mmfd cast

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Everyone just flies out and throws themselves around out in Hollywood. I’d rather keep on learning. Every job I do, I’m still learning. Whether it’s a short film that you do for free on a Saturday morning, or it’s The Village in Derbyshire, you’re learning and I just want to have the right scripts with the right directors, whether it’s film or drama it doesn’t really bother me at the moment. When you do Mad Fat Diary or The Village, you always learn about the particular time period and that’s always nice for an actor. I struggled at school ,so I’ve certainly been making up for it!”

Sharon Rooney: My Mad Fat Diary actor on mental health and why we definitely should have young women masturbating on TV

The Independent: Hi Sharon, what’s the best thing you’ve learned from the programme?

Sharon Rooney: “I think the best thing that I’ve learned is that: ‘if people don’t like you for who you are, they can f**k off.’

"I know it’s a bad word, but it’s true and you shouldn’t live your life to please other people, you should live your life for you, and that’s definitely what I’m going to take away from the show.”

Did you ever worry about being typecast?

SR: “I think because the show gives you a chance to be funny, confident at times, vulnerable, it lets you be every emotion but I think I was lucky in that way because I got to be funny and to be sad at the same time. It was the best part I’ll probably ever have in my life.”

Rae has quite a tough time in some respects – could you relate to it?

SR: “I think anybody can relate to it because of being a teenager. If you take away how people look, act and how they are – whether or not they have a mental illness, if they’re fat or thin, being a teenager is hard – really hard – and being a teenager now, or being a teenager in the 90s is hard. The things I could relate to were being young, and finding your first love, so it was great to go back and re-live it. I don’t think you need to be a mad, fat teenage girl to understand what it’s like.”

Are there different challenges for teenagers today?

SR: “I think now, one of the main challenges today is social media. When we’re doing the show, we laugh about it, because we’re doing it with our bloody iPhones in our pckets. When you’d upset someone or had a fight, you had to physically go round to their house to apologise, you couldn’t just Snapchat them a funny picture and say ‘sorry LOL’. You had to go round and talk face-to-face. You would meet up in the pub… I think it was a wee bit more social then, and there wasn’t the same pressures of selfies and looking perfect.”

Do you think there’s pressure on young women to look a certain way?

SR: “Yeah – I think it’s always been around, but I think now with the internet it’s a lot harder.”

You’re very active on Twitter, do you get a lot of trolls?

SR: “Do you know, I don’t.”

What?!

SR: “I know! But now maybe people will be like ‘she doesn’t have any, let’s go in there and get her’! When the show first came out, I got so much grief and I thought ‘Oh God, maybe I should just come off Twitter.’ People didn’t understand the show, and were like: ‘How dare you take the piss out of mental health’ and were like ‘Who ARE you? You don’t look like the typical lead actress.’” That’s what the block button’s for, I don’t have time for that nonsense. Or the mute button: ‘I can’t see! I can’t see!’"

Do your fans ask you for a lot of agony aunt-ish advice?

SR: “It’s more people getting in touch to say they’ve got help, which is the best feeling ever. I’ve never won an Oscar but I imagine it’s up there with that feeling, to have someone say ‘You’ve changed my life. I got help, I asked for help.’”

Is there too much stigma around mental health?

SR: “Definitely – I think it’s a lot of s**t really, because if someone’s got crutches on, or a sling on their arm, everyone is sympathetic. But if someone’s got anxiety it shouldn’t be any different. Your mind is just as important – if not more important – as anything else. You have to look after it. It’s a really s**tty thing when people get judged for being honest about needing help.”

A lot of people shy away from saying fat – what do you think about that?

SR: “This question makes me laugh because everyone goes: ‘Does that not really offend you?’ It’s a word! But also it’s not just about how she looks – her problems are huge! Her problems are fat, and have you seen the size of that diary? The diary itself is fat. So it honestly doesn’t bother me in the slightest.”

We’re in such an interesting time in terms of the way women are seen, and we’re still so defined by our weight. How do you feel about that?

SR: “I don’t think it should ever make a difference. In my opinion, someone is a great person if they’re a great person – I don’t like people for the way that they look, or their skin, or the length of their hair. I like people if they’re a good person, so I couldn’t care less about what they look like. What someone weighs, not interested. If you’re happy and a nice person, come and join my team. If you’re an a**ehole, then you can’t join my team!”

There also seems to be a thing where if you’re a bigger woman people go in for the backhanded compliment of: ‘Oh wow, how come you’re so confident?’ Do you get that a lot?

SR: “No, never, I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that – if they did we would be having a little chat. I’ve got insecurities like everyone else. One day I’ll put on a dress and go ‘Nah’ the next week I’ll put on the same dress and go: ‘I look great!’ I think it is really insulting just because you’re a certain size or weight, doesn’t mean you’re life is rosy. Also what I hate is when people go ‘Real women have curves.’ No no no, you can’t do that. You cannot make someone else feel worse to make yourself feel better. You’re a real woman if you identify as a woman – that’s it.”

You have quite a lot of interesting scenes in the show. Do you ever feel self-conscious if you’re doing something like a masturbation scene?

SR: “I think it’s great! I think it’s brilliant! We should have a young woman masturbating for the first time on television! That’s that awful time when you’re that age and you start discovering your body and you’re like: ‘what do you do, and what things do I like?’ It’s an important time and everybody does it. Anyone who says they don’t is lying. So I think it’s great. When they said we’d be doing that scene, I thought ‘Yeah I’ll do that. Why not?’ How many times have you seen a boy having a wank? All the time! It’s all they talk about! I thought: ‘Let’s do it for the girls.’ Any time there’s an awkward scene or a sex scene or a scene where I have to be naked, the crew are so amazing. You feel so safe on that set. Standing there in my pants, that was OK. I didn’t feel anyone was judging or looking or being cheeky – none of that.

"And have you seen Nico? [Mirallegro, her on-screen on-off boyfriend] He’s great-looking. I’m not going to turn down any of them scenes! I’m going to ask for more!

What are you going to miss about the show?

SR: "I’m going to miss feeling like I’m making a difference. Every time we’ve tackled something new, we’ve tackled something bigger, and now I feel we’re not going to do that. But hopefully we’ll leave a legacy and our fans will pass it down to the next generation of teenagers.”