Sharon Horgan Finds Comedy in the F**k Ups With ‘Motherland,’ ‘Catastrophe’ (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Sharon Horgan is no stranger to telling the messy, complicated and bitterly funny lives of women, such as the newly single Frances on HBO’s Divorce, the unexpectedly pregnant Sharon on Amazon’s Catastrophe, the wrongfully imprisoned Helen on Dead Boss and the FOMO-laden Donna on the 2006 BBC series Pulling. Now, the focus is on the exasperated Julia, a working mother of two, on Motherland.
Streaming on Sundance Now, the series follows Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin) as she confronts her frenemy -- queen bee Amanda played by the hilarious Lucy Punch (Into the Woods) -- in one episode, struggle with overcommitting to her children’s school in another, and the chaos that is hosting a children’s birthday party. Co-written by married couple Graham and Helen Linehan, Holly Walsh and Horgan, who is a mother of two daughters, the show came out of their own real-life experiences and “realizing there was a lot of comedy and tragedy in that set-up,” Horgan tells ET, admitting that she included as much of her own stories as “I can get away with without being ostracized.”
Pulling from her life is the key to Horgan’s success, who not only co-created all of these series, but has also executive produced, written and starred on Catastrophe, Dead Boss and Pulling. (Divorce stars Sarah Jessica Parker in her first series since Sex and the City, with Horgan only serving as executive producer.) “I’ve always felt like it is better that I’m talking about stuff that I have a deeper connection to or [something] that’s going on in my life that I feel like I have something to stay about,” she says, adding that developing a series requires a long commitment. “So you really have to love and be interested in what you’re talking about.”
Ultimately, the stories Horgan likes to tell are about how difficult human beings are and the various guises and relationships that play into that. “There’s a lot to mine there,” she says. “It’s quite addictive as well because people respond to it. They enjoy seeing versions of themselves told in stories. It’s a nice feeling to tell stories that you think people feel emotionally vested in.”
That particularly runs true for Catastrophe. Since first premiering on Amazon in 2015, the series about an unexpected pregnancy that turns a one-night stand into a full-fledged, complicated marriage has earned her and Rob Delaney (who co-created and co-stars) critical acclaim as well as nominations for a Primetime Emmy for writing season one and a Peabody Award. Season three ended with Sharon struggling to cope with her father's death and Rob relapsing with his alcoholism.
The first three seasons also featured Carrie Fisher as Rob’s onscreen mother before she unexpectedly died in 2016. “We felt like our last series [season three] turned out to be a love letter to her,” Horgan says of the late actress. The fourth season, which is set to begin filming in June, will deal with Carrie’s death. “We’re hoping that we can pay homage to her in the best possible way. We’re trying to do her proud in this series.”
While not revealing too many details about what fans can expect of the coming episodes, Horgan did say that it will deal with mortality and forgiveness and family. “We have a different theme for each episode.”
In the meantime, fans of Horgan’s humor can indulge in Motherland, which she says is also an honest look at life in the same way Catastrophe is. “I think and hope it feels that it has the same level of truthfulness and honesty.” Filled with characters “who are genuine people who f**k up and make mistakes,” theseriesshould offer the same kind of pleasure of watching people screw up.
“It’s nice to have a bit of a laugh,” Horgan says.