Saturday 25 February 2017

Ho, ho Horgan

Sharon Horgan talks to Louise Finn about turkey farming, jealousy, 'Pulling' and what might drive her to drink

Louise Finn

Sharon Horgan
Sharon Horgan

'I'd go so far as to say it's bloody Christmassy," laughs writer/actress/ comedian Sharon Horgan in her distinctive Irish-meets-West-Country brogue.

It's near the end of our interview and she is describing her upcoming contribution to 'Little Crackers' for Sky, the series that asks stars to pen short, autobiographical vignettes.

I'm glad we're having a laugh. As a fangirl for Sharon, I was afraid it was all going to go horribly wrong and I'd have to put her on my naughty list.

She doesn't pick up her phone the first time I ring. The second time I call, she quickly asks can I ring her back in five minutes.

Happily, it's third time lucky, as, when I finally get through to her, she's very apologetic. It later emerges she is wearing a wig that is getting tinkered with and is trying to find time to have our chat.

Born in London, her family moved back to Ireland when Sharon was a child. Let's get this out of the way early -- yes, she is the sister of Shane Horgan, of whom she says sweetly: "I'm very, very proud of him and always will be."

Their parents, who were publicans in London, took up turkey farming back in Ireland, and it is this experience that has become the basis for her 'Little Crackers' offering. She will act in it and it is also her directorial debut.

"Despite the fact that I was filming with turkeys, children and dogs, it all worked out," says Sharon.

The story centres on a family on a turkey farm, something she found strangely emotional.

"Walking into the sheds initially, because they were genuine turkey sheds, even the smell of it was incredibly nostalgic. It was actually lovely," she says.

But Sharon is keen to stress that it's not an entirely true story. "I'm playing my mum, but the story is a sort of fictional event. It is anecdotal to some extent, but it's still just a Christmas tale."

It would seem logical to assume that growing up on a turkey farm might leave you feeling a little, well, traumatised about Christmas.

"No, not at all," she says. "Christmas was always a really fun, brill time of year. I guess my parents were really good at covering up the fact that they were tired. They just made it all about us."

But is Sharon brilliant at handling the turkey at Christmas? "As it turns out, I'm an expert turkey wrangler -- I found that out on set," she jokes.

But it seems wrangling the birds is where her fowl talents end.

"One of the upshots of being brought up on a turkey farm was that I became a vegetarian for 15 years," she explains. "So I have no great meat-cooking skills. It was only something I got back into about 10 years ago. It's hard to catch up."

Sharon describes being involved in 'Little Crackers' as a "lovely way" to end 2012. She had her own show, 'Dead Boss', air on BBC Three, appeared in Sky show 'Psychobitches' and was hysterical in the Channel four pilot 'Bad Sugar'.

She provided the voiceover for 'Junior Masterchef' in the UK, something she said was particularly nice because her two children could watch the show.

Sharon is married and now lives in Hackney.

She also finished the last series of 'The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret', where she worked alongside American actors David Cross and Will Arnett.

It all seems to be working out rather nicely for Sharon, who came a little late to the showbiz party.

Her career only really took off when she was in her 30s, but she isn't entirely sure why.

"It takes a bit of focus doesn't it?" she says. "I was doing, attempting to do, the job but wasn't getting there."

While she waited for success, she even worked in a job centre.

"I was a really nice job-centre person. I think people worked out that if you got in my queue, you'd get away with stuff," she says.

Sharon is refreshingly honest when asked if she ever has regrets about taking the long way around.

"I get a little bit jealous when I see people starting out. When we were filming our 'Cracker' [and looking at some of the younger actors], I was thinking, 'Wow, you're just at the beginning of your careers, you lucky f**kers'. But I can't complain because it's all worked out."

She reckons the life experience she gained prior to working in the business has been useful. "From starting a bit later, I've stories to write about," Sharon explains.

She is, as someone's mother might say, just herself.

Certainly, it was the true-to-life hilarity in the show 'Pulling' that first got Sharon noticed back in 2006. She co-wrote it with Dennis Kelly and it features the loves and lives of thirtysomethings Karen, Louise and Donna, who is played by Sharon.

The three girls get up to all sorts of embarrassing, vaguely familiar drunken antics that have probably happened to at least one of your friends.

One scene sees Karen wake up in a park the morning after the night before wearing some unfamiliar underwear and exclaiming, "Whose f**king knickers are these?"

Sharon laughs when I remind her. "I don't know whose knickers they are, but I like that line, too," she says.

The show had something of a cult following, so was she annoyed when it was given its marching orders after just two series and a one-hour special?

"Not really. We had a great time making it and we got a really big response," she says.

For fans of the show, I ask Sharon where the girls might be now. "Karen would probably be in exactly the same position, teaching. I'd say Louise would have moved on from the waitressing; I'd say she'd be studying or something," she adds.

"Donna would have married someone she's not really in love with. I'd say she'd have a baby by now, because she felt it was the right thing to do. It could have been with Karl, it could have been anyone else. It feels weird talking about it because it was so long ago."

Running through a list of her upcoming projects, it seems the year ahead is already busy.

Sharon has two documentaries airing on Channel Four in the New Year, she is working on a new super-secret project for Sky, writing a new TV series and a movie, and plotting a show for the States, as well as filming Channel 4 TV series 'Bad Sugar' in the summer.

Musing about her constant yearning for work, she says it might have a little to do with her late arrival.

"I think that is probably a symptom of having not started this job until I was in my 30s," she says. "But I'm a writer and an actor as well, and I think every actor you meet, unless they have two or three things lined up, they get a bit panicky."

But there's a much simpler explanation, too.

"I like my job. I like writing and I like doing shows. I don't know what I'd do with myself if I wasn't writing. I'd be bored. It feels like work to other people, but to me it's my hobby."

Playing devil's advocate, I ask what Sharon would do if she was told she could never write again.

"I'd be screwed," she says. "I'd start drinking. I'd spend a lot of time sitting in cafés doing very little. I don't know what I'd do, I'd be useless."

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