EXCLUSIVE: Cilla, a biographical drama from ITV penned by BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated Philomena co-scribe Jeff Pope, has added up-and-comer Aneurin Barnard to star opposite Sheridan Smith who is playing the eponymous “Liverpudlian Songbird.” She may be relatively unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, but Cilla Black (née Priscilla Maria Veronica White) is a fixture in the UK, perhaps more so now for her TV hosting gigs, but she was also part of the 1960s Beatles era. The three-part bio-mini from ITV Studios tells the story of her rocky rise to fame. The Liverpool-born star started out working in the typist pool at a local company and ultimately met the two men who came to love her and fight over her: future husband Bobby Willis (Barnard) and original Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The drama explores Cilla’s burgeoning friendship with John, Paul, George and Ringo, the latter of whom helped her to cross paths with Epstein and producer George Martin who launched her career with recording sessions at Abbey Road Studios. Black became known in the UK for No.1 hit singles “Anyone Who Had A Heart” (1964) and “You’re My World” (1964). Ultimately, she had 11 Top 10 hits on the British charts between 1964 and 1971. (“You’re My World” also peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.) She went on to comedy acting gigs, but is probably best known to current audiences as the host of Dating Game-esque Blind Date (where I discovered her years ago) which ran from 1985 to 2003 on LWT, now part of ITV. Paul Whittington (Mrs Biggs, Vera) is directing Cilla. Pope is exec producing with Kwadjo Dajan (Appropriate Adult, Mrs Biggs). Shooting started today in Liverpool. An airdate has yet to be confirmed. Barnard’s credits include The White Queen, Emanuel And The Truth About Fishes and the upcoming The Devil’s Harvest. He is repped by The Artists Partnership, UTA and Anonymous Content.
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