Cilla (miniseries)

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Cilla TV series 3rd episode titlecard.jpg
Third episode title card
Written byJeff Pope
Composer(s)Niall Byrne
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes3
Executive producer(s)Jeff Pope
Robert Willis
Tony Moulsdale
Producer(s)Kwadjo Dajan
Running time45–47 minutes
Production company(s)ITV Studios and Motion Content Group
Original network
Picture format16:9 1080i
Audio formatStereo
Original release15 September (2014-09-15) –
29 September 2014 (2014-09-29)

Cilla is a British drama television miniseries about the early career of Cilla Black. It was broadcast in three parts on ITV, and began on 15 September 2014 with Sheridan Smith playing the starring role.[1] Smith was highly praised for her performance.

Following Cilla Black's death in August 2015, the series was broadcast again on ITV between 4–6 August 2015, as well as repeats on ITV Encore.


The series is based around Black's hometown of Liverpool and follows her rise to fame from 1960 amateur appearances in clubs, her relationships with Bobby Willis and Brian Epstein to the latter's death in 1967.

Episode 1 (15 September 2014)[edit]

In 1960s Liverpool, young Priscilla "Cilla" White is working as a typist, but frequently performs at Liverpool's famed Cavern Club, where she meets young singer-songwriter Bobby Willis. Mersey Beat, a local music publication, prints an article on Cilla in which she is mistakenly referred to as "Cilla Black". However, young Cilla likes the sound of it and decides to use if for her stage name. It is arranged for her to audition for the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein. However, she gets a bad case of nerves and the song's key is too low for her, and she loses ground to her rival, Beryl Marsden.

Episode 2 (22 September 2014)[edit]

Three years later, Cilla's confidence returns after her disastrous audition. Bobby urges her to give singing another go, and Brian Epstein gives Cilla another chance to audition by inviting her into the studio to record what would become her debut single, Love of the Loved. The song fails to break the Top 30, but Brian then insists that Cilla change direction and take a gamble on a cover of a Dionne Warwick ballad entitled Anyone Who Had a Heart. The gamble pays off and Anyone Who Had a Heart shoots straight to the top of the charts.

Episode 3 (29 September 2014)[edit]

Cilla follows up Anyone Who Had a Heart with a second consecutive number one, You're My World. However, she fails in her subsequent bid to corner the American market and tempers flare in her blossoming relationship with Bobby who is beginning to feel sidelined as Cilla's ego causes her to force Bobby to turn down his own recording contract. In the meantime Brian Epstein's life is unraveling as The Beatles begin to scale back on their activities and eventually to drift apart, and Epstein, a closeted homosexual, continually seeks young men to rough him up and he lies to Cilla about how he suffered his bruises. Epstein develops a dependency on sleeping pills with tragic repercussions as he overdoses on the pills and dies. By his bed is a contract for Cilla to star in her own series. Cilla, distraught about Brian's death, signs the contract and Cilla debuts on the BBC in January 1968. Cilla later marries Bobby, and the miniseries ends with a photo of the real Cilla and Bobby on their wedding day in 1969.


Character Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3
Cilla Black
Sheridan Smith
Bobby Willis
Aneurin Barnard
Brian Epstein
Ed Stoppard
Johnny Hutchinson
Danny Burns
John Lennon
Jack Farthing
Jack Farthing
Paul McCartney
Kevin Mains
Kevin Mains
Ringo Starr
Tom Dunlea
Tom Dunlea
George Harrison
Michael Hawkins
Michael Hawkins
John White
John Henshaw
Priscilla White
Melanie Hill
Gemma Brodrick-Bower
Debbie Brannan
Shaun Mason
George Martin
Elliot Cowan
Rory Storm
Jamie Muscato
Robert Willis Sr.
Andrew Schofield
Adrian Barber
Jordan Luke Gage
Tara Wells
Kate Fitzgerald
Elsie Starkey
Mary Duffy
Tommy McDonnell
James Nelson-Joyce
Kent Riley
Samantha Robinson
Ted "Kingsize" Taylor
Nic Greensheilds


ITV announced the three-part series on 16 February 2014. Filming began in Liverpool in March 2014.[2][3][4][5]

For the role, Smith had to learn the two singing voices that Black uses, a loud belt she originally used to make herself heard in the noisy Cavern Club and a softer one she used in a recording studio.[6]


Several locations in Liverpool were used.[7]

  • The offices of Liverpool Film Office stood in for the Cavern Club interior, with the Cavern's exterior represented by the Elude Bar and Restaurant on Porter Street.[7][8]
  • Cilla's family home at 380 Scotland Road (now demolished) was filmed in Holt Road, Kensington (exterior scenes), and the Belgrave pub in Bryanston Road in Aigburth (interior scenes).[7]
  • The family homes of Bobby Willis' (Anfield) and Ringo Starr's mother ("Welsh Streets", Aigburth) were represented by houses on Southwood Road.[7]
  • The scene showing Bobby running late to work was filmed on Everton Brow, with the 1960s Liverpool skyline recreated by CGI.[citation needed]
  • The cast was variously filmed "wandering down Yates Street in Dingle, past the Cross Keys pub off Old Hall Street and drinking at Ye Cracke on Rice Street".[7]
  • Scenes filmed on the other side of the Mersey on the Wirral included the marriage of Bobby’s brother Kenny in Wallasey Town Hall (representing Liverpool Register Office), and beach scenes at Perch Rock in New Brighton.[7]
  • The Adelphi hotel was used for several settings, first as the Kenilworth Hotel in London where Cilla and Bobby met Brian Epstein, then another hotel that they visit following Cilla's London Palladium appearance. Subsequently it represented the Persian Room of New York's Plaza Hotel and also the Blackpool hotel in which Cilla stayed.[7]
  • Oh Me, Oh My! in Water Street served as the location for the Scotch of St James club scenes and also a New York nightclub.[7]
  • Scenes set in Cilla's London flat were filmed in Elmsley Road in Mossley Hill.
  • Sound, Food & Drink on Duke Street in Liverpool, served as a location for where Bobby first introduces himself as Cilla's manager and negotiates her fee.


Year Group Award Nominee Result
2015 National Television Awards Drama Performance Sheridan Smith (for Cilla) Won[9]
Drama Cilla Nominated
British Academy Television Awards Leading Actress Sheridan Smith (for Cilla)[10] Nominated
Best Mini-series Cilla Nominated
Radio Times Audience Award Cilla Nominated
TV Choice Awards Best Actress Sheridan Smith (for Cilla) Won
TV Choice Awards Best New Drama Cilla Nominated
Royal Television Society Awards Best Actress Sheridan Smith (for Cilla) Nominated
International Emmy Awards Best Actress Sheridan Smith (for Cilla) Nominated


Logo Cilla TV series.jpg

Cilla received critical acclaim and led to Cilla Black re-entering music charts at number 46.[11][12][13][14][15]

The Telegraph wrote: "Smith sang her heart out, catching perfectly the bluesy belter within the girl next door, but rather than rushing her to fame, the action unfolded slowly enough to show her falling at the first hurdle as she became crippled with nerves singing for Brian Epstein. A drama this good, with Smith in sparkling form, knows it can take its time to flourish."

The Guardian wrote: "The third, and best, reason why Cilla is so watchable is Sheridan Smith. It's one of those extraordinary performances, like Julie Walters as Mo Mowlam, when an actress does more than play a real character; she becomes her, to the extent that it's hard for the viewer not to forget they're not actually watching a young Cilla Black. She sounds like her, too. I'd be interested to know what someone more qualified to judge (an actual Liverpudlian) thinks, but to me she utterly convinces as a Scouser, while some of the others don't. Also, the singing, which she does herself, is brilliant. And even when the singing isn't brilliant, she still is."


Episode # Ratings (in millions)
Sourced by BARB; figures include ITV +1 and ITV HD broadcasts

The 8.6 million rating achieved for the first episode made the programme one of the most popular dramas to be shown on UK television in 2014

Home media[edit]

The series was released on DVD on 6 October 2014.

Stage musical[edit]

Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield produced a stage musical adaptation of the series with a script by Jeff Pope, who wrote the TV series, which began touring the UK from September 2017 starring Kara Lilly Hayworth as Cilla. The production is scheduled to tour again from September 2020 with Sheridan Smith reprising the role of Cilla from the TV series.


  1. ^ "Sheridan Smith's Cilla Black drama adds Aneurin Barnard". Digital Spy. 17 March 2014. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  2. ^ "ITV commissions three-part drama Cilla, starring Sheridan Smith | presscentre". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Sheridan Smith to star as Cilla Black in new ITV drama – TV News – Digital Spy". 16 February 2014. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  4. ^ "BBC News – Sheridan Smith to play Cilla Black in new ITV drama". BBC News. 16 February 2014. Archived from the original on 2 December 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  5. ^ Deans, Jason (16 February 2014). "Sheridan Smith to play Cilla Black in three-part ITV drama | Culture |". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Cilla Black didn't want to appear in biopic". Archived from the original on 31 March 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Jade Wright (13 September 2014). "Recreating Cilla's Liverpool – behind the scenes to find the TV show locations". liverpoolecho. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Liverpool Film Office". Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "BAFTA nominations: Sheridan Smith up for award for ITV series Cilla". ITV News. Archived from the original on 19 July 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  11. ^ "Sheridan Smith as Cilla: What was the critics and Twitter verdict?". Digital Spy. 16 September 2014. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  12. ^ "Does Cilla Black merit a biopic?". 15 September 2014. Archived from the original on 15 April 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  13. ^ "Welcome back, chuck! Cilla Black back in the Top 40 after 40 years". Archived from the original on 28 November 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  14. ^ "HIT SONG & ALBUM! Cilla's back in the Official UK Charts -". Archived from the original on 1 January 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  15. ^ Tufayel Ahmed (4 October 2014). "Sheridan Smith enters Top 40 with Cilla Black song Anyone Who Had a Heart decades after original hit". mirror. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.

External links[edit]