Saturday 17 March 2018

2016 Ones to watch: Funny girl Sharon Horgan set to woo Tinseltown

Sharon Horgan, Actress

Sharon Horgan is shooting HBO series Divorce in New York with Sarah Jessica Parker.
Sharon Horgan is shooting HBO series Divorce in New York with Sarah Jessica Parker.
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Catastrophe? Sharon Horgan's New Year is shaping up to be anything but.

Eight years after a British newspaper described her as "the funniest woman you've never heard of", Ireland's reigning queen of comedy is officially a household name in the UK.

Now the Meath native looks set to go global when her upcoming show, Divorce, hits small screens Stateside later this year.

"It's been a bit mental," the comedian confessed to Hot Press recently after splitting last year between New York and London, where she lives with her producer husband, Jeremy Railbird, and their two daughters, Sadhbh (12) and Amer (7). "Tiring, but really good.

"There's been a lot of travel - a lot of back and forth. I've spent a lot of time on planes, and then recovering from that, you know?"

Let's hope the 45-year-old managed to bank some sleep over the holidays, then.

As shooting on the HBO series starring Sarah Jessica Parker continues in the Big Apple, Horgan's 2016 diary is unlikely to free up anytime soon.

Born in Hackney, London at the age of four Horgan's parents moved back to Bellewstown, where they ran a turkey farm.

You could say it was the pluck of the Irish when, after returning to the UK to study drama, she got her big break with cult BBC hit Pulling, which she co-wrote with Dennis Kelly. Ironically dubbed the 'anti-Sex and the City', the award-winning comedy starred Horgan as marketing manager who dumps her fiancé on the eve of their wedding and moves in with two girlfriends.

Ten years on, Horgan has admitted it's a bit surreal to be working with the real Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker - who plays a woman going through a messy divorce in the sure-fire hit.

"We did the pilot about a year ago and then took a chunk of time off to put together the scripts and all that," said the writer, who's also an executive producer on the show. "So we've just started filming and spending a lot of time together because she's an exec on the show as well, so all the casting and all of that, she's involved in.

"She's a really great lady and an extraordinary person to work with," Horgan said. "Her work ethic, as in her mindset, she's very focussed, but likes to have fun.

"We get on really well and we work really well together."

While Pulling put the actress on the map across the pond, leading to roles in everything from Extras on television to Terrible Advice on stage, her most recent masterpiece, Catastrophe, was less 'sleeper hit' than 'overnight success' when it premiered on Channel 4 this time last year.

Partly based on Horgan and Railbird's own experience of unplanned pregnancy just six months after meeting, series two of the award-winning show, co-written by and co-starring American comedian Rob Delaney, has just finished - although latecomers to the Horgan bandwagon can still catch it on demand on All 4.

Finally enjoying commercial as well as critical success, she won't be relinquishing creative control any time soon though, after founding independent production company Merman with Clelia Montford, who was behind A Young Doctor's Notebook in 2014.

"I think I often said in the past that '[commercial success] doesn't matter - all that matters is that you are making something you are proud of', but I take all that back now," former waitress Horgan has joked.

"I have done stuff in the past that did well critically, I suppose, but didn't do as well commercially. [So] it's very, very nice to have more people watch your show - as long as they are watching and are enjoying it, of course.

"With Catastrophe, it seems that people get it - they get what we are trying to say and understand it, which is pretty joyous."

Since scooping Best Female Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards in 2007, Horgan has had to make room on the mantelpiece for plenty more gongs, including two IFTAs for Best Writer and Best Female Performance for Catastrophe last October. True to her Irish roots, though, Horgan has said that she only wants to impress the neighbours back home in Meath: "I always, always want to make people laugh - even when it's inappropriate.

"I don't know if it's feeling that I'm lacking in other areas or just always wanting attention. I want people that I was at school with to see me on the telly."

With one foot already in the Hollywood door, big-screen fame surely beckons for the camera-friendly star, who's already got 2015 rom-com Man Up starring Simon Pegg on her CV.

In the meantime, flanked by SJP, she's about to become a very familiar face in the States as the press machine for Divorce goes into overdrive this summer.

"We finish filming it in February but then it goes into the big machine and obviously the press thing starts," revealed Horgan.

"It's going to air on HBO but it's not going to be on until further into the year."

With a US version of Pulling also in the works, Horgan's career is certainly on a high right now - which seems fitting given that she once sold bongs in a head shop before discovering her comedic calling in life.

"I don't think I garnered anything creative from that time other than deep rooted fear to never end up back selling bongs," Horgan has said.

"It certainly made me work harder."

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