Glaswegian actress Sharon Rooney, star of E4’s My Mad Fat Diary, stopped by to talk about her acting career so far.
What’s My Mad Fat Diary all about?
The show is basically about Rae – it’s her journey from leaving a mental hospital where she’s been for the last four months and coming back into the big, bad world. She meets friends who don’t know where she’s been, and she’s trying to fit in. It’s really dark and really funny as well.
How did you feel when you got the part of Rae?
The day I read the first page of the script, I knew I had to do it. I was like: “I have to get this. Or I’m leaving the country.” But I literally didn’t believe it when I got it. You know that way you rehearse saying, “Oh, thank you, it was so good to meet you anyway!@ So when I got the call, I was like [calmly]: “Ok, that’s fine.” The woman said: “Are you ok?!”
Do you have much in common with Rae?
So much, but I’m not as cool as her. People say to me: “I want to be your friend!” But they don’t, I’m boring – they want Rae! I want Rae as a friend! I’m really into music – music is Rae’s go-to, and it’s my go-to as well. She’s much more confident than me – I wish I had that punch that she has.
The show has got quite a heavy subject matter, dealing with mental health and self-harm. How did you prepare for the part?
I spoke to some people who had been in similar situations, and I read a lot of blogs. The most important thing for me was that people who had been through the same thing as Rae, or who were going through it, could watch it and believe it. I felt like I had to make sure it was real.
Mental health still is quite a taboo subject – do you think the show has challenged that?
Definitely, and I think it’s been a long time coming. We talk about taboo subjects like underage drinking, yet there’s constantly programmes about it. But then we get to mental health – that’s a taboo, but no one does anything with it. I think it’s about time that we showed it in the way we have. If you break your leg, you need to take time and heal and rest. If you hurt your soul or you have an ache in your mind, you need to take the time to rest and not be ashamed. It’s an illness like anything else.
You’ve said that you wish there were more ‘normal’ people on TV. Why do you think that’s important?
We’re all different shapes and sizes – that doesn’t mean you’re a better or worse person. Growing up, I never had anyone on my TV that I looked like or that I felt like. It was always smoke and mirrors. Whereas with My Mad Fat Diary, there is no smoke and mirrors – even the hottest boy has problems. Everybody does. I think it’s really good for the next generation to see that it’s ok to be sad sometimes.
What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I could sing before I could talk, I wanted to entertain people. I went to see a pantomime in Glasgow with my aunt, and I was standing up on the seat, going wild, and this old lady leans over and she’s like: “Oh, look at that wean! She’s in her element!” I just heard the name ‘Ella Mint’. I thought, ‘I am Ella Mint!’ My gran would say: “You’ll be a great actress!” And I’d be like: “I will not be an actress. I’ll be Ella Mint!”
What would your dream project be?
Something like My Mad Fat Diary was never in my dream box. Purely because I thought, being me, the way I look, without changing, when will I ever get to be the lead in something? But I’d really like to do a medical drama – I’m a huge Casualty fan. And I love period dramas. Basically, I watch a lot of telly. I’m surprised I don’t have square eyes. I know it’s not a hobby or a sport, but if it was? I’d definitely win.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I’ll be 34! I’d better try start growing up. I’d like to still be acting and doing cool stuff. I’d quite like to have popped out at least one baby too.
My Mad Fat Diary is available to own on DVD now, courtesy of 4DVD.
Source magazine, Spring 2013