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Sunday 25 August 2019

'I had to go up to the secretary at my daughter's school and do an advance apology' - Sharon Horgan on new series Motherland

Sharon Horgan
Sharon Horgan
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Sharon Horgan has revealed she had to apologise in advance to the secretary at her daughter's school for basing a character described as a 'sour-faced cow' on her in her new series Motherland.

Speaking to Dave Fanning who is filling in for Ryan Tubridy on his RTE Radio 1 show this week, Horgan said several characters are inspired by people known to her and fellow writers Holly Walsh, Graham Linehan and Helen Linehan.

"I had to go up to the secretary of my daughter's school yesterday and do a sort of 'in advance' apology to her because we used a school secretary type character who we describe as a 'sour-faced cow'," said Horgan.

"So, just to let her know that while [the character] is slightly based on her she's definitely not a sour faced cow.  I have to do that a lot."

She continued, "There's a character in Motherland, one of the main characters Liz, who is at least 50 per cent based on a very close friend of mine.  I mean, really specific, forensic detail in there.  I completely in advance warned her.  As she was telling me some terrible aspects from her life I was like, 'I'm using this'."

Motherland kicks of on BBC Two on Tuesday November 7 and follows Horgan's hugely successful series Pulling, Catastrophe (in which she stars and is still ongoing) and Divorce in the US, which starred Sarah Jessica Parker.

Final curtain: Catastrophe cast Sharon Horgan, Rob Delaney and the late Carrie Fisher, who appeared in her last screen role
Final curtain: Catastrophe cast Sharon Horgan, Rob Delaney and the late Carrie Fisher, who appeared in her last screen role

While many friends and acquaintances have inspired characters in the show, Horgan admitted that some of it has come from her own experiences as a mother for almost 14 years.

She described Motherland as a "warts and all" look at motherhood, adding, "I think sometimes people are uncomfortable with showing mothers in particular not doing a great job.  Maybe things have relaxed a bit.  Now we're allowed to do that."

Regarding the issue of juggling motherhood with writing a spate of hugely successful TV shows, she said she's asked the question all the time and added that her brain is "too fizzy and busy" to do just one thing at a time.

"Also, I have help," she said.  "I've got people who help me.  I mean, I do a school drop off but I don't do the school pick-up because, you know, my job.  I make sure I have people around me to help make my life a bit easier.  I'm fortunate that way."

Her HBO series Divorce came about after a dinner with Sarah Jessica Parker in which they talked about the kinds of shows they enjoyed watching and what kind of programme they would both like to see on TV.

"You walk away with a head of ideas and it was my job to kind of come back and say, 'what about this?'" she said.

Horgan believes that the landscape has changed for female writers in recent years.

"It used to be that you'd have a programme idea that was centred around a female and you'd be told, 'Oh no, we already have one of those', which is obviously completely different to stories that have male characters in them.  That isn't the case now." she said.

"It doesn't feel like it's something tokenistic because people have seen that men and women are interested in female-centric stories."

Although she stars in Catastrophe, Horgan did not want to play a role in Motherland and joked, "It's nice to make a show and not have to sit in make-up at 6 in the morning.  Also, Catastrophe is still ongoing and I know that's about a relationship but there is parenting in it and I thought it might blur it a bit. 

"And it's fun casting other people and it's fun watching other people do your lines."

Motherland starts on BBC2 on November 7 at 10pm.

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