Sharon Horgan, the actor and Bafta-winning writer behind razor sharp comedies such as Catastrophe, Motherland and Divorce is our Woman of the Year 2020.
“When I was little I won a panda bear in a raffle,” Sharon Horgan tells Stylist. “And I won an Irish dancing medal, but then, everyone had one. It’s lovely to get an award like this.”
Her winning streak might have been a modest one as a child growing up in County Meath, Ireland (on the family turkey farm). But Sharon was a dead cert when it came to choosing our Woman of the Year. The actor and writer is an absolute powerhouse, creating and starring in some of the biggest TV comedies and films of our time, including most recently Military Wives.
In the last year alone there has been Divorce, starring the imitable Sarah Jessica Parker. Motherland, about a group of middle-class mums who haven’t lived up to expectations. And then there’s Catastrophe.
The globally successful comedy about the long-term effects of a one-night stand that ended last year with one of the more glorious finales seen on TV.
Horgan writes about women in a way that is truly revolutionary. They are strong, messy, messing up and getting on with it. And she’s wildly funny. She understands that sometimes the best way to deal with a dark, painful subject is to find the humour in it. Which, in these trying times, has never been more important.
We believe she’s the very definition of a remarkable woman. She’s not quite so sure…
Congratulations on your award. Do you feel like a remarkable woman?
Ha! I definitely do not feel like a remarkable human. I feel like I’m in a remarkable industry and I’m still surprised I’m in it. Occasionally [at work], if we’re getting somewhere in terms of a story or I sell something I feel pretty good. But I think if you ask most people in this industry, especially in comedy, they would agree that most of the time you’re expecting someone to discover you’re an impostor and tell you to get out.
It’s fair to say you can be remarkable in one facet of your life and utterly unremarkable in many others…
Yes, I think that’s it. My brain has lost a lot of its functioning since I started doing this job and having kids. I’m more aware of what I’m lacking than what I have: basic life skills and running a house. The other day the power went on one side of the house and my daughter watched me, flailing around, trying to figure it out. She just said, “You don’t know how to work the house”, like it was a machine and I’d lost the instructions. You end up using different parts of your brain for this job: all you think about is the lines and the characters and the other part your brain shuts down. Or at least that’s my excuse.
From the outside you seem incredibly successful, do you feel successful?
I think it changes day to day. If my life at home is sort of collapsing, or I’m failing as a parent, it doesn’t matter how you’re feeling about your work, you don’t feel successful. And how do you even measure it? You’re only as good as your next thing. I have times where I feel fairly on top of it, and then a couple of months later, I’m like, “Who would employ me?” I constantly have that feeling. But I think that’s OK. Because what is the alternative? I’m driven by my anxiety, really. I’m driven by my worry about what’s around the corner. And that’s what keeps me wanting to strive forward and make more stuff.
When a woman comes up to me on the street and talks about Motherland or Catastrophe, that feels really big. Everything’s about ratings and who’s watching, but if you get a bit of personal interaction with someone who has actually got some benefit that feels successful.
Has your definition of success changed as your career has progressed?
Because it took me so long to get my career off the ground, just working and getting a pay cheque felt like a success. Now with Merman [Horgan’s production company], I’m slightly more focused on that, but it’s such a rollercoaster.
I would never have thought back in the day that success would involve anyone other than myself. But now, success feels like if you can manage to get someone else’s vision on screen.
Who are some of the remarkable women in your life?
I’ve got loads: my daughters, my mother, my sisters, my friends who have just been incredible making sure that I’m not sinking. At making sure that I’m thriving. And loads of women who professionally I admire and who do incredible things but still find time to check in, like Emma Freud, Caitlin Moran and Aisling Bea. They just keep an eye on you. And that seems to be a really great skill that a lot of women have.
Is that a skill you feel equipped with?
[Laughs]. I’ve tried to be better at it because I realised how important it is, but I haven’t got the full skill set yet. There’s all sorts of things you can blame for that: your kids are going through certain things or your personal life or work but at the end of the day, it’s reminding yourself to check in with that person who’s having a hard time.
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The finale of Catastrophe was widely considered one of the greatest TV endings ever, did you expect that?
We didn’t at all, and it really helped me because I felt incredibly mournful for the ending. I thought, I’ll watch the last episode go out [live] because it’s the last one. I was just beginning to well up and then I started getting messages on my phone, and I checked Twitter and people’s response to it carried me through. I didn’t feel like I had to mourn it in a way because it seemed to carry on a little bit. I’d been worried that [the audience] might just focus on if they got to shore or not, but it was the feeling that the whole show had given people they talked about.
I loved that show so much and I lived with it for lots of years, so if the ending had been a bit of a damp squib I don’t know what my brain would have done. It felt like we got a bit of closure.
What’s the last show you watched and thought, ‘I wish I’d written that.’
I finished Succession recently. It took me a little while to get into but it was pretty amazing. I love cousin Greg, but everyone says Greg. I watch a bit of Young Offenders and a bit of This Country. And I watch lots of animated comedy like Bob’s Burgers and Rick And Morty.
Who makes you laugh more than anyone else in the world?
Probably my little brother Mark, which feels bad on my other brothers and sisters but all he needs to do is send me a picture of himself. One of his areas of expertise is making himself look incredibly stupid in photos.
Do you listen to much music at home?
My daughter loves female singers like Jorja Smith and Lana Del Rey, so we’ll have them on all the time. She gets really annoyed because I’ll ask, “Who’s that?” and she’ll say, “You’ve asked me that 10 times.”
Finally, how do you like to celebrate?
Just getting hammered. Getting some really nice booze – tequila or I’m into orange wine at the moment. I love getting my extended family together; a team of people so it feels like a party, but it’s intimate enough because you know them so well that you don’t have to worry about it.
I used to have such a fear of dinner parties or hosting people, but most of that goes when it’s people you know really well who you love.
REMARKABLE WOMEN AWARDS 2020: FULL WINNERS LIST
Sharon Horgan: Woman of the Year
Fearne Cotton: The Hope & Grace award for Mental Health Advocate
Waad Al-Kateab: The Remarkable Strength Award
Jorja Smith: Musician of the Year
Samira Ahmed: The Glass Ceiling Award
Margaret Atwood: Icon of the Year
Sinead Burke: Change-maker of the Year
Caroline Criado Perez: Equality Champion of the Year
Dina Asher-Smith: Sports Star of the Year
Adwoa Aboah: Mentor of the Year
Sian Clifford: Actor of the Year
Lizzie Carr: Inspiration of the Year
philosophy is the wellbeing beauty brand inspiring you to look, live and feel your best, and is the official partner of Stylist’s Remarkable Women Awards 2020.
Picture: Chris Floyd
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