Monday 25th February sees the DVD of E4’s comedy drama My Mad Fat Diary. The series, based loosely on the real life diaries of Rae Earl moved the story of an overweight teenager from the 80’s forward to 1996 meaning the series featured the perfect nineties soundtrack. I was recently given the chance to speak actress Sharon Rooney about what it was like playing the lead role in the series, how her family have reacted to her first TV job and her hopes for the future of the series.
How excited are you by your first DVD release?
I’m too overwhelmed to even put it into words. It’s all a wee bit surreal but I’m just so happy.
Have you been surprised by the warm reaction the series has had?
As I say it’s overwhelming. The fact that people want to take time out of their day to tweet me, it’s just really nice. You forget how many lovely people there are in the world, so it’s really sweet and I’m
really humbled by it.
A lot of people have commented on enjoying the ’90s nostalgia. How aware were you of the music at that time?
Well I was seven in 1996. I kind of missed it all because I was too busy being into the Spice Girls so everything else went over my head As I’ve got older I appreciate how good all the other music is.
Obviously the series is loosely based on the diaries of Rae Earl. Did you feel any pressure knowing you were portraying a real person?
Because Rae is so amazing there wasn’t really much pressure. We’ve never met but we email almost everyday. She was so kind, she said to take your experiences and just make it as real as it can be. For
someone you’re playing to give you their blessing and let you put your own style to it is just wicked.
How have you coped with being recognised?
I get recognised quite a lot which is strange but also very lovely. It’s really nice that people feel that they want to say hi and I still can’t really believe it’s happening to me. It’s really cool.
Do you tend to do put on Rae’s accent so you don’t confuse them?
No, but it’s quite funny because they go “Are you that girl from My Mad Fat Diary?” I’ll say yes and they’ll say “you’re Scottish! Are you sure it’s you?” I’ll say yeah I’m pretty sure! I’ve been approached
by a lot of guys and a lot of people my mum’s age and I think that just goes to show how universal these problems are.
You’ve been in almost every scene of the series. How demanding was the role?
I think if I hadn’t had such a great team behind me and a great crew it would’ve been a wee bit wild but you get into a routine of learning lines daily. It just kind of all happens because you’re in this bubble and it’s the most intense bubble in the world, but it’s also the most brilliant bubble in the world. I found it weird when they told me I wasn’t in a scene but it was also good to sit for five minutes.
Rae’s got three lives. Her life at home, her life with her friends and her life at the hospital. Did you do much research into the mental health side of the story?
I looked at some blogs online and a spoke to quite a lot of people because I really wanted this to feel real. I wanted people who had been through or were going through the same things to be able watch it and think yes, that’s what I went through. The worst thing for me would be for someone to watch it and think it’s not like that and that’s not how I felt. I just wanted to make sure it was as real as it could be.
How do you see Rae and Chloe’s relationship?
I think their relationship is very similar to a lot of people’s relationships with their friends. You have that friend who you love and you would do anything for them, but yet they’re the ones that kinda hurt you the most. I think they hurt each other without meaning to. I think Chloe gets a bit of a hard time and people think she’s selfish and she’s trying to hurt Rae but I don’t think she is. She is obviously the princess, she’s got the perfect Mum and Dad with Rae doesn’t have but Chloe’s also really insecure. Chloe wants to be liked the same way that Rae is liked, its that old story of the rose-tinted glasses and if Chloe could see herself the way Rae sees her and how brilliant Rae thinks she is and if Rae could see how cool Chloe thinks Rae is then they’d be OK. They each want what the other has. Rae acts like Chloe in episode five by forgetting about her dinner with Tix. She doesn’t think about Tix, she thinks about herself. She doesn’t mean to hurt Tix but she’s so wrapped up in being cool and being noticed and I think everyone if their honest has acted a bit like Chloe at some point.
I find it refreshing how Rae is seen almost as everyone’s hero in the group of friends. How do you view her role in the group?
I think the thing with Rae and with me to a point is that the girls aren’t intimidated by you, they just want to talk to you and the boys see you as a friend. The boys like you because you are who you are. I think it’s nice that Rae is who she is. She’s just herself and the guys like her for that.
Were there any scenes in the series you found difficult to film?
The funny thing is the more awkward a scene, the more fun I’ll have. I’d always have a laugh before a big emotional scene. The hardest scene for me to watch back was a scene I wasn’t even in. It’s the scene where she unzips herself and walks out. One girl actually asked me recently how they did that to me and I was like wow alright it’s obviously not me! That scene wasn’t necessarily about weight it’s more about those times you have when just don’t want to be you.
How did you get on with your cast?
I absolutely love them! I’ve made some best friends for life. There’s not a week goes by when we don’t speak and we are like a little gang.
What would you like to see happen with Rae and Finn?
Well selfishly I’d quite like some more sexy scenes with Finn simply because It’s Nico and it would be fun. (Laughs) So I’m all up for kissing, and you know stuff, I’m up for it! Just don’t tell Nico we’ll keep that as a surprise.
If you go into 1997 don’t let them put Candle in the Wind on the soundtrack.
Oh I don’t think Rae’s mum would take the Diana news well.
Speaking of Rae’s mum, what was it like working with the brilliant Claire Rushbrook?
I am a huge fan of hers and have been for a long long long time. For me to even meet her was huge and everyday going to work and contemplating working with Claire Rushbrook was just absolutely out of this world. She took me under her wing and looked after me and taught me so much. She knows what she’s doing and she was so kind to me, she’s become like a second mum really. She’s wicked on the show, she’s so funny and there were times were I was literally biting my lip trying not to laugh.
What do you love and loathe on TV?
I love the majority of TV, I wish it was a sport. I love a programme called My Mad Fat Diary.
I’ve heard good things about that yes.
(Laughs) Yeah it’s really good once you get over the fact that the main girl is a bit of a bitch (Laughs) I really like Grey’s Anatomy that’s one of my favourites. I love House, I’m not ready to talk about
the end of House yet. I’ve loved Casualty ever since I was little. I really like the soaps. I’ll pretty much watch anything. Yesterday I got really caught up in something like Bargain Hunt and couldn’t leave till it was finished.
Have you watched the series as it’s gone out or do you find it difficult watching yourself?
It’s weird, I thought I would hate watching it but I kinda don’t see me, I just see Rae. I love to watch it on my own TV and just see how it all went together and appreciate all the work all the crew and the
directors and all the cast did.
How have your family reacted to you being on TV?
I think at first they were really “woo!” but now they’ve just got so involved in the show, they’ve forgotten it’s me. My Gran fell out with me because I didn’t kiss Nico (Finn). She was really not happy at all and accused me of leading him down a terrible path and had played with his heart and that I should be grateful that he had even wanted to speak to me. So that was great, my 72 year old Gran having a real go at me.
My Mat Fat Diary is available to own on DVD from 25th February courtesy of 4DVD