Sheila Hancock ‘told to get plastic surgery on her nose’

Dame Sheila Hancock has said she was told to get “plastic surgery” as a young actress starting out in the 1950s.

The actress is known for her TV and film roles which have included The Wildcats Of St Trinian’s, Edie, The Rag Trade, Mr Digby Darling and Now, Take My Wife along with her West End theatre performances.

Dame Sheila told the BBC’s Amol Rajan Interviews she “was one of the very few working class people” at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), where her classmates would comment on her pronunciation and she was on a scholarship.

She added “all the other people in the class were frightfully posh and they were all shrieking with laughter” at the way she said door.

Dame Sheila Hancock with Amol Rajan. (BBC Studios/Sam Hotson)
Dame Sheila Hancock with Amol Rajan (BBC Studios/Sam Hotson/PA)

Her first roles were in the the theatre where actors had “very low salaries” and she says people “used to come round with hotpots for me because I was incredibly skinny”.

Dame Sheila, who also had small roles in The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and comedy Carry On Cleo and had her own 1970s series But Seriously, It’s Sheila Hancock, added: “And eventually I passed out and they discovered I (had) malnutrition.”

She also recalled being told: “I got an A for acting, but the comment was ‘could be useful in juvenile character’, which is cleaners and maids.”

In one incident, she said she was advised to change her looks and was seen as “too tall”.

Reception to celebrate young people
Sheila Hancock, known for her varied theatre, TV and film roles (Chris Jackson/PA)

Dame Sheila said: “I had acne, so I had a bad skin.

“Somebody saw me in Bromley Rep doing a performance as a model and they asked me to go and see them in the office.

“He sat me under a lamp and said, ‘Well, you’ll have to have plastic surgery because my nose is so odd, you know?’

“So I didn’t fit the pattern of what is best to look like as a woman, really, in those days.”

The actress, who is known for her outspoken views and saying she does not care to be cancelled, said: “I think we’ve become over emotional.”

She added: “I think we overweight feeling sad, we’re not as sad as we think we are and sometimes ‘pull yourself together’ which was my mum’s phrase is not a bad thing and sometimes it’s worth saying (something other than) tell me about ‘Oh that’s awful, your childhood was difficult’ (and instead) ‘no, get on with it’.”

Most recently, she has appeared in detective drama Unforgotten, fantasy show A Discovery Of Witches and drama series Delicious along with being in Channel 4 reality shows Celebrity Gogglebox and Great Canal Journeys.