If ever there was a metaphor for the enlightenment of Hollywood and our culture’s thoughts on female equality, the power dynamic at the center of Bad Sisters is a great one. Unlike her character in Bad Sisters, big sister Eva Garvey, as the showrunner and star, Sharon Horgan gets to call the shots on how the drama unfolds. Eva, like her sisters, lives surrounded by the emotional abuse of a brother-in-law from hell who inspires the murderous desires of almost every other character in the Irish dark comedy.
Ahead of the show’s October 14th finale on AppleTV+, Horgan takes a moment to talk about the rise of the multi-dimensional roles for women over 50 and what it’s like to be at the helm of one such vehicle of female empowerment. “Yeah, it’s a new phenomenon, isn’t it? It’s been happening in the last five years and it’s so boring that it’s taken this long, but it’s so clearly obvious now not only do women want to watch shows that have women in central parts, but everyone wants to watch them,” she says.
What drew you to this story and how did you find it?
“I was working with someone at AppleTV+ who said what do you want to do next? I listed off a few ideas of what I wanted to write and then he suggested this Belgian series to adapt. I watched one episode and I was just so in I love the sisters. I just wanted to be with them and I found the premise to be so funny. I knew there was an important story to the heart of it about this abusive relationship and I felt like it was a version of one of those relationships that I hadn’t really seen before. It wasn’t about violence, it’s much more psychological, emotional and financial abuse and I hadn’t seen it portrayed that way before.”
As a showrunner and lead, how do you maintain a work-life balance?
“I try not to be in front of the camera too much. If I’m really honest, the only things I do are make TV and hang out with my kids. I’ve taken every other thing out of the equation so that that frees up a lot of time. I can work at a rate of knots and then put it down very quickly to be with my teenage girls, which is my biggest joy in life.”
John Paul is one of the most ire-inducing characters on TV. How were you able to maintain composure while shooting?
“Maybe three quarters of the way through Claes Bang and I realized that we were fighting in almost every scene we were in. His character makes it so difficult, but my character also refuses to stop, so it just keeps going. We would just laugh about it. We would do a day’s work where we would say these terrible things to each other and then be like, yeah, see you tomorrow. That was fun!”
From Catastrophe to Divorce and Bad Sisters, you often portray your lead female characters as unapologetically flawed. Do you see a common thread?
“I just like to show real women. I’m not pretending that any of them are perfect or some sort of super woman. I’m showing the women that I know in my life, even though they’re in more heightened situations. I’m always trying to ground the characters in reality whether it’s a relationship comedy or something much more serious, like a murder attempt on your abusive brother-in-law. You always have to believe what comes out of their mouth. It has to sound real, and it has to be truthful.”
Are there any skin-care or anti-aging treatments you swear by?
“I’m a little late to it, but I just recently got into skin care about a year and a half ago and I’m 52, so that was pretty stupid. I should have started earlier.”
You’d never know it, you look amazing. So, what are you into?
“Thank you. I just wish I had started earlier because part of the collateral damage from being a busy mom was that the person I forgot about was myself. I never really did anything for myself and now my kids are 14 and 18 and they often just want to be away doing other things. So, I got into into skin care and Nicole Schuler, who is the makeup artist on Bad Sisters is all about skin. She wants women on TV to look like real women. It’s not about piling on makeup, it’s about trying to find the glow from within. She got me into HydraFacials and Profhilo.”
That’s the skin booster from Europe? We’re waiting for that here. It’s not a traditional filler, but for skin quality, right?
“It’s not filler at all. It gives you a bit of a glow. I’ve only done it like three times in the last year. I’ve got rosacea and I used to have bad skin, like incredibly dry with rosacea and sebaceous dermatitis. I’ve got a lot of damage and had a lot of roughness, but I’ve done the DermaPen microneedling treatment twice and I’ve noticed a big difference.”
Do your teenagers get into your stash?
“Yes! And my favorite products are not cheap. I get some from the U.S. as well, like True Botanicals, and you can’t get them in the U.K., and of course that’s what they want to use! I’m like, ‘Keep your hands off my fucking toner.’ But, I’m into them being into skin because it’s hard enough for teenage girls without acne coming along and knocking the little confidence you have out of you. Their hormones are all over the place and their brains have haven’t developed the tools yet to deal with their emotions, let alone acne.”
We’re seeing more older women like Jennifer Coolidge, Jean Smart and Sheryl Lee Ralph dive into award-winning roles. Are the tides turning? Why do you think stories about women in this age group are so compelling?
“First of all Jean Smart is a goddess and I could watch Hacks all day—and Jennifer Coolidge and Sheryl Lee Ralph are just incredible, too. It’s a new phenomenon, isn’t it? It’s just been in the last five years and it’s so boring that it has taken this long, but it’s so clearly obvious now that not only do women want to watch shows that have women in central parts, but everyone wants to watch them. Just because it features a woman doesn’t mean it’s only for women. It’s been a very frustrating place to work for so many years, but you can’t argue with the fact that there are great, top-of-their-game female showrunners, directors, writers, and powerhouses that are transforming the industry. We did have to do it ourselves and there’s no looking back now. We just need to keep pushing.”