Bad Sisters Sharon Horgan interview
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Awards Sharon Horgan on her ‘Bad Sisters’ pitch, Irish luck and why viewers matter

Sharon Horgan on her ‘Bad Sisters’ pitch, Irish luck and why viewers matter

Bad Sisters Sharon Horgan interview

Welcome to It’s a hit! In this series, IndieWire talks to the creators and showrunners behind some of our favorite TV shows about the moment they realized their show was getting big.

Sharon Horgan has been successful in her time. After his breakthrough in 2006 with the cult favorite and two-time BAFTA nominee ‘Pulling’, the English-born, Irish-raised writer and actor co-created a sharp-tongued and heartwarming modern romantic comedy in ‘Catastrophe’, the Prime Video and Channel 4 Original which earned Horgan his first Emmy nomination. Since then, he has created a three-season series for HBO (“Divorce”), earned two more BAFTA nominations (for “Motherland”) and launched a production company, Merman, with offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.

Now he directs “Bad Sisters,” a black comedy thriller for Apple TV+ about five brothers who are sworn to protect each other after their parents’ untimely deaths, and how that promise is tested when they decide to kill one of their abusive husbands.

When it comes to awards, “Bad Sisters” already rivals Horgan’s biggest hit yet. For IMDB extension“Catastrophe” has earned 12 wins and 21 nominations in four seasons, while the hour-long black comedy drama has already racked up eight wins (including three BAFTAs and a Peabody) and 24 nominations – after just one season, AND before she had a chance to compete at the Emmys.

However, in today’s world of unverified rating reports and opaque viewer announcements, it’s hard to say how many people have seen “Bad Sisters.” Is it a success? If yes, how big? Apple TV+, following the lead of its secretive parent company, is barely hinting at the size of its shows’ audiences, but one positive sign has already arrived: the second season renewal. Less than a month after releasing the Season 1 finale, Apple has announced the return of the Garvey clan.

Horgan is already writing season 2 scripts, but she took a break to talk to IndieWire about her latest Emmy contender’s trajectory, from the initial launch to its ongoing reception — and what she’s heard from Apple about those ratings so precious.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

IndieWire: As an adaptation, what was involved in submitting “Bad Sisters” to Apple?

Sharon Horgan: Apple approached me about doing the show. Jay Hunt, who leads Apple TV+ in Europe and the UK, was a fan of the original Belgian series, so she brought it to me. Clearly, I loved it, but had never adapted anything before. It was for our company, Merman, to make, and it was our first big hour (a long schedule), so they wouldn’t just say, “See you later.” First, we had to write our pilot script. We put together a room for it because with the pilot script, we needed to bring them a breakdown of how we were going to tell the series and how we were going to make it our own. What was my side of the story, but what is Apple’s version of this adaptation as well? We had to meet that it would look like an Apple show.

We wanted to change the style of comedy, No. 1. We wanted it to feel much more like a relatable world. We wanted to believe in the sisters and the situations they’re in, and we wanted the stakes to be very high in that we don’t just care if they get caught, we care what’s going to happen to their relationship. Instead of saving their sister, will she tear them all apart? We wanted to have far fewer assassination attempts and far more emotional collateral damage.

We made this map of where we were going to set it in Ireland, because all of our different locations are scattered far and wide. Some are in Belfast, some are in Dublin, some are in Wicklow, some are in London and some were in the Apple studio, so we had to present them to the world as we saw it. It took a while – I think we should have written a second script then – but then the green light was given and we went full steam ahead.

Did something you ended up doing that came out drastically different from the pitch?

Yes. A lot. Things change all the time. We had a completely different introduction to the Garveys. We met them as kids in our original story idea – we filmed it, in fact. What was really interesting was their background and when they lost their parents and who took on what role and when. Not that we were going to show it on screen, but we did a lot of head and character work around that, and how they became the people they are, so we wanted to show what brought them together as this extremely compact unit that would always take take care of each other.

There’s that scene at the end of the first episode where they’re sitting around the fire and they’re like, “He can’t find out what we’ve done” and “We’ll always take care of each other.” They all join hands, and Eva holds out her hand and Bibi says, “I’m not going to do it now.” And then she says: “Come on.” That’s because in the beginning we had a scene where they were very young and they were all doing the same thing. It happened after something traumatic happened. So we had this completely different introduction and then when we put it together, it was wonderful on so many levels, but it wasn’t really necessary. And it was kind of confusing because you were trying to figure out which sister was who, and we felt like we had to go running. As soon as an audience sees that The Prick is dead, they want to find out what happened and meet all the sisters.

What we just felt like a good introduction to tone. We’ve always had to market ourselves as a drama that contains a black comedy. Sometimes the show can be a little tongue in cheek, and sometimes it can really push it both dramatically and comically. That scene that we cut was a little too dramatic to fit the tone of the whole thing.

Was there a moment before the “Bad Sisters” premiere where you felt like you had something special? Where did it look like it would find an audience?

When I saw the sisters together, when I saw their chemistry was alive and well. This is a huge part – when you can feel the atmosphere and the magic of them together. One big fear was, “Will people believe their attempt to kill him multiple times? Are we going to be able to keep an audience, and will they love the sisters enough to go on that journey with them and stay understanding, and will they hate it enough to want to see them keep trying? There was definitely a point where we were halfway through filming – we had a couple of episodes in the editing process and were starting to prepare for the paintball scene – and I thought, ‘This is really fun. nothing like this before. Outside of the original Belgian version, I’ve never seen anything like this before, and I thought if people were behind it and connected with them as characters, then we’d be a bit of a winner .

The Bad Sisters launch an interview on Apple TV+ Sharon Horgan
“The Evil Sisters”Courtesy of Natalie Seery / Apple TV+

But it’s hard to know, isn’t it? There is a huge amount of content made. A huge amount of TV produced. How do you stand out in that sea? How do you finish the last six shows or whatever people are talking about? It’s crazy. It’s all about human connection, isn’t it? But it’s also about timing, don’t you think? It’s kind of what people are waiting for at that moment.

So when did you realize it worked? Who was out there in the world, finding an audience?

It took a while. It was a bit of a slow burn. When we were reaching episode 7, 8, that’s when the viewership really started to build, and when we got back to the US to promote the finale, we were like, “Jesus, everybody knows this show.” So I think we’ve been very lucky to be published week after week, so it’s had a chance to build and it’s also had a chance for people to speculate — to try to figure out who did it and how they did it and how he did dead in the end. So we had the edge of the thriller to push us forward and get people talking.

Did you get any feedback from Apple during the launch? How many people were watching or what metrics did they use to measure their success?

Everyone is holding this information very close to their chest now, but the main thing it gave me was how much it was increasing week over week. It was significantly doubling in numbers week over week and around the world, so that was exciting. It makes a big difference.

Is getting viewer insights important to you? Want more transparency on how many people are watching?

Yes I think so. It is important for me. In some cases it can take three years to write, shoot and produce a show, and the least you want is for audiences to watch. Sure, the first show I ever made, the figures were tiny, but people loved it beloved It. It becomes cult viewing, and it’s fun when someone finds that show and feels like they’re part of this little gang. But it’s not good for residue. Isn’t that great for getting the green light on your next project.

I feel like my ambition has always been to make things that have a wider appeal, if I’m being honest. I liked writing cult stuff, but deep down, deep down, I always wanted as many people to sit down and watch it on Friday night TV as possible.

Rightfully so, you’ve showered your cast, writers, and crew with credits for the show’s success — as well as audiences around the world — but is there any other factor that you feel really helped make “Bad Sisters” pop?

It was also Ireland. I really think there was something about capturing a modern day Ireland on screen – not trying to be too twee with it, not trying to be too welcoming, just showing this crazy, beautiful, little country. There was an escapism in that. We weren’t super ambitious, but we were giving people a place to escape and imagine themselves – imagine themselves in that large family and imagine what it would be like if they had to kill the person they have to sit across the dinner table from.

I thank my lucky stars because it was not supposed to be set in Ireland. It was just an idea I had. I think it was when I was watching the original, and I started thinking about my very large family and thought this was the right place to do it. And then going to the forty feet and saying, “We have to put this on the screen because I haven’t seen anything like it.” There were a lot of little things that made us want to shoot there, and I feel like it made a big difference.

I don’t want spoilers, but before I dive into it, is there anything you want to share about season 2?

Well, I write it now. As soon as I hang up, I’ll do another half hour and then I’ll take my son to football. It’s fun to be back in that world, and yes, I can’t wait to get back to Forty Foot, even if it’s freezing cold.

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