Alison Herman: Yeah, I mean speaking of your face being on it, in addition to your duties as writer and showrunner, you’re also a member of the ensemble cast you’re writing for, and I was wondering if you always knew you wanted to play Eva among the Garvey sisters, and if so, what drew you to that character as a performer in addition to a writer.
Sharon Horgan: I didn’t always know I was going to play her Jay Hunt at Apple, was convinced I should have an eye patch. She was like, you have to play Bibi. But I just knew I wasn’t Bibi, I just knew it. And also that bunch of Garvey’s was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to get it right just in terms of the ages and just getting the personalities in the right order. And the more I thought about Eva, the more I knew that she was the one I wanted to play. Because even though I’ve loved my characters in the past, I really feel like Eva’s a really good person and I often play selfish bitches. And I love that and it’s great fun, but she’s all about her family and she’s also of an age where if things hadn’t worked out for her in terms of having a family and stuff, she wasn’t really in a position to do a huge amount about it, but at the same time she was felt like a really hopeful character.
She was still putting herself out there, still looking for love, still being the matriarch within her own family. And I just thought it was a good message and I felt it was really positive and I quite liked the idea of representing that. Also, I thought a lot about my own sister as I was playing her. My older sister, she’s not older than me by much actually, but she didn’t have a kid until she was in her early forties. She’s someone who absolutely should have been a mother and it looked at one point it wasn’t going to happen for her. And how she felt about that and how she dealt with it… She’s the oldest of all the five kids in my family and she’s just a really good person. And I thought if I can just add a little sprinkle of her and the idea of her, if she hadn’t had kids, that’s who Eva is. She’s kind of like my sister if my sister hadn’t had her girl.
Alison Herman: This is a little bit more of a general question, but we ask it a lot of multi hyphenates on the show. As someone who is both a writer and an actor, I was curious how those two roles interact for you. Do they feel connected? Do they feel separate? How do they inform each other in your mind?
Sharon Horgan: The real truth is I don’t really think about the acting thing until it’s way too late to make any changes. And that’s tripped me up a bunch of times where I’m suddenly in bed with someone, I’m like, no! Or a freezing cold [inaudible 00:22:41] but I don’t really think about it, honest to God. The odd time it comes into my head, it’s in a stupid way. I’m more set to think about other characters, is everyone being serviced, that’s my sort of thing. I think about the other actors and I think when they open this up are they’re going to be like, great! Whereas when I open it up, I kind of know what’s in there, so I don’t really have to please me. I always want to have something that pushes me as an actor, but I always know it’s going to be the case because of the things we write about and the subject matter we choose, it’s always going to be interesting.
But no, I think I would be so disabled by that if I was thinking about myself as I write. I think that would be a big mistake. With Rob and I, we would end up literally standing across from each other in our costumes going, do you know the lines? He’s like, I’ve just looked at them this morning because right up until the last minute… I mean you know it yourself, the writing is everything and all these things come along that mean you have to make last minute changes and or someone drops out or bloody COVID the last few years, you’re just constantly rewriting. And so really I’ve often found myself in a position where I’m on set and I haven’t really properly thought things through.
Alison Herman: You’ve mentioned working with Jay Hunt a few times and we often ask guests on the show about their experience with notes and working with the studio, but you’re in an interesting position of you’ve worked consistently with one executive in the last two, very excellent, very acclaimed shows. So I did want to ask a little bit about that relationship and why it’s been so productive and fruitful for both of you.
Sharon Horgan: Great. I can slag her off now on a public platform. Yeah, I just got really lucky. She loved Catastrophe, Jay really loved it and sort of championed it from the off and I think really just always pushed us. Loved the show, but wanted it to be its best throughout. And then with Bad Sisters, she just pushed me with that as well. And I think lots of writers will give you different answers about the whole notes process or working with the executives. I’ve had experiences that haven’t been wonderful over the years, there’s always some numb skull telling you something that just… You’re like shut up. But for the most part I’ve had really good experiences and Rob would say the same thing. We were in a position at Channel four where they really pushed us to make it better and same for me at Apple.
There’s huge ambition for it, and also just making sure there’s clarity of story, which kind of annoys me, but sometimes you get so into it, you become cocooned and you’re not really thinking about it as a outsider. And if an exec has really good skills, they’re able to step aside and see what an audience is going to see as well as I wanted to keep the artist, what do you call it, their… I’ve forgotten the word. How they originally set out, how they originally wanted it to be. So yeah, I just got lucky with Jay and kind of delighted that she went to Apple because it kind of… I knew I wanted to work with her again, but being there, being at one of the biggest streamers I suppose, it just gives you an opportunity to be ambitious. And I’d never gotten to make anything of this scale before, not really. Which is terrifying as well by the way, because you’re like, whoa, what if I drop it and it smashes and I’ve wasted someone else’s money. I don’t know if I answered your question, it’s a lot of going around the houses.
Alison Herman: I think you did great. We do have some audience questions that I want to get to in a few minutes, but my final question before we transition into those is all the Garvey sisters are so fully realized and really come into their own over the course of the season, but the one that seemed, at least as an outsider, to perhaps be the most difficult to write was Grace, who I think can be a passive character, but you also have to believe what she does at the end of the season. And obviously she’s really the crux of the action in so many ways. And I just wanted to ask about how you conceive that character and how you wanted to manage her development throughout the 10 episodes we’ve seen.
Sharon Horgan: Oh, it was really, really hard and it was a lot of work and conversation with Anne-Marie Duff as well who played her because it didn’t matter what was happening. At that point in time in any of those earlier episodes we constantly had to have that in our minds, what she had done. We show the audience in the first scene, she says sorry to him in the first scene, that’s kind of like a little something we thought an audience might notice second time round. It had to constantly be there and we kind of had to hide it. I feel like she made such a difference to that character because she gave her a lot of joy and love and she found joy in her daughter and her sisters when she was with them and the moments with him when he allowed her to just be herself and not to just focus on her being this downtrodden abused woman because it just wouldn’t have worked.
It had to be this constant juggle the whole time. She had to be very unaware of what was going on with the sisters and she had to have this steeliness, which we were able to bring out here and there in later episodes, but you had to not really see it in the beginning. She couldn’t seem too woman on the edge or you would immediately go, she’s going to kill him. It was just something we had to manage, again, in the writing and in the performance with our directors and with Anne-Marie and then finally in the edit, because there’s a lot you can do there if you feel like you’ve exposed yourself too much or you’ve given something away, you can pull back. It was really difficult, but I love that character and I love the life that Ann-Marie injected into her and I love what happens in that final episode. As shocking as it was, its a moment that makes you hopefully punch the air. Maybe not immediately, maybe you’re just a bit too shocked, but when she jumps into the 40 foot at the end, I think hopefully that makes you punch the air.
Alison Herman: Yeah, it’s a beautiful note. I’m going to start with a question from the audience that I was wondering too, so I’m selfishly going to put it at the front of the line, which is from Lauren Baker, who asked, who was the stylist for the show? The fashion was incredible and so perfect for each character.
Sharon Horgan: It just goes to show it’s all about the team. Her name is Camille Benda, she’s an American lady and she came over and worked with us on this and we were just absolutely thrilled to have her. She did a real mixture of basically looking through flea markets and discount stores and vintage and then mixing it all up. We spent a long time talking, we spent a long time talking about each of the sisters. There was small things like, that Becka would always have something of Eva’s in her wardrobe because she’s got no money, she’d always steal from the elder sister, little things like that that just made such a difference. Getting the right uniform for Eva to work and making sure that was different from how she dresses when she’s at home. It was the most enormous fun, but it was a big old job because there was a lot of girls, a lot of girls to dress.
Alison Herman: Our next question comes from Sarah Caldwell who asked Bad Sisters, has an unskippable opening credit sequence and a great song that gets more fun as you see more reveals. How much input did you have in it and how did you feel seeing it come together for the first time?
Sharon Horgan: Oh man, it was the most glorious thing. We had input in that we were offered up five or six different ideas for the opening sequence. My light bulb, which I have to take full credit for, was the idea of having Who by Fire covered. Because I just thought it was the most perfect song that signaled what this series was about. And having it covered by a female singer and having PJ Harvey do that, made it. They showed us about five different ideas for title sequence and as soon as we all saw the track, we all just jumped on it. And then it was just like… It went on for months and months actually, it was a huge undertaking. It was all done in camera, there’s no trickery there at all. And so it all had to be built and put together.
Alison Herman: Laura Cosan asks, do you have any advice for those putting a series pitch together and trying to stand out? What to you really jumps out about a pitch?
Sharon Horgan: What do I think about when putting together a pitch? Okay, so first of all, it’s really hard to pitch now because it’s all on Zoom and it seems to just have completely changed. And in some ways I kind of like it because I feel like it’s honed down the whole process, but in other ways it feels like you have to have everything so succinct in such a short period of time, encapsulate the whole thing. I think it’s about making people feel something. Rather than telling them what the show is going to be, make them feel it. So I think it has to be as… It doesn’t need visuals, you can put in visuals, but you need to make it as visual as possible. I think you need to set the scene, I think you need to be really clear about your characters without using up huge amounts of time because people lose the thread very easily.
So it’s about being as clean and as clear cut with your story. If you’re telling them how the pilot is going to go, if you’re giving a series overview, when you’re telling them about the tone, when you’re telling them about the why now of it, I think it’s really important to overly practice, keep doing it, do it in front of a friend, do it in front of your studio exec, do it in front of your friend again. It’s kind of ridiculous because it is a bit of a dog and pony show kind of thing. But at the same time, I think it’s about pitching in a way that’s as close to the writing processes, to the actual creation of the show as possible, it’s being as creative as you possibly can. When it’s a comedy, I always throw in little bits of dialogue that a character might say in order to get the tone of the comedy across. And when it’s a drama, I really try and make those sort of moments, those cliff hanger-y moments really feel something. So I think it’s not about telling, it’s about creating a feeling. And I hope that’s not too obscure an answer.
Alison Herman: No, I’m sure it’s super helpful. We have a couple iterations of the same million dollar question that I think also makes for a good note to end on. So Jillian Wilson asks how you’re approaching season two of this show that has such a definitive ending. And I was also wondering just where you’re at, obviously with no spoilers, but how you’re thinking about continuing the story?
Sharon Horgan: Well, as it turns out, season one gave us all a little presence that when we came to putting together the first couple sessions we did for the writers room for season two have proved to be really helpful. I know the things that worked in the first season, and that’s the sisters and their relationship and how they are together, it’s having a sort of thriller engine, it’s keeping the caper. So those three things are the things that I was constantly overseeing in the room. We need to make sure whatever replaces John Paul, whatever replaces the murder attempts, has to have the same stakes, has to have the same level of fun and caper and the same putting the sisters in situations that takes them out of their comfort zone. And it’s really hard, by the way. It’s really, really hard, but it’s great fun. As soon as I stepped back into my five headed sister suit, I was like, oh, this is great.
Alison Herman: Was there a moment when making season one where you kind of had the light bulb of like, oh, I definitely think I have more in this story. And was that before or after when Apple came to you and said, we might be interested in more?
Sharon Horgan: Yeah, we talked about it, you can’t help talk about it. When it’s going okay you kind of think, oh this is fun, are we going to do this again, I don’t know. And then I had an idea very, very early doors, before we started making the first season that I would just sort of [inaudible 00:37:19] about. And then you do 10 months of filming nonstop during COVID and you’re like, well, I’m never going to do that again. And then you make it goes out and people like it and you go, well… And then I kind of thought, well, I’ll do it if I have a good enough idea. And so yeah, there was this little idea floating around that became a bigger idea and I guess we’ll see.
Alison Herman: Yeah, I think if we go any further, we’re going to be pushing you into revealing your hands.
Sharon Horgan: I can tell you who made the title sequence, its the Peter Anderson studio and I can’t believe that went out my head, but they did such a beautiful job I wanted to find it for you there.
Alison Herman: Well, we’ve shouted it out at the end. I think we have used up our time and we don’t want to overstay our welcome, but thank you so much for joining us and answering everyone’s questions.
Sharon Horgan: Oh, you’re welcome. I hope I did an okay job. Thanks for your time.
Alison Herman: You did a wonderful job. All right, thank you.
Sharon Horgan: Bye.
Alison Herman: Bye.
Speaker 1: OnWriting is a production of the Writer’s Guild of America East. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producer and designer is Molly Beer. Tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and Stock Boy Creative. You can learn more about the Writer’s Guild of America East online at wgaeast.org. You can follow the Guild on all social media platforms @WGAEast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening and right on.