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'My Mad Fat Diary' Sharon Rooney interview: 'I adored Spice World'

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My Mad Fat Diary has been a joyous, surprising and heartwarming success on E4.

A drama about a recovering 16-year-old who has mental health, self-harm and body image issues doesn't necessarily sound like a recipe for a hit, but thanks to a brilliantly balanced performance from newcomer Sharon Rooney, an awesome Britpop-tastic soundtrack and a super sharp sense of humour, the show has triumphed and has already bagged a second series.

Digital Spy caught up with Rooney to chat about the show's success, her unwavering passion for Spice World and her secret sporting talent.

'My Mad Fat Teenage Diary' - Rae (Sharon Rooney)

© Channel 4



The show has generated a brilliant response. You must be chuffed.
"It's been overwhelming. My hope was that audiences would like Rae and understand Rae and they totally have. It's not just been young girls and boys, it's been adults saying 'thank you' and that really is quite humbling. I just hope that the show helps people talk about some of the issues involved and helps people feel more comfortable with all these subjects.

"It is a big responsibility, but I also feel very honoured that people feel that they can say, 'that happened to me'. I feel like I've done my job as an actress if the emotions look real and people genuinely look past what I'm doing and feel that they have some sort of bond or association with me.

"I wouldn't have wanted people to see this and go, 'that's not what happens, that's not how I felt'. I just wanted it to be as truthful as I could make it and I hope there's more people - not just the ones who have spoke to me - who have found it useful. I hope people who have watched it don't feel alone and realise that they're not the only person with these problems."

My favourite scene in the series was when Rae unzipped out of the fat suit to Radiohead's 'Fake Plastic Trees'. Did you have a favourite scene or moment?
"The shower scene was probably one of the most important scenes for me. That was the first time that you actually saw Rae properly hurting.

"But that scene you talk about is incredible. It's gorgeously done. And the great thing about that scene is that it shows it's not just about size. It's about wanting to not be you. It's about becoming someone totally different.

"And I would like to confirm that I'm not actually me in that scene. A lot of people have asked, but it's not me that walks out of the fat suit. Ha. I hadn't actually seen that until it aired and I got a bit of a shock watching. It gave me a shock and it was very strange watching it for the first time. It's really moving seeing that for the first time."

The Britpop soundtrack to the series is brilliant. Do you think that has helped the show increase its appeal to older audiences?
"I think the music really helps. The music is brilliant and the era was brilliant, so I think people who recognise both are enjoying reminiscing. But it really is ageless as a show, my gran has been watching it and she loves it. I think the problems that the gang go through, you could put them in any era and they would still apply to everyone."

'My Mad Fat Teenage Diary' - Tix (Sophie Wright), Danny Two Hats (Darren Evans), Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney), Archie (Dan Cohen), Chloe (Jodie Comer), Izzy (Ciara Baxendale), Finn (Nico Mirallegro) and Chop (Jordan Murphy)

© Channel 4



Were you a Britpop fan?
"More than I realised. At the time I was all about the Spice Girls and nothing else was on my radar. But since we started filming the show I've been checking my iPod and I've realised that I have a lot of Oasis and Radiohead on there, I like the Eels; I think I was actually into quite cool music in secret in the '90s."

I think I'm getting old because I found myself thinking, 'music isn't as good as it used to be'.
"It's not is it? Let's be old together. I'll just keep playing a teenager to make us both feel young."

What telly inspired you as a young actress?
"I watch loads of telly. I love TV. Growing up, I really liked Victoria Wood and Julie Walters. I'm still a wee bit obsessed with Victoria Wood. Alison Steadman is someone I love and Claire Rushbrook. I was a huge fan of Claire's, so working with her on My Mad Fat Diary was a brilliant experience.

"Do you know Claire was in Spice World? I adored Spice World. I had one copy on VHS at home and one at my gran's. That tape has been watched literally thousands of times.

"Old-school people like Kathy Burke as well. I used to love anything that I wasn't supposed to watch. I better not get in trouble for this, but I also used to watch The Young Ones. At an age when I really shouldn't have been watching The Young Ones. My uncle who was really young owned it all and used to let me watch it."

I have to confess that I've never seen Spice World.
"You've never watched Spice World? Never in your whole life?"

I avoided it in the '90s because I thought I was too cool for it...
"Avoid it? Too cool for the Spice Girls? I can't believe you just told me that. I'm going to have to get you a DVD somehow. You have to see it! You have to! I cannot believe you haven't seen Spice World? I'm in deep shock."

'My Mad Fat Teenage Diary' - Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney), Archie (Dan Cohen)

© Channel 4



What TV gets you reaching for the remote?
"I'm not very good with sci-fi things. I can understand it, but I don't really watch it. I don't really do Star Trek or anything like that. But if it was the only thing on, I'd still watch it.

"I don't really like watching cricket on TV either. I wish they'd just play rounders instead. It's all too serious. I just want them to have some fun."

They should play rounders in the Olympics.
"They should. They should because I'm really good at rounders. I'm a great catcher. I'm not doing the running around, but I'll catch. At school I was never allowed to hit, I was always the catch. You know in Harry Potter where they catch the snitch? That's like my catching the ball in rounders."

If you could be in any TV show, what would be your dream role?
"The honest answer? I know it sounds cheesy, but it would be My Mad Fat Diary. I've always wanted to play someone who was funny and sad and have me as the lead. I can't believe that I've got it in my very first role. It's my number one life ambition. Even after we finished filming I expected someone to come up and say, 'we've changed our minds' and for it to be over. I genuinely can't believe it.

"I'm so, so, so happy that I got to do it. And I still can't believe it. I still get the 'did it actually happen?' feeling."

The show has been advertised everywhere in papers and on buses. Have you found that strange?
"I think it's more weird for my family and friends. I just don't look at anything. Except buses. When you run for the bus and get on it, that's a bit awkward. I try to ignore everything else though. I think you can get carried away when people call you up and say, 'I've seen you in the paper'."



Do you get the bus for free if your face is on the side?
"Well this was my argument. But apparently not. The driver wasn't interested in My Mad Fat Diary and didn't seem to care my face was on his bus."

Right I'm off to watch Spice World if I can get hold of it....
"If you can get hold of it? You can get hold of it anywhere! It's Spice World!"

My Mad Fat Diary is available to own on DVD from February 25.

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