as it is one that has developed and evolved with her over the years. She appeared in the 2012 Christmas special of "Call the Midwife" and has also had roles in many favourite programmes such as "Doctors", "Psychoville", "Casualty", "The Bill" to name a very small handful.

When they finished filming the very first series non imagined that they would be back year after year - but she is delighted that they are, as she has fallen in love with the area. The first thing she does after arriving is hit the shops and stock up on glorious fresh Spanish food and delicious selection of fruits at the market. Sheila wasn´t quite the mahogany colour that Madge usually is - but she did show me her hands and the spray tan was evident around the edge of her palms - and that was after showering the bulk of it off.  When she finishes filming she gets herself off to a beauty salon back in the UK for a deep exfoliation - and it usually requires a couple of sessions as it gets ingrained as you can imagine after nearly 12 weeks of spraying! But Sheila isn´t complaining as she adores the role of Madge - as do we all who watch her and laugh out loud at her classic one-liners - which I bet many would love to come out with in real life!

Upon her chariot from a previous series
Most of the scenes see Madge sat upon her scooter in her bathing suit as they are set around the poolside. In real life Sheila had never even sat on one until the first series ... but she loves it! She told me that they had to do some filming in the apartment for the first series and she was bumping into all the furniture to begin with - but after 5 series she´s a pro now! Derren certainly had a sense of humour when he wrote her character. Even without the deep tan and scooter Sheila is recognised all the time by her fans... but you won´t find a cigarette hanging out of her mouth like Madge has - Sheila doesn´t smoke in real life and they give her herbal ones for filming.

Once filming finishes next week she will take a well deserved rest and spend time with her beloved husband - I find it very hard to believe that Sheila is a lady of a certain age with the energy levels she has.... it´s no easy job filming a 12 hour day for those even half her age! But what will Sheila always be remembered for - undoubtably her Madge character.  It reminds me of a remark made by actor and comedian Lenny Henry "I won´t be remembered for the role I played as Othello or being a funnyman... no I´ll always be remembered as that black guy advertising the Premier Inn"!