Knocked up

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David Hennessy chats to well known actress and writer Sharon Horgan as Catastrophe screens to Channel 4

“I don’t know if that many people get pregnant by strangers from America,” Sharon Horgan laughs while chatting to The Irish World about her new sitcom Catastrophe, co-written with American comedian Rob Delaney. Described as an unromantic look at romance, the new comedy centres on the relationship between Sharon and Rob who after spending a great week together during Rob’s character’s time in London, are rocked by the news that Sharon is pregnant.

Unexpected pregnancies or scares seem like something many people can relate to but Sharon points out their situation is a bit more unique: “Hmm, not really. I’d love to see the stats on that.

“I think quite often people find themselves in situations where they have to make tough choices and decisions and the thing we were interested in along with showing the reality of a relationship under pressure is the fact that you get to a certain stage of your life or age and you make decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were in your twenties or your early thirties. I hope that’s something people will relate to rather than the pregnant by a stranger bit.”

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Is Sharon referring to that extra responsibility that comes with age? “No, I mean time’s running out,” laughs the mother of two. “When you’re younger, you tend to do what the hell you want really, you don’t really think of things in terms of time left or how much time you have to have a child or how old you want to be as a parent, but you do think about that as you get older and you realise you have to make choices that involve a ticking clock.”

Were the writing pair motivated to create a portrayal of pregnancy that differed from the rose tinted version that we are often shown? “Yeah, absolutely. First of all, we didn’t want it to be a show about a pregnancy really, it’s just how it ended up. We decided to tell the story and we decided to start at the beginning because we thought you would understand the characters better and their situation. As we are dealing with a pregnancy in the series: No, we certainly didn’t want to do a cutesy version of it. We wanted to do the real, nasty, quite often dangerous, quite often uncomfortable and scary thing that a pregnancy can be.

“We’ve got five pregnancies between us (Rob is a father of two with another on the way) so we felt like we had a lot of experience good and bad to mine because we wanted to make a show people find funny obviously, that’s really important to us, but we wanted it also to be a story that people recognised and so the most obvious thing to do was to use our own experiences and then just embellish.”

Sharon, sister of former Irish rugby player Shane Horgan, came to prominence with the BBC comedy Pulling, which she starred in as well as writing it with Dennis Kelly, which was nominated for a BAFTA. Pulling ran for three series from 2006 to 2009 and Sharon took home Best Television Comedy Actress at the British Comedy Awards in 2008.

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Is Catastrophe more mature and a progression from Pulling, a show about the travails of three single female friends in Penge, and Dead Boss, Sharon’s subsequent BBC3 sitcom where she played a wrongly imprisoned woman: “Erm, is it a progression? It’s completely different from Dead Boss because Dead Boss was kind of silly and a bit surreal and fantastical. Pulling was as real as you could probably get but it was about a certain point of my life and I think Catastrophe, tonally, is the same family as Pulling but there’s more at stake with the baby. There’s, I guess, bigger decisions. It’s characters thinking about not just themselves. It can be- I hope it feels part of the same family because I love Pulling and it’s a really important show for me.”

Horgan has also had success in America, writing and starring in pilots Bad Mom, Bad Management and Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker is lined up to star in the Horgan-penned Divorce for HBO. Although success came to Horgan late, she was 32 before she started writing and performing in sketch shows, is she glad now that it happened this way? “No, not really because I messed about for about a decade which I kind of see as wasted time. But then on the other hand, I don’t believe I would have been able to make Pulling if I hadn’t have done that because that was exactly what I was writing about so I have to weigh them up. Pulling was a great start for me and I also wouldn’t have been in the situations I was in: I probably wouldn’t have met Dennis Kelly, I wouldn’t have done all those things. It’s slightly annoying because I’m in my forties now and it would have been nice to have a body of work and to be honing my writing earlier than I did but there’s literally no point in thinking like that so I try not to.”

Based in London long term, Sharon was also born in Hackney before moving to Dublin at age seven.  She grew up in Bellewstown, Co.Meath. Asked if London is second home, Sharon answers: “It’s my first home, where I live. It’s where I’ve lived since I was 20. I mean I go to Ireland as much as I can and that’s where a big part of my heart is but I’m a Londoner, 100%. This is where I will bring my children up.”

Although she is predominantly known for comedy, Sharon has also taken on more dramatic roles like Run & Jump and her part in Death of a Superhero where she played the mother of a terminally ill teenage boy. Is taking on more dramatic roles an aim of Sharon’s? “Yeah, absolutely. I love all that. I’ve got a big sort of itch to scratch there and hopefully at some point in the future, it will happen. Drama’s what I watch. It’s what I settle down to at night so yes.”

Catastrophe continues on Channel 4 on Mondays at 10pm or you can catch it online at Channel 4’s on demand service 4od here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/catastrophe

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