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TV Interview

Sharon Horgan ('Stanley Park')

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Sharon Horgan as Auntie Pat from Stanley Park

© BBC

Sharon Horgan is definitely a big name in comedy. She's critically acclaimed from all sides, and when her show Pulling was axed there was uproar. Now Sharon's starring as Auntie Pat in new BBC Three pilot Stanley Park, so we gave her a ring to find out about the programme, how she feels about said controversial demise, and why she doesn't want to do panel shows.

Can you tell us a little bit about Stanley Park?
"It's a teen coming-of-age comedy drama. I think it's sort of a mixture between something like Shameless and Skins. It's a very earthy kind of thing, but because of [writer] Leo [Richardson]'s theatre background I think it's kind of stylised. The dialogue is a little bit poetic, in a weird way. The main character's a deluded teen stuck in the kind of town that you just want to get away from."

What do you think is different about this show? Is it the stylised nature of it?
"Yeah, I think it is actually. When it came along to me I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that kind of thing, but I read it and thought it really stood out. It had a certain tone to it that I thought was a little bit different to anything I've seen."

Are you worried about comparisons to shows like Skins?
"There's nothing cool about the characters [in Stanley Park]. They're kind of getting by. It's nice because they are weirdos and some of them are more immature than others and some of them are obviously gay but not dealing with it, so there's a whole spectrum of teenagers there. But to me it does feel different to Skins because it's not cool and they're not kind of wounded in the same way. It's a different set of problems."

What's your character like?
"I play the lead character's aunt. I think she's supposed to be like a version of the lead character 20 years down the line. She's a bit of a lush. She's looking for a man, she doesn't really have anyone in her life, and she's a slightly sad person."

What attracted you to the role?
"I think it was just the chance to do something different. Normally I don't get to wear wigs or leopard print. Usually I'm myself in a way, just versions of myself. People don't normally ask me to do that kind of thing so I thought, 'What the hell?'"

Your character's quite a bad role model - was that fun for you to play?
"Yeah, it was fun. You know, she wouldn't see herself as a bad role model. She doesn't think of herself as being 25 years older or whatever it is. She just thinks of herself as one of the gang. And she would never want to come across as sad or lonely, so I think she's got a whole secret life where she's trying to meet a man on the internet. She's meeting inappropriate men and writing to foreign guys she's met on holiday and maybe hoping something will come off. But she would never want anyone to know that about her. She just wants to appear to be the strong woman who's just doing what she wants to do. Whereas she's not - I think she's really lonely."

Do you think the show will be made into a series?
"I have a feeling it will, you know. It seems to be in vogue at the moment, teen comedies and teen dramas. Everyone seems to be lapping them up. But this feels different, stylistically it's different and it looks different."

A lot of fans were devastated when Pulling was axed. How are you feeling about that now?
"It just happens. Sadly it's never as simple as just having a good show and for that to be enough of a reason. I totally get that. I'm disappointed but I don't think about it all. I think it would be really unhealthy to bear grudges or to carry a candle for a show that was cancelled. I think we had a brilliant run with it as well - we did so well and we got lots of awards and I think you've got to think about that and how lucky we were get to make it and for it to have been a success."

You've been on Charlie Brooker's You Have Been Watching this series. Would you like to do more panel shows?
"No! Not at all. I'm such a fan of Charlie Brooker and I love TV so I thought it would just be a great one to do. I did a BBC Four show We Need Answers for the same reason - I'm a big fan of Alex Horne and Mark Watson and Tim Key, it was just such a laugh. I get asked to do panel shows and I don't want to do them. You Have Been Watching is fine because you're just yakking about telly but a lot of the time you're basically doing jokes and stand-up, especially Mock The Week - it's all very skilled comedians doing that. It's not my bag really. I don't want to be the unfunny one on one of those shows, the ill-informed one on Have I Got News For You. It just doesn't appeal to me."

Do you think it's harder for female comedians to do that kind of show?
"Well, yes in that I suppose - I know it's been said a lot - but there is that whole bearpit aspect to it. I have female friends that do them a lot and it's hard just trying to get in there with your gags to make sure you've got a chance at getting your funnies across. Maybe that comes more naturally to men. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes female comedy is different. It's not as gaggy. But then there's loads of female comedians like Holly Walsh and Shappi Khorsandi and Josie Long who are all great at jokes, so I guess it would just be nice to see more girls doing it. But then I can talk, I'm too scared of doing them."

Have you got any other projects coming up?
"Yeah, I have. I'm filming a Channel 4 series at the moment. It's an American co-production called The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret made by a guy called David Cross from Arrested Development. I think it's going to be very funny, it's completely mental. And I'm about to start filming my new pilot, which I wrote with Holly Walsh. It's a sitcom about a girl who has been sent to prison for killing her boss, which she says she didn't do, so it's kind of got a little murder-mystery thing running alongside it. It's in a prison but it's very bright and colourful and over the top. I'm really excited about filming that and seeing what happens. I think it's going to be good - I think it's f**king funny! It's so different from Pulling and it's so different from anything I've done before."

Stanley Park is available to watch on the BBC Three website now and is on BBC Three at 9pm on Thursday.

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