Ricky Tomlinson has told Sheridan Smith's critics to "get off her back" and let her recuperate after the actress pulled out of her leading role in West End show Funny Girl.
Producers said their leading woman had taken a leave of absence due to stress and exhaustion when she handed over to her understudy on Thursday.
It came after she accused the press of "bullying" her after accusations were made about her reaction to missing out on a TV Bafta earlier in the week.
Ricky, who starred in hit BBC sitcom Royle Family alongside Sheridan, told the Sunday Mirror the actress needed to give herself time to recharge as he scorned her detractors.
He said: "People need to leave her alone. They should get off her back.
"She's great. I think the problem is she's exhausted. She needs to get away and put her feet up for a few weeks, then go back fully refreshed and that's it.
"If I was in her shoes I'd take no notice of anyone, then have a nice break and get back to work and win a few of those Baftas.
"That would shut people up. She's a tremendous actress."
Sheridan was part-way through a run of performances at the Savoy Theatre of the musical Funny Girl in which she portrayed US actress and comedienne Fanny Brice.