For her Apple TV+ series Bad Sisters, Sharon Horgan has transformed the dark Flemish farce Clan into a character-centric – and very Irish – comic mystery with a disturbing but powerful contemporary resonance. Writer-producer Horgan (“Catastrophe”) also stars as the eldest of the five Garvey sisters, Eva, who, since the death of her parents, has been the surrogate mother to the trembling Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), nurse and unfulfilled wife Ursula (Eva Birthistle) is. , the lesbian Bibi (Sarah Greene) with an eye patch and the still wild child Becka (Eve Hewson).
Over 10 episodes (the series recently picked up for a second season), the others scheme and repeatedly botch attempts to kill Grace’s outwardly pious but actually conniving and sadistic husband, John Paul (Danish actor Claes Bang), whose controlling abuse is her siblings turn into a ghost of her former self.
“There are great male characters in it,” Horgan is quick to point out, lest members of the weaker sex fear being unloved, during a Zoom meeting every actor signed up. “It was really important to show that when you’re dealing with a villain like John Paul.”
Affectionate sarcasm, sincere concerns and the word ‘lovely’ abound as the Celtic ensemble discuss the liberating joys of attempted murder and the creation of a close-knit, quarrelsome fictional family. Your conversation here has been edited for length and clarity.
Their sisterly relationship just comes across so naturally on screen. How did that develop?
Sarah Greene: We were really lucky. Dearbhla Walsh, our first banned director, arranged for us to rehearse for about two weeks. We saw her vision for the look and mood of the show, worked through all the scenes together and did nice things like going for a swim in a pool together. It really bonded us and it flowed into the shoot very nicely and seamlessly and we just grew closer.
While her sisters conspire to kill her husband, Grace is somewhat isolated from the group. Have you ever felt like this
Anne Marie Duff: It can be really lonely there. That’s the nature of abuse, right? Grace had this very controlling husband who fucking made sure of that [she] Never seen [her] Family, which meant I didn’t get to see the other girls that much while we were shooting. It was oddly useful. Grace has lost her confidence. She’s kind of that angry little shapeshifter. The challenge for me was to make her feel like a human being, but one that had lost its skin and didn’t recognize itself.
Ursula goes through almost as much, especially after JP made her send him an intimate photo when she thinks she’s sexing her lover.
Eve birth thistle: She is having an extramarital affair; She’s not proud of it, but she feels like she’s with someone who understands her completely. She laments her younger adult life, which she hasn’t really been able to explore because she married young after losing her parents. Then JP commits this horrific act and blackmails her. It just meant I had a lot to play for, which is nice. Then it was a matter of deciding when to play the inner fear in one person’s life and when to interfere in everyone else’s life.
Becka is the least mature but faces the greatest guilt when her attempt to kill JP turns tragic.
Eve Hewson: It just breaks them in a really painful way. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in that if she thinks she’s the failure, then she should have a hero moment and mess things up. So it’s a double whammy of guilt and sadness. It’s sad and hard to watch.
But they also sell Becka’s fun-loving side. It couldn’t have been easy shooting under COVID protocols. You were strict, weren’t you?
Hewson: We shot a sex scene in Becka’s apartment. It was raining outside that day so the whole crew was in this tiny space. We did that kissing scene in Episode 5 and the clothes came off – we were in close contact. Then at 11 o’clock that evening I received a call from the COVID supervisor. I was like, “Oh no, what have I done?” I had all the symptoms and everything, but I never tested positive — until I finally did a few months ago.
Darkly funny as it is, Bad Sisters is, at its core, a cautionary tale about the dangers of toxic masculinity. Have any of you had experience with a man as horrible as JP?
birth thistle: Through a lot of discussion, we all agreed that we had had arguments with such men a few times, be it a sister’s boyfriend or a boyfriend or an ex-boyfriend. We all knew at least one but probably many such men, which is unfortunate but the truth is. It made everything very relatable and felt so authentic.
Green: I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people saying that JP reminds them of their ex-husbands or that their sister is married to someone like him and it’s pretty scary.
Sharon Horgan: Bringing a relationship like this to screen was a huge responsibility, but I knew it would pay off. Even though it’s a story with a lot more going on and it’s wacky and wacky at times, this plot is so, so real. I think it’s incredibly helpful for people to see it represented on screen. And there is a general catharsis because of the world we live in right now. I’m really glad I made JP an anti-abortion character.
duff: Sometimes we can underestimate the impact we can have when telling a story. One only has to look at Iran to see that there is a real sense of insurgency there. People are grateful, delighted and inspired to see all of these incredible female characters.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-11-23/bad-sisters-sharon-horgan The ‘Bad Sisters’ on the liberating joys of attempted murder