'The Railway Children Return': Sheridan Smith admits to nerves before meeting Jenny Agutter

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Watch: Sheridan Smith pays tribute to 'screen royalty' Jenny Agutter

As The Railway Children Return arrives in cinemas this Friday, actor Sheridan Smith has revealed an on-set moment that was 'like royalty arriving', and she’s sure she curtsied.

The film, the sequel to 1970’s much-loved The Railway Children, stars Smith as the local head teacher who gives a home to three evacuee children during the Second World War.

Playing her mother is Jenny Agutter, who reprises her role of Bobbie from the original, and who her co-star describes as being 'like royalty'.

Read more: Why The Railway Children Return is relevant in 2022

Smith described working alongside one of the most familiar faces on British screens as 'phenomenal' and recalled the day when she first arrived to shoot her scenes.

The Railway Children Return (Studiocanal)
Sheridan Smith and Jenny Agutter on the set of The Railway Children Return. (Studiocanal)

“We’d been filming for quite a while and it was building up to Jenny coming onto the set,” Smith told Yahoo.

“We were all so excited and nervous. When Jenny walked on set towards the end of the shoot, it was like royalty arriving! Everyone turned out in the village. I think I bobbed a bit! It was breath taking and just an honour.”

Read more: The Railway Children cast then and now

Agutter admits she wasn’t suffering from nerves on the day, but 'felt embraced by a lovely family, which was great.'

It was, however, an emotional experience to return to the set over 50 years since the original film was released.

Gary Warren, Jenny Agutter and Sally Thomsett cross a railroad in a scene from the film 'The Railway Children', 1970. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)
Gary Warren, Jenny Agutter and Sally Thomsett cross a railroad in a scene from the film The Railway Children, 1970. (Universal/Getty Images)

“For anybody who’s been somewhere in life that means something to them and then they return to it – you have a feeling that there’s no time in between and yet you have a whole world in between and that’s what fills you with emotion.

"The world is different, your life is different, yet you’re seeing it as though nothing has happened. It was lovely because returning to it and returning to this lovely group of people and actors, these great children and there was a lovely story to tell as well. It was a joy to do.”

Watch a trailer for The Railway Children Return

The Railway Children was one of her earliest cinema roles in a career that went on to include Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971) and John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London (1981).

In recent years, she’s acquired new fans as Sister Julienne in BBC One’s Call The Midwife, which is due back on our screens at the end of the year with a Christmas special.

For Smith, the film is one of her rare appearances on the cinema screen. An established performer both on stage and TV – most recently in The Teacher and No Return – her voice featured in The Queen’s Corgi (2019).

Read more: Jenny Agutter opens up about naked movie scenes

The Railway Children Returns teams Agutter and Smith with a cast including Tom Courtenay, John Bradley, Beau Gadson, Austin Haynes and K J Aikens.

The Railway Children Return (Studiocanal)
The Railway Children Return (Studiocanal)

Set in the Yorkshire countryside during the Second World War, it follows the adventures of three young evacuees from Salford who are housed a village with Smith’s head teacher and discover a runaway soldier hiding in the train yard. Discovering he’s been falsely accused of cowardice, they set out to put things right and help him find his way home.

The original version of The Railway Children was released in 1970. Based on E Nesbit’s children’s classic from 1905, it was the directorial debut of actor Lionel Jeffries. Agutter, Bernard Cribbins, Dinah Sheridan, Sally Thomsett, Ian Cuthbertson and William Mervyn all starred.

The Railway Children Return is released in cinemas on 15 July. Watch a clip below.

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