When Channel 4 announced that this would be the final series of My Mad Fat Diary, drama boss Piers Wenger promised that Rae Earl “wouldn’t go quietly”. And he was true to his word. The last ever episode gives her a brilliant, dramatic and emotional farewell.
But Sharon Rooney, who has played Rae for the past three series, is hoping that won’t quite be the last we’ve seen of her character.
“I’d love to think Rae would have a legacy,” Rooney tells RadioTimes.com as she prepares for the emotional finale. “It’s set in the 90s so it has that cool thing… I hope it will be on repeat. I really hope the next generation of teens might watch her.”
Mad Fat Diary is hugely entertaining but it is Rae’s mental health issues and non-conformist body type that make it stand out and have helped attracted a devoted following who identify with her struggles.
“That’s the best thing about the show,” says Rooney. “People get in touch and say they really identified with the show and we don’t sugar coat problems. We show them as they are and it’s nice to play a role model. People have written to say that after seeing Rae, they’ve gone to speak to their doctor about how they’re feeling and it’s given people that confidence to get help.”
When Radio Times interviewed her for the first series, Rooney said, “I wish so much there had been a Rae when I was growing up. It would have made my life so much easier to have had someone real on TV”. And so many messages from fans poured in echoing her exact sentiments that Rooney took to Twitter to respond. “Thank you for the messages, it’s really overwhelming. Please don’t thank me, it was my honour. I didn’t save you, YOU saved you. Own that xxx.”
But with the Bafta-winning MMFD ending, Rooney says we need more programmes that confront issues rarely dealt with in teen drama, or at least not dealt with realistically. “I think we should definitely have more things that tackle problems. I haven’t seen anything like My Mad Fat Diary where we explore mental health and I haven’t seen many dramas do it in general.”
So after three series of playing Rae, what will Rooney do next? “I’d quite like to be in anything… but I would really like to do a hospital drama or comedy, just because I’m really interested in medical stuff like Casualty, Grey’s Anatomy. It would be brilliant, and they don’t have many Scottish people in Grey’s…”
But before Rooney even considers going Stateside to play a Glaswegian surgeon, she’s starring in BBC3 comedy Mountain Goats about a ramshackle group of Mountain Rescue volunteers. “Comedy has been nice to do because My Mad Fat Diary was quite emotional. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much on a job. They gave us an outtake video and we’re laughing on it the whole time.”
Mountain Goats is due to air this year so it won’t immediately be affected by BBC3’s 2016 move online, but Rooney is still disappointed in the BBC trust’s decision.
“I’ll continue to watch BBC3 even if it goes online but I think it’s a shame that it will be completely gone from telly. I like the documentaries with Stacey Dooley and I also like things like Sun, Sex and Suspicious parents…”
For now, though, Rooney is busy saying a very fond goodbye to Rae on E4.
“I just feel proud of that character, and how unlike other teens on TV she is,” says Rooney. “Because you walk down the street and everyone’s different in their own way. It’s the way it should be.”