“I know, you’re all looking at me like I’m really normal,” Sheridan Smith laughs on the set of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, still in wardrobe and make-up. “I’ve got a fake forehead which starts from my eyelids. And a fake nose, which is a bit terrifying. And then I’ve got my little tattoos on the side of my face, and I also have a gold tooth which I don’t have in right now, which I have become really attached to, I love it. I might keep that afterwards. Can you imagine if I just turned up to a party like this? I’d freak people out. I don’t even think people are going to recognise me, which is hilarious. People will go to the film and go, ‘I thought you were in it? You lied!’ But I’ve gotten to keep my accent, so hopefully they’ll recognise me by that.”
That voice is certainly recognisable, and it will be seared into the minds of fans of the popular UK TV series, The Royle Family (where she played Emma, Anthony Royle’s girlfriend) and Gavin & Stacey (in which she stole more than a few scenes as Rudi). In The Huntsman: Winter’s War (the sequel to 2012’s Snow White & The Huntsman,), Smith gets her dwarf on, so to speak, playing Mrs. Bromwyn, who becomes caught up in The Huntsman’s (Chris Hemsworth) war with the evil queens, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and Freya (Emily Blunt). “She is a feisty she-dwarf,” Smith says. “There were no she-dwarfs in the first one, but there’s two of us in this, and we’re a force to be reckoned with. Mrs. Bromwyn is obsessed with money and gold, and she knows that these goblins have got all this gold, and [Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman and Jessica Chastain’s Sara] are looking for the magic mirror from the first film, so I decide that because these huntsmen are so big and good with their blades that they can help us. So we catch them and come to a deal that if I go with them to this hidden forest where the goblins would be and have the mirror, I’ll get my gold and they’ll get their mirror. I take them on this journey to find the goblin forest, and that’s what we’re filming at the minute, which is great fun.”
Like her fellow dwarfs in the film – Alexandra Roach’s Doreena, Nick Frost’s Nion, and Rob Brydon’s Gryff – Smith had to learn the ins and outs of playing a short statured person in the film. “It was hilarious,” the actress says of what became known as “dwarf school.” “I didn’t realise that we would have to do that. We did a month’s work. We were being taught how to move. It’s amazing the things that you don’t think about, like you can’t just bend down and pick something up. You have to put one hand down and pick it up with the other. There’s a lot of stuff on our knees. It’s so clever. [Director] Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is such a genius. He shoots it so that we look so tiny. It’s really cleverly done, although my knees are hurting slightly.”
Explaining how she morphs into a dwarf for the film has been a tricky proposition for theatre and television veteran, Smith, who is hardly an expert when it comes to things like CGI and forced perspective. “It sounds like I’m dropping it in, which sounds really cheesy, and I’m not at all because I’m saying it because of what I said to him,” Smith smiles. “But when I got my OBE [which was awarded to Smith in the 2015 Queen’s New Year Honours List for her services to drama], Prince William asked me, ‘What are you working on at the moment?’ And I said, ‘I’m working on a film called The Huntsman.’ And he said, ‘Oh, what do you play in that?’ And I said, ‘I’m playing a dwarf.’ And there’s this big congregation waiting, and he’s like, ‘How’s that done?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, you know, it’s CGI…’ And then I thought, ‘What am I talking about?!’ There is no way that I can explain this to Prince William in two seconds! So I just went, ‘Congratulations on your children’ and curtseyed and walked away. ‘Let’s not talk about me.’ But it is hard to explain it to people. When people ask to know what I’m doing and they want to see pictures, I’m like, ‘Nope, you’re not allowed! You’ll just have to wait and see.’”
Despite her OBE, long history on the stage, and handful of feature film roles (Quartet, The Harry Hill Movie), The Huntsman: Winter’s War is Smith’s first big budget Hollywood-backed movie, and the actress admits that her mouth has been agape for most of the production. “Rob Brydon keeps calling me a competition winner,” Smith laughs. “He’s like, ‘Be cooler! Be cooler!’ Because I’m just like, ‘Ohhhhh, it’s amazing, it’s amazing.’ So he’s taking the mickey out of me saying that I could win the chance to stand next to the real actors. But I’m finding it really fascinating; it’s a whole new scale for me. There are so many people doing so many jobs. I’m constantly sitting by the monitor and watching how it’s all done, and how they do the CGI. I’ve always been excited about doing it, and each job has been different. This one is completely different. Theatre and TV have been great, but I’ve never done a big film like this, so it’s a whole new world for me. It’s like starting again when I was sixteen. That’s why Rob calls me a competition winner. I’m like an excitable child on set!”
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is released in cinemas on April 7.