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I TALK TO Sharon Rooney

The morning after the emotional second episode from the final series of My Mad Fat Diary  aired, I caught up with the very lovely Sharon Rooney, who plays Rae.

When My Mad Fat Diary began in January 2013, no one could have predicted the reaction the series about a 16-year-old with body issues and mental health problems, would get.

The series, based on the book written by Rae Earl, has produced two brilliant series, and recently My Mad Fat Diary returned for a third and final mini-series. On Monday night viewers will be glued to their screens when the final episode of My Mad Fat Diary airs at 10pm on E4.

First of all congratulations on the last two series, but especially last night’s very emotional episode. You were watching along weren’t you?

Oh thank you. Yes, it was very emotional. I wasn’t going to watch last night because I’d been up for 19 hours, I was knackered and I thought, I’m not going to watch it because it’s too sad. But then I went on Twitter and I thought... “D’ya know what? I’m going to have to watch it with you.” I just thought, "I’m going to have to be there for you because it’s hard."

But for next week I’m going to have some friends and family round and we’re going to watch it together. Because that’s what we did for the first episode, so we’ll watch it together.

Have you learnt anything from Rae?

 I’ve learnt a lot from Rae! In the beginning when I was doing interviews I kept saying “She’s actually quite a confident, cool person.” and people were like “Really?!” and the answer is yes. Because she listens to whatever music she wants, she’s really smart, she’s really clever, and she dresses as she wants. And I love that! Because when you’re a teenager there is that pressure to listen to what everyone else is listening to, and dress in the fashion - when Rae is like “No thank you."

I love that she has that confidence, and that she doesn’t wear make-up. It’s not made me any more confident without any make-up mind you! (Laughs) But I really love that about her. I thought it was really cool.

And is that what attracted you to the role in the first place?

Yeah, I just thought “I really like you” and I like you because you’re a girl and you're going through all this stuff and you have a mental illness, but you know what? You’re still a really cool person and I really want tto hang out with you.

Did you ever expect the show to take off in the way that it did?

No! Not at all. I kind of didn’t think about it, because I’ve never done a show before. I’ve never had a big part, so to play the lead I was just like - “I’m loving it. I’m really enjoying it”I was just putting this character out there that I adored, and I didn’t know if people would like her. And I remember someone said to me - “If they don’t like Rae, then that’s it then.” and I was like “Oh my God! What if they don’t like Rae?!”

But I never expected that a few years later we’d be doing the third series! I never expected it.

Am I right in thinking that a lot of people have asked you for advice because of how they’ve responded to Rae?

Yes, and that’s really tough when people ask me, Sharon for help. I always find that really difficult, and it’s not because I don’t care, it’s just because I’m not trained. So although I’ve done so much research, I’m still not qualified to give people advice.

And that’s tough, because sometimes when people have the courage to come up and ask, you have to kind of point them towards charities, because that’s all I can do. I hate the feeling that sometimes people feel like I don’t care, because I do care.

It’s lovely when people say that the show has helped them ask for help. That to me means more than anything. That we’ve managed to help people. That’s the best thing ever in my opinion that we could have done.

So what is it do you think about My Mad Fat Diary that people have loved so much?

I think it’s because everyone can see a bit of themselves in Rae. You don’t have to be a teenage girl to identify with her, and that’s what I think is very special about this show. We deal with real life issues in a real life way. We don’t sugarcoat things and make things seem easy. You know they are hard and they are raw... I mean it’s exhausting to do it.

Last night’s episode was a hard one to film, because you’re constantly in this horrible horrible head space. But that’s what’s real. That is what happens if you relapse.

Going into the final series, did you feel added pressure, because of the way the public have taken to Rae and the show?

Yes. I’ve really felt the pressure this year. And that’s because I care so much about the fans. I adore them, I really do adore them. They’re great, but you always feel that pressure of “Will I disappoint them?” - because you can’t please everyone. You can’t.

Let’s talk about the final episode then... What can we expect?

Erm... (Laughs)... (Pauses)... Oh this is interesting! Episode three is really hard to talk about without giving anything away. It’s really hard. And even when they were doing the trailer for the episode they were like “What can we show without giving anything away?"

But I think get yourself some nice chocolates, or something nice, and some tissues and a nice cosy blanket and just be prepared! Get yourself a little ‘Mad Fat Diary Final Kit’... I might make one and put it on Twitter!

Answer me this then... Will we see Finn again?

Oh you’ll see Finn again! Oh yes you will. You will. And it’s nice that for once, he’s in the bad books. I’m not in the bad books.

Obviously the final episode is yet to go out, but already people are asking about what’s next? Will there be a special? Will there be a film? Are there are any plans to bring Rae back in some way?

I would jump at the chance! I’d happily play Rae all my life, of course I would. But I don’t know, I haven’t heard anything, I don’t know of anything. And like I always say to the fans on Twitter, you’ll all know anything before me anyway! So just let me know if you hear anything! I know nothing.

Were you sad when you heard series three would be the last?

Well, I was quite chuffed because I didn’t know if we were getting a third series. I thought we’d finished at 2, so when I heard we were coming back, I was really chuffed. A lot of people have been saying things like “Rae hasn’t made any progress.” And I’m like, yes she has! Yes she has! She hasn’t hurt herself for over a year, and that’s because she’s in therapy.

But I think people think, she’s in therapy so she must be fine. No no no no no... if you have a mental illness, especially what Rae has, she’ll always have it, of course she will. It’s part of her, but she has made progress.

And obviously I’m getting on a bit now! I’m 27 this year and I’m still playing an 18-year-old... so I’m not sure how long I could play Rae realistically.

What’s been the most difficult thing about playing Rae?

I think the self harming is really hard. Because I love Rae, I really do. I am Rae’s number one fan, I love her, I root for her, and I just want her to see how amazing she is. So when you have to do those scenes where she is in such a bad place, and that’s what she’s doing, that’s always hard.

And obviously as well in the back of my mind I’m thinking, I don’t want this to trigger anyone or to make anyone feel upset. E4 and Channel 4 are really great at offering support and helplines for anyone going through similar things.

What will you miss most about playing Rae?

I think I’ll miss... I know this is a bit cheesy... but I’ll miss everything about it. It’s hard. It’s a really hard job. It’s really exhausting but it’s really rewarding. I’ll miss hanging out with my mates really. Because everyone on that show really, the crew, the cast, we are like a Mad Fat Diary family. So I will really miss them, but I speak to them all the time so that’s fine. (Laughs)

I don’t think I’ll ever get to play someone like her again, and that’s fine because she will have that place in my heart until I’m 90. She will always have a special place in my heart.

My Mad Fat Diary comes to an end Monday night at 10pm on E4


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