Sharon Horgan on Why ‘Catastrophe’ Fans Should Watch Her New Series ‘Motherland’
Sharon Horgan knows how to write women — from her own co-lead role as Sharon on Amazon’s Catastrophe to Sarah Jessica Parker’s Frances on Divorce on HBO. So of course her latest project, Motherland, is a must-see.
The first season of the Sundance Now series, already a hit in the UK, is now streaming in the U.S. — just in time for Mother’s Day. And though the half-hour comedy does share some similarities with her other shows, this one is decidedly unique, largely due to her collaboration with a writing team that includes Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd) and other top British scribes.
Motherland centers on mom Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin of The Bletchley Circle fame), who struggles balancing her career and motherhood, while interacting with an array of other parents including alpha mom Amanda (Lucy Punch of A Series of Unfortunate Events), headstrong single mom Liz (Diane Morgan), and stellar stay-at-home dad Kevin (Paul Ready, The Terror).
TV Insider spoke with Horgan about why fans of her other shows should tune in for Motherland, the female “bromance” at the center of the show, and if she would ever step in front of the camera for this series.
We’re so excited to see Motherland make its debut in the States! When you were making the show, were you hoping it would be released outside of the UK at some point?
Sharon Horgan: Strangely, we didn’t think about it. With Catastrophe, we absolutely did. Rob [Delaney] and I knew we wanted a US audience because he’s American but also because we felt we were telling a story that would work on both sides of the Atlantic. We set out to have other characters — his mom, his friend — who were American.
With Motherland, we didn’t have that in mind, but once we finished filming and saw what we had, we thought, ‘Oh, this is something that mom/parents everywhere might be able to relate to.’
What would you tell fans of your other shows, Catastrophe and Divorce, to get them to tune in? Is there anything tonally similar?
It’s definitely different because it was written with a big writing team from the pilot onward. It’s a mixture of the tones because [show creator] Graham Linehan is known for kind of slightly crazier, broader comedy. But in terms of the subject matter and making sure that real and true stories are there — that aren’t just sitcoms — that are genuine stories that hopefully people will see themselves in and relate to, it does that in a similar way to Divorce and Catastrophe.
And I think, also, that it’s funny? We worked hard to make it as funny as we could. It always feels like you can say the harshest things you want as long as people are laughing and listening. So I hope there’s plenty of our kind of agenda hidden in there amongst the jokes that people will see and enjoy.
One of the things that fans love so much about Catastrophe is the dynamic between your character and Rob Delaney’s. Will we see this type of banter between Julia and anyone else on the show?
I think Julia absolutely has it with Liz. Their friendship becomes… whatever the female version of a bromance is. They are the ones who find each other and fall for each other, to a certain extent. And they are such opposites and somehow it works. That become more evident as the show went on, that their friendship is really important part of it. So I think in the second season we’d like to pull that out a bit more. They’re a great team, I love seeing them together.
So many shows revolve around couples, it’s nice to see something focused on female friendships.
Yeah, and certainly at that age. That women of that age are represented — as much and as well as it could be. Compared to the old bromance.
It seems like with social media and mommy blogs, the competitive nature of parenthood is worse than ever today. Will we see that reflected in the show?
There is competitive parenting in there from Amanda and Anne [played by Phillipa Dunne], as well. And with Kevin, he overthinks the choices he makes as a parent. When he looks around and sees what other people are doing, he questions himself. That’s always there, always the sense of getting it wrong or not being as good a parent that you need or want to be.
I think that’s there for all of the characters but Liz, really. Liz looks at what she does and says, ‘Yep, I did a great job.’ I think that’s why she’s a bit of a standout character for us. When it came out in the UK, she became a bit of a feminist icon for that because she has a very, ‘F**k you, this is how I’m doing it’ kind of attitude. I think it’s really important to show a mother who is absolutely, definitely not constantly getting it right but just thinks it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t.
As with Divorce, you’re only behind the camera on this series. If you were to step in front of it for a guest role, what kind of character would you want to play?
I don’t know, I haven’t thought about that. It’s such a fun show to make and it’s so much fun watching the actors do their thing that I haven’t felt the need [to come on-screen]. But we’re hoping to introduce new characters in the second season, so you never know. I certainly wouldn’t do it for the sake of it, it would just be if something felt right. I think, with my character in Catastrophe, I get to be a messy parent in that show, so as long as it wasn’t repeating any of that, it might be fun.
So it sounds like it would be a smaller guest spot and not a recurring character?
I think so. It’s too much fun casting that show to want to cast myself in it.
Speaking of being on-camera, I loved you in the recent Game Night. How was doing a big budget movie like that compared to all of the small screen stuff you’ve been focusing on recently?
It was so much fun! It was an absolutely pleasure to step out from behind a laptop and have some fun with someone else’s words, being told to do with the greatest bunch of people you could work with.
Maybe we could get a sequel? That ensemble cast was pretty unmatched.
I mean, that would be great! I just think it was enormous fun, I loved playing opposite Billy [Magnussen] we had such a laugh. If they did any more, it would be great. It’s definitely something I’d want to do again.
Any plans to return to the big screen again — either in an acting or writing capacity?
Yeah both, but they’re both under wraps at the moment. I love TV, it’s probably always going to be my main passion, but I would love to do have ambitions to do a little more film.
Motherland, Season 1, Streaming, Sundance Now