Lesley Sharp (born in Liverpool, Lancashire on 1st January 1964) is an English stage, film and television actress, particularly well known for her variety of British television roles including Clocking Off, Bob & Rose and afterlife.
Adopted as the second daughter of mature Scottish parents, Sharp grew up in Formby, Lancashire. Childhood holidays were spent in Edinburgh. Sharp started acting because, as a child, she felt "invisible" and didn't "quite fit in."She has said that her inspiration to act came from watching Dick Emery on television.Her father worked for the Inland Revenue and was not keen on her taking up acting, preferring her to follow in his footsteps by becoming a civil servant. Her adoptive mother died of cancer when Sharp was 15. The adoption was never a secret in the family, but it was only after leaving home that she met her genetic mother — a working class woman unable to keep her because the father was a married man.
Sharp moved to London at 18 and, after initially failing to get into drama school, worked at the Department of Education and Science at the Victoria & Albert Museum.Responsible for filling in the warders' overtime sheets, her poor numeracy skills resulted in frequent mistakes before she was eventually asked "very nicely, but firmly" to leave.
Sharp attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1982.
Sharp's screen debut was in Alan Clarke's Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986), playing Bob's wife, Michelle. She appeared in another Clarke-directed project, as Valerie in the filmed version of Jim Cartwright's successful stageplay Road(1987). Further film appearances included supporting roles in The Rachel Papers (1989) and Stephen Poliakoff's Close My Eyes, with Clive Owen and Alan Rickman.Sharp was establishing herself as a talented actress and social realist roles in Mike Leigh's Naked (1993) and the Jimmy McGovern-penned Priest (1994) further raised her profile. By the time she was in Prime Suspect 4: The Lost Child (1995) and The Full Monty (1997) she had become a well-known performer in Britain.
Although Sharp has appeared in a variety of films throughout her career, she is probably best known by television audiences. By the late 1990s, she was being offered lead roles in numerous well-written – mostly northern-set – drama series. Common As Muck (1997) was followed by Playing the Field (1998–2002), a drama about a female football team which ran for five series. Sharp had supporting parts in Great Expectations (1999), as Mrs Joe, and in Nature Boy(2000), as Martha Tyler, before landing the role of Trudy Graham in Paul Abbott's BAFTA-award-winning Clocking Off (2000–03), which lasted four series. Russell T Davies then cast her opposite Alan Davies in Bob & Rose, which resulted in a BAFTA nomination for Sharp.Further film roles in From Hell, starring Johnny Depp, and Cheeky (1993), which was directed by Naked co-star David Thewlis, preceded another television drama written by Russell T. Davies. In The Second Coming (2003) Lesley Sharp was "the woman who killed God" in the form of Stephen Baxter, as played by Christopher Eccleston.
Lesley Sharp again worked with Mike Leigh in Vera Drake (2004) which was followed by one-off television dramas including Planespotting, Born with Two Mothers and Our Hidden Lives, all in 2005. The same year, she played the clairvoyant lead role of Alison Mundy opposite Andrew Lincoln's sceptical Robert Bridge in ITV's supernatural drama series Afterlife. Although the subject matter was seen as quite controversial, it was generally received positively by critics and audiences.Sharp's performance was highly praised and she was nominated for several awards. She commented, in a This Morning television interv≠iew, that the guest stars – including Natalia Tena, David Threlfall and Mark Benton — for the second series "were amazing".
After a ten-year break from stagework, October 2005 saw Lesley Sharp return to the theatre as Emma in Sam Shepard's The God of Hell at the Donmar Warehouse. In what she described as "a black comedy about the poison at the heart of America", she was directed by her friend Kathy Burke — someone she had previously competed with for screen roles. Lesley Sharp concentrated on theatrical work for the next few years, until re-appearing on television screens in 2008 in the three-part Lucy Gannon-penned drama The Children. Later in 2008, she worked with Russell T. Davies for a third time when she played Sky Silvestry in the Doctor Who episode "Midnight". Davies later tipped Sharp to become the first woman to play The Doctor.
Early 2009 saw Sharp playing Petronella van Daan in the BBC's new version of The Diary of Anne Frank. Next up was a role, playing Paddy Considine's wife, in Channel 4's acclaimed drama series Red Riding. She then joined the cast in the BBC daytime drama series Moving On, for which Jimmy McGovern was the executive producer. Sharp played Sylvie, a woman whose life becomes dominated by fear, in ""Butterfly Effect", the last of five individual stories. Sharp starred in a 2009 revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville Theatre with Marc Warren and Diana Vickers, which ran from October to the following January. Since May 2011 Sharp has starred in ITV1's crime drama series Scott & Bailey as Janet Scott. From May 2012 she stars in the Sky1 comedy series Starlings as Jan Starling.
In an interview relating to Afterlife, Sharp stated that she is "not religious", and thinks "you should live your life as if it's all there is."