Bradford actress Sophie McShera has swapped life below stairs for the Job Centre – but only for her new television role.
Sophie, best-known for playing kitchen maid Daisy in Downton Abbey, stars in new sitcom The Job Lot, which started on ITV last night.
Set in a West Midlands Job Centre, the comedy focuses on the relationships between those who work there and those who come in looking for work.
The cast includes Miranda actress Sarah Hadland as the neurotic centre manager, Russell Tovey as her reluctant righthand man, and Jo Enright as a staff member “so sour she could curdle milk”. Sophie plays Bryony, a lazy job centre regular.
“She is very much a job avoider,” said Sophie. “She’s canny and holds her own when she comes up against the staff. She always has some ludicrous reason why she can’t take a job, but she says it with such conviction there’s nothing they can do.”
Sophie, of Eccleshill, was attracted to the role because of the writing. “I loved the script for the pilot as soon as I got it. It made me laugh and I could see all the characters straight away,” she said.
“I love good comedy and was excited at the prospect of doing some.”
Still only 28, Sophie has done well since leaving St Joseph’s College in Manningham. As a teenager, she was in Emmerdale and Waterloo Road before landing the role of Daisy in Downton Abbey. Sophie has been in the hit period drama since it started, starring alongside Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Jim Carter.
The show has been a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, picking up countless awards, and Sophie has been getting used to the red carpet treatment, attending awards ceremonies such as the Golden Globes in Los Angeles.
But she revealed that before her acting career took off, she did a job she would rather forget. “My worst job was packing in a factory. I got so many paper cuts!” she said, adding that The Job Lot has been one of her favourite roles so far.
“Everyone was hilarious. We sometimes did a green room disco really early in the morning to set us up for the day. It probably looked ridiculous as we were all in costume, but I loved it,” she said.