Actress Lisa Riley hopes BBC drama Three Girls 'will help thousands'

The ex-soap star spoke out about her role in the drama, which has had the nation talking this week.

Press Association
Last updated:18 May 2017 - 05.10pm

Lisa Riley has said she told herself to not get angry while filming the BBC’s harrowing drama about the Rochdale abuse scandal.

The former Emmerdale actress appears as the mother of one of the victims involved in Three Girls, which tells the true story of widespread grooming and sexual assault of girls and young women in the area by a gang of Asian men.

Lisa said she became close to her “real-life me” Lorna Bowen during the making of the programme, and also Maggie Oliver, the police officer involved in the case who later resigned over the way the police had handled it.

Three Girls
Lisa Riley in Three Girls (BBC/Sophie Mutevelian)

Lisa said she felt the weight of her duty to tell the story to the wider audience to get justice for the victims and “thousands” of others.

She told ITV’s Loose Women, on which she is a regular panellist: “I was so lucky. We do a 12-hour shoot day, doing the scenes, but I would have Maggie to lean on and go, ‘How do I cope? Why am I feeling this? Why am I feeling so angry?’

“The hardest I’ve ever had to feel as an actress was – if you saw last night’s episode – where my youngest daughter had to have an abortion to provide the evidence, the foetus that would get the men finally arrested, thank God.

“But the real life me, and the real life Liv (Hill’s) character (Ruby Bowen), was there behind the monitor.”

Lisa said: “And we were just sat there as actors going, ‘No we can’t get upset, we can’t get angry’.

“Because by portraying this scene and acting it to the best of our ability will help thousands.

“Getting the justice out there, it was wonderful I was able to portray that,” she added.

Riley said the real girls are “over the moon” at how the three-part series, which concludes tonight, has portrayed their story, and that they feel “justice has been done”.

Ms Oliver also appeared on Loose Women, and said the positive response to Three Girls had “restored my faith in people”.

She said: “For so long I felt I was the odd one out, but I knew ordinary people would feel the same as me.”

Ms Oliver, played by Lesley Sharp in the TV drama, has openly criticised the way Greater Manchester Police dealt with the investigation in 2012.

She said: “I hope that change comes from this.

Three Girls
Lesley Sharp in Three Girls (BBC/Sophie Mutevelian)

“I shouldn’t have had to leave my job to get this out into the public domain, but when I was doing my job I tried for over a year.”

The second episode, aired on Wednesday night, showed police finally attempting to prosecute after years of failing to act on allegations made by a number of the girls.

Three Girls continues on BBC1 tonight at 9pm.

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