(from left) Anne-Marie Duff, Saise Quinn, Sharon Horgan, Eva Birthistle, Sarah Greene and Eve Hewson in Bad Sisters
Sarah Greene, Sharon Horgan and Eve Hewson in Bad Sisters
Eve Hewson, Sharon Horgan, Anne-Marie Duff, Eva Birthistle and Sarah Greene in Bad Sisters
When it comes to talking about her reputation as an industry workhorse, Sharon Horgan sounds almost apologetic. "I don't know what to do with free time," says the Irish writer and performer who has created, produced (and often starred in) a slew of semi-autobiographical TV shows including Pulling, Motherhood, Divorce, and Catastrophe — the last of which put her on the map in the U.S. "I go for a walk. Then I'm home. Then what do I do? I mean, I could be on Instagram more — but that's not good."
In fact, Catastrophe was in its final season and Horgan was already plotting her next move, when Jay Hunt, Apple TV+'s chief of European originals, reached out. She asked her to watch Clan, a Belgian thriller about five sisters, four of whom plot to murder the fifth's odious husband. Horgan soon adapted the series into the ten-episode comedic murder mystery Bad Sisters, premiering August 19 on Apple TV+. Horgan plays Eva Garvey — one of the titular sisters — alongside actresses Anne-Marie Duff (Sex Education), Eva Birthistle (The Last Kingdom), Sarah Greene (Normal People) and Eve Hewson (The Knick).
Horgan spoke with TelevisionAcademy.com as she shuttled between the southeast London office for Merman — her production company — and the flat she shares with daughters Sadhbh and Amer, to talk about her own sprawling family and what appeals to her about mustache-twirling villains. "It's such a blast to write characters like that," Horgan says. "You get to say all the awful things you want to say in real life, through these beasts."
In what ways did Bad Sisters feel like a departure from the other series you've created?
I've never tried to write a thriller. I've never adapted anything. I've never written ten hours of anything. It felt so completely different. It meant I could just take my head out of this social realism stuff I've been doing for the last decade and get my brain into a thriller. I knew I could push it farther in terms of being funny, darker.
In what ways?
Clan was about five sisters. One of them is married to a prick and the other four decide to try and kill him. What I wanted to do was raise the stakes. I wanted there to be more collateral damage. In the original Clan, there's a murder in every episode. I wanted to focus more on the sisters and what would happen if they really did [commit a murder]. Wouldn't that fracture the sisters? Wouldn't some come out of it more damaged than the others? I just wanted to heighten the drama. But as soon as I watched [Clan], I also thought, "I can transplant this show to Ireland in a way that I know will make sense." I've been wanting to write a show that would take place in Ireland for a long time. It just felt like the perfect kind of project to come along.
Talk about casting Claes Bang [The Outlaws], a more conventionally attractive actor than the one who plays the sadistic brother-in-law in Clan.
We wanted to disguise who he is. On the outside [we wanted him] to seem charming. He's handsome, he's successful, he's a good dad. He's a religious man — and that's in inverted commas. That idea of hiding in plain sight was really interesting to me.
For the most part, your television series have been drawn from your own life. Will your next project be a return to the autobiographical?
If you think about Catastrophe, Motherland and Divorce, I sort of wanted to write the next chapter following that. Of being in my fifties, having teenage kids, elderly parents, [being] separated and finding a new life. But I felt you need a bit of space and time to look at that. You need perspective to write about that kind of thing.
That said, you're one of five siblings. So you know first-hand about the special intimacy that is growing up with sisters.
I think siblings are fascinating. And I'm not just fascinated by sisters. But I do know what you mean — especially if you're close. I was interested in them as a pack, as a tribe, but I was also interested in the breakout groups within a group of five. Like, who has the closest bond and who has the fieriest relationship? But I think the bottom line is that they'd do anything for each other. No matter how much they bicker, they would kill for each other. In this series anyway.
Bad Sisters is executive produced and written by Sharon Horgan with Brett Baer and Dave Finkel, adapted from Clan, by creator Malin-Sarah Gozin. Horgan, Faye Dorn and Clelia Mountford executive produce for Merman; and Gozin, Bert Hamelinck and Michael Sagol executive produce for Caviar. Dearbhla Walsh also serves as executive producer. Bad Sisters is produced by Merman Television and ABC Signature, a part of Disney Television Studios.