Monday, December 17, 2012

First look at My Mad Fat Diary

Back in July, Screenterrier announced the casting of a new comedy drama coming to E4 based on the novel  by Rae Earl, My Fat Mad Teenage Diary. Here's a first look at the new series, My Mad Fat Diary which will launch on E4 in January 2013.

Set in the mid-90s at the height of cool Britannia, My Mad Fat Diary takes a hilarious and honest look at teenage life from the perspective of Rae - a funny, music-mad 16-year-old who, despite an eccentric mother and her own body image and mental health issues, has a huge lust for life, love and trying to get laid.

Sharon Rooney, in her first major TV role, leads the cast as Rae, and is joined by a raft of fresh young talent for the six hour long episode series. Rae's friendship group includes best friend and popular girl Chloe played by Jodie Comer, jack-the-lad and joker Chop played by Jordan Murphy, the sweet and innocent Izzy played by Ciara Baxendale, major lust interest Archie played by Dan Cohen, and fit-but-knows-it Finn played by Nico Mirallegro (Spike Island, Hollyoaks), with Sophie Wright and Darren Evans as Rae's fellow hospital patients Tix and Danny Two-Hats.  

Claire Rushbrook (Whitechapel, Mutual Friends, Secrets & Lies) plays Rae's mum and Ian Hart (Dirt, Backbeat) plays Rae's therapist Dr Kester.

For Sharon Rooney, it's the stuff that dreams are made of. One day, she's travelling round schools in Scotland, performing sketches about safety around water. The next, she's landed the starring role in a brilliant new comedy-drama on E4, My Mad Fat Diary.

Here, the actress talks about a remarkable few months, working with her heroes, and playing a less-than-glamorous role.

What's My Mad Fat Diary all about?

It basically revolves around Rae, who's just come out of a psychiatric hospital. She's only 16, and she's gone from the hospital where she feels safe and she has friends and she can be herself, to suddenly being back out in the big wide world. And she's been out five minutes when she meets her friend, Chloe, who doesn't know that she's been in hospital, and she's got a new group of friends. She asks Rae to go to the pub with them, and that's the start of her new life with her new friends.

How did you land the role of Rae?

I had met the casting director before, at another audition, that I wasn't right for. Luckily she remembered me when this came up, and asked to see me.

What had you been doing before this?

I've done a lot of Theatre in Education, which is basically being on the road going to different schools and doing shows about water safety and things like that. And I've also done some stand-up shows as well, just to keep busy, really, and trying to make people laugh.

Moving from doing shows about water safety in schools to landing the lead role in a major TV production is quite a leap, isn't it?

Yeah, it's a huge, huge jump. I think I was kind of lucky that I didn't know too much about it, so I didn't have too many worries or concerns. Because I'd never done anything like this before, I couldn't worry about how things would look on TV or what I should do.

Did you read the diary before you filmed?

Yeah, I read it before my first audition. I thought it was such a warm and honest and sad and real look at life from a teenager's perspective - no sugar-coating. Everything is as real as it can be.

Rae's a fantastic character, but she's not exactly glamorous. Did you mind that, or did you quite relish it?

It would be ridiculous for me to go in and say "Well, I'd quite like to wear these nice, fitted clothes, and I'd quite like some nice eye-lashes," and so on. It wouldn't make any sense. And I think it's good for people to see someone on TV who doesn't bother with make-up, someone for whom how they look isn't the most important thing. At the time of filming I just thought "Ah, who cares?" Now I've seen a bit of it, I've thought to myself "Oh Sharon, why did you not get a bit of concealer? That would have been nice." But I think it was the most honest thing to do.

Everyone can relate a bit to Rae's story, can't they? The joys and agonies of being a teenager are universal, aren't they?

Oh definitely. I think that's what's so charming about this. Whether you're young or old, fat or thin, male or female, any ethnicity, you can look at Rae and go "Oh, I remember that." "Oh, I recognise that." "Oh, I'm going through that now." And hopefully they'll think "I am a good person. My friends like me for me." And I think the thing about Rae's friends is that they all have their own problems to deal with. And they all think the others are sorted. Whereas everyone's like a duck, sailing along on the surface and furiously paddling underneath.

Produced by Tiger Aspect, the series is written by Tom Bidwell, a previous alumnus of Channel 4's talent scheme Coming Up, and Oscar-nominee for his short film Wish 143, adapted from Rae Earl's real-life diaries and subsequent book My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary, and directed by Tim Kirkby (Eps1-3)and Benjamin Caron (Eps 4-6).

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