What is Bad Mother about?
Susie: Bad Mother is a comedy about the madness of modern motherhood: she's not a bad mother, but everyone and everything makes her feel like one!
How did the project come about?
Laura: Susie had set cameras up in my house... or at least that's what I thought when I read her 6 brilliant scripts! I auditioned and happily got the part.
Susie: I've been a mum now for 10 years, and a writer for considerably longer than that, and I just felt there was this gap for something relatable for mothers to watch.
I'd written a script - Career Mums - about a group of mothers, and sent it to director, Matt Winn; we decided to make a show based simply on one mother - the eponymous Bad Mother - told in 5 minute episodes - because we figured that's about as long as any busy mum gets to sit down with their microwaved cup of tea. I then grabbed my own microwaved cup of tea and wrote ten scripts, but our schedule only allowed us to film six of them.
Is anything we see in the series based on real life events?
Susie: None whatsoever, whatever gave you that idea?! Yes, of course, as a mum of two boys, I've got plenty of fodder at my fingertips. I also observe what's going on around me, although I think a few of my friends are getting a bit wary of sharing their bad mother moments with me now!
Laura: I feel a lot of what's in the script is very relatable. As a mum, I put a lot of pressure on myself. That anxiousness, the neuroses, Bad Mother's micro-moments of torture really resonated with me. Lots of my mates have picked out moments of the show and been like, 'Yes! That's me, that's how it feels!'
Speaking generally, do you think parenting is better nowadays than the previous generation?
Susie: I think our generation have professionalised parenting; there's a proliferation of books and websites all offering up advice on how to parent the 'right' way - so much advice it just becomes mind-boggling and ultimately serves to undermine a mother's own judgement. This, combined with social media and the tendency only to portray the 'best bits' of parenting (Episode 7 'Facebook' yet to be filmed!), can lead to feeling inadequate as a mother.
I think there's something to be said for old-fashioned parenting where none of this existed and kids and parents alike 'just got on with it'.
Laura: I think there are pros and cons. There is definitely more fear nowadays so kids don't get the freedom they once did. But we are more aware of kids' feelings and the value of helping them navigate them. I think with my parents' generation kids were left to get on with it. Nowadays, kids seem to feel like an extension of their parents; how this plays out when they become adults remains to be seen.
Thinking of your own experiences of being parents, what has been the best/worst things about being a mum?
Laura: The love created in a family is a beautiful thing. It's incomparable. The joy that kids experience, because everything is new to them; I love seeing the world through their eyes.
There's loads of tiring, mind-numbing endless chores, but for me, it's always the mental challenges; living with anyone under 4 is like living with a tiny alcoholic. The worst thing is kids are like a mirror - they reflect and copy what they see or feel. I've found when I'm not clicking with one of mine, it's because they are reflecting something I don't like about myself!
Susie: Nothing and no-one can prepare you for motherhood: I was woefully naive and ill-prepared! One day you're just ambling along, albeit rather awkwardly with a huge tummy; the next you're a mother. I can't think of any other role in life that throws you in at the deep end like that, and I definitely struggled. But, of course, this whole motherhood thing is clever, because no matter how dire it gets and it does get dire, it's always more than compensated for, or at least most of the time anyway, by that almost inexpressible love you feel for your children.
You've got some great actors involved in Bad Mother. What was it like to work with everyone?
Laura: I worked with Kevin Bishop and Dolly Wells on Star Stories; it's always such a treat to get to work with your pals. And all the other characters in Bad Mother: Rosy Benjamin, Laura Riseborough, Rosalind Adler, Lizzie Bourne, Alexis Strum, Rachel Barry, Frankie Fox, Steph Bower - are so talented. It was a lovely team.
Susie: Yes, I feel incredibly lucky. When you create characters and give them a voice, you have a very clear vision of who you are looking for to play them, and thanks to the excellent Brendan McNamara (from Beach Casting) we found exactly the right actresses and actors. Everyone, cast and crew, were amazing, especially given that they were all working for next to nothing. They were so supportive, generous-spirited and fun - it created a really lovely atmosphere on set.
We don't actually see kids in the show really though?
Laura: Nobody needs that ;)
Susie: No, we deliberately kept them out of it, but for creative reasons, not because we don't like them! Had we involved children, it would have been too easy for it to become a show about the funny things children do or say, but I wanted to explore how it actually feels to be a mother: all the neuroses that come with parenting today. Ironically, it's not the children that are the issue, but being the mother of them.
What challenges were involved in making the episodes?
Susie: There were lots of challenges, mainly because we weren't financed to make these; we cobbled together what we could and relied on the goodwill of an awful lot of very talented individuals and companies who gave so generously of their time and expertise. We only had 5 days to film 6 episodes and everyone was doing the job of about three different people. But possibly the biggest challenge on set was not losing the two cats, Wellington and Coco!
Is there anyone without whom you just couldn't have made the show?
Susie: Everyone was indispensable and I'm indebted to them all, but obviously the show is what it is because of Laura. We were fortunate to get to audition a lot of incredibly talented actresses, but there was something about Laura who just inhabited the character straight away. She made my scripts better, and I don't think a writer could ask for anything more.
There's also someone else who would never claim the limelight but who was instrumental in every aspect: my husband, producer Charlie Watson. He brought on board a host of talent: most of the HoDs, Azimuth, Pure Soho, A Large Evil Corporation, and Framestore - and has been a true support throughout.
At the time of talking, we've yet to see how the series ends, but presumably you've left the door open for more?
Susie: Absolutely! I've already written the next series of 6 episodes, so all we need now is the money to make them.
Whilst you wait to find out about Series 2, what else are you working on?
Laura: I'm writing, and also looking to lean into the producing side of things. I collaborate with Dolly Wells and we have projects currently in development. I'm also appearing in a feature film, Songbird, with Cobie Smulders and Jessica Hynes, due for release 2018.
Susie: I'm writing more Bad Mother episodes, and developing ideas for other female-led TV projects.