Fans of brand new E4 show My Mad Fat Diary will be familiar with Sharon Rooney, who stars as Rae Earl - a 16 year old struggling with all the normal teenage problems (boys, fitting in, being cool) as well as some more serious issues.
It's rare that a show dealing with things like bulimia and body confidence can also be funny, but this one manages just that - largely due to Rae and her hilarious inner monologues.
We sat down with Sharon for a chat about Mad Fat Diary, strong females, Demi Lovato - and what it was like to snog her fit co stars.
Hi Sharon – so we’ve been loving the show – are you enjoying the great reception it’s had?
Yeah I’m really pleased. I’m just really chuffed that everyone likes Rae because that’s all I wanted, for everyone to like her as much as I do.
What do your friends and family make of it?
They love it. A lot of people say they kind of forgot it was me after like five minutes which I’m really chuffed at, because it means that I’m bringing her to life. All my mates just want to know what happens in the next episode, it’s great, they just keep asking me about Finn!
The show covers some really important issues like mental health and body confidence, as well as eating disorders but is still very funny – was it hard sometimes to find the humour in Rae’s struggles?
I think that was actually the easiest part! In my experience, whenever something bad happens laughing can really help - you have to find the humour because if you didn’t you would just cry all the time. Life is tragic, but it’s funny too, and that’s the best thing about Rae – even when the worst happens she still manages to make it a funny situation.
That’s what’s so great about her character isn’t it, even though she’s got all these issues she’s still really confident.
Yeah, I wish I’d been more like Rae when I was younger. I wish I’d had more of her kind of punch. I’d have never been that bold. That’s what I said the first time I read the script, she’s the bravest person I’ve ever come across.
Demi Lovato said recently that she could have avoided her struggles with bulimia if more celebrities had been honest about body issues when she was growing up. Do you think it’s important to keep issues like that in the public eye?
Yeah I think it is, but also I think that sometimes body issues can be glamourized in the press and we get lost in the world of celebrity. Rae shows the other side, the real side - rather than the glamour. She shows the dark side and how important it is to reach out if you are struggling and not suffer in silence.
Definitely. Rae is obviously a strong female character – something we've seen a lot more of on telly recently, with programmes like Girls. Are you pleased about that?
Yeah definitely, I think aswell im really pleased that stereotypically 'normal' characters are emerging. I never thought in a million years that I’d have this amazing part, but you just never know and I’m so pleased I stayed true to who I am. It’s just so important to be comfortable in your own skin. I hope people watching MMFD realize that it’s ok to be who you are – and that people will actually respect you more for that.
On a more lighthearted note – a couple of your male co stars are pretty easy on the eye...
They’re alright aren’t they? It was great working with them, we all get on so well and are actually just like a gang on set! But yeah, they are handsome boys, and really nice too.
So how was it snogging them?
Oh I was happy to go and kiss them, it wasn’t hard. It was brilliant,.
So not awkward because you're pals?
No - if I'd let it become awkward it would be a nightmare! For some of the scenes we had to kiss literally forever, but I was loving it. I was like, 'oh this is fun!'.
Yeah, we guess there are worse things you could be doing for a job!
EXACTLY. [laughs] I could still be standing in the middle of Watford in nothing but a bikini and a blow up crocodile. It was SO busy, and I don’t think half the people realized we were filming – I couldn’t tell who was extras and who were real people! Actually, that was the best thing about filming this, everything we did was done to be as real as we could – even the kissing. That was all my own stunts. I didn’t need any stunt double!
Pfff, we would have stood in for you if you'd asked. So what's your favourite thing about Rae?
Oh there's so many. But I think one of my favourite things about Rae is how she always sees the good in people, and no matter what her friends always come first. That’s the same with me. No matter what she’s going through and what the world's done to her, she’ll always come back fighting.
What's next for you?
I have no idea! I’m hoping we’re going to get a second series but I don’t know – everyone asks me on twitter about ten times a day if we are, but I’ve got no idea but I’m hoping that we do! [Since this interview, E4 have confirmed a second series will be filmed. Hooray!]
If we do I’m going on holiday, so there’s a lot riding on this. Not just a TV show, you understand, but my future holiday. [laughs] I hope that’s been bought up in all their meetings. I should probably send a wee email round shouldn’t I? Because they should be aware of that.
They should. Thanks Sharon!
My Mad Fat Diary Series 1 is released on DVD Monday 25th February
We need a mmfd tag tbh