After making waves on UK TV in Catastrophe and Motherland (which she co-writes with Graham Linehan and Holly Walsh), Irish writer/actor Sharon Horgan is heading to the big screen, starring alongside US names like Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons in new black comedy movie Game Night, which sees a role-playing kidnapping game go horribly awry.
We recently got the chance to catch up with Sharon and found out exactly what it was like being the new kid on the silver screen block – as well as what we might expect from the future of Catastrophe and her other projects. Game on!
Hi Sharon. How would you describe Game Night to an unknowing audience?
I’d say it’s like watching a Scooby-Doo movie, but directed by David Fincher!
Good answer! In the film, your character Sarah is the newcomer to the group, and you’re also kind of a newcomer to this sort of film – what was it like being the newbie?
You know, it was weird really, considering my age. It did feel like totally new kid on the block. But that doesn’t last very long, and y’know… in a way it kind of suited the point I turn up at in the movie. They all have this kind of established rapport and friendship, and I’m the new girl who sort of slots in.
Also, filming with those people, who I’m a genuinely huge fan of, also makes you feel a bit odd and strange. And you have to kind of get on top of that, you can’t let that get out of control… It was exciting, and maybe a little nerve-wracking initially, but then fine.
What was the most entertaining or challenging part of Game Night to film?
Just… staying awake. Because while loads of it is soundstage and that sort of thing, a huge portion of it was shot at night. So the last, I don’t know, week and a half was all night shoots.
It’s horrific. It’s horrific trying to sleep in the day and then turning up on set at like, 9pm, not shooting until like 1 in the morning, and then you’re supposed to be on your top game. Trying to be funny at 4 in the morning is really hard.
If you’re awake at 4 in the morning, you should just be drunk. You shouldn’t be on set with Jason Bateman trying to be witty.
So was there a lot of improvisation on set, or was it mostly scripted?
It was mostly scripted, but the directors [John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein] are really lovely, easygoing, fun guys. They’re writers as well, you know, they wrote Spider-Man Homecoming. So they’re thinking of stuff all the time, and they would have a writer with them who would come in and pitch stuff. So there’s always little things kind of pitched at you. But also, they’re very easygoing if you want to change something up.
But at the same time, I was just happy to do someone else’s stuff. Because I’m always writing, always thinking about all that shit, and it’s really nice to just not for a change.
Speaking of your writing, are you working on another series of Motherland?
Yes, with Holly Walsh and Graham Linehan. I’m currently writing the new series of Catastrophe [with co-writer and co-star Rob Delaney], that comes first, and then yeah, hopefully, after that, some more Motherland. I can’t say what will happen, because then I’d be giving the story away!
Sharon Horgan with Motherland star Anna Maxwell Martin (Radio Times)
Back to Catastrophe for a moment – obviously since the last series filmed Carrie Fisher passed away. Is that going to be reflected in the next series?
Yes, yeah. It’s a tricky thing to work out – because obviously we want to deal with it, but also don’t want to make light of it, but at the same time we’re a comedy and we can’t help ourselves. Not the making light of it thing exactly, but trying to infuse it with comedy in amongst the drama of it.
So, yeah, it took us a while to work it out. And I think in a way we’re still working it out. But… I dunno. Series three felt like a really good goodbye to her, because it was such a great performance, and we really got to know a lot more about the character. You know, in the bed scene with Rob, we really got to find out why she was who she was.
So now, having done that, we sort of want to follow it up with just… that little bit more that gives you an insight into, not just the character but kind of like a thank you and a goodbye to Carrie as well. But yeah, we’re still working it out.
Yeah, I mean, Catastrophe is at Amazon anyway [for viewers outside the UK], so it felt like the right home for that reason. Because I knew I was gonna be doing that there.
It kinda of means the next project I have I take to Amazon, but also they have a first look at any of the stuff that [Horgan’s production company] Merman do, so you know, projects that we’re working on here or stuff that we’re specifically developing in the US, we know that we’ve got a home.
And if they don’t like them that’s another story, but it just means we have a home to shove our projects towards.
Catastrophe obviously got its start on Channel 4 – and now like other shows, say Black Mirror, it’s seen on demand around the world. Do you ever feel like, overseas, the channels that took the chance don’t get the credit?
Oh yes, I think that sometimes can happen. But every interview I do, in the states, I talk about Channel 4. And I kind of think you have to do that. Not just because creatively, Channel 4 were really involved from the beginning – in a very sort of detailed way, working with us on scripts and even giving us the break in the first place – but also, I’m proud of our original home. As proud as I am of the show being on Amazon. And it’s great that Amazon get it out to a worldwide audience, I guess, but it wouldn’t be there in the first place if Channel 4 hadn’t’ve jumped on, so…
I saw Happy Valley marked as a Netflix original, and that felt quite weird.
Yeah, well they do that. I hope everyone knows that Happy Valley, one of the greatest dramas ever made, originated here! And I’m sure they do, but it’s great that it’s on Netflix. It’s great that more people get to see it that way, because lots of people should see that show.
As someone heavily involved in the TV and film industry, what would you change if you could?
I would make it a lot less white and male. Obviously things are changing, and in a really positive way, but I was talking to Maxine Peake about it recently, and she was talking about a black friend of hers who was watching a TV show. I can’t remember the name of the TV show, it was about a black family, and she turned to her at the end of it and she was like ‘that’s the first time I’ve seen myself and my family reflected on screen.’
And I think that’s f***ing terrible! It really brought it home to me how important it is. It shouldn’t matter how it’s done, it just needs to change. People need to see themselves reflected back at them. I mean, that’s our culture. That’s the kind of country we live in. It’s a mixed bag, and all the better for it.
I guess that’s what people are seeing with, say, Black Panther now
Yeah! And Girls’ Trip. I mean, of course we’re gonna watch those stories. Because they’re f***ing great! And it doesn’t matter, you know, it doesn’t matter who’s in them. They’re good, strong stories.