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New Sundance Show 'Motherland' Gets So Real About Parenting It Hurts

The critically-acclaimed scripted comedy series Motherland is premiering on Sundance Now. Writer/creator Sharon Horgan recently chatted with Parents.com about the inspiration for the show. 

Motherland Promo Sundance Now

There's much to be said for flicks like Tully and shows like This Is Us tackling challenges faced by parents from a dramatic perspective. But there's also merit to telling the #momlife story through a humorous lens. Enter Motherhood, a U.K. series that is making its U.S. debut on Sundance Now today, May 10. The premise: Julia (played by Anna Maxwell Martin) just wants her kids to be raised like she was—by her mom! But Grandma isn't on-board with that idea, so Julia has to navigate #momlife on her own, facing the "Alpha Moms" (you know, mom mean girls) of her community and befriending single mom Liz (Diane Morgan) and stay-at-home dad Kevin (Paul Ready). 

Creator/writer Sharon Horgan (CatastropheDivorcePulling) chatted with Parents.com about the inspiration behind the show and what fans across the pond have found they loved the most.   

Parents.com: The show touches on various aspects of mom life, but was there something in particular that inspired the show? 

Sharon Horgan: It wasn't anything in particular, it was just serendipty I think. [We cover] parenting to a certain extent in Catastrophe, but it always feels like it's about their relationship and how their relationship is affected by having kids rather than about being parents. So, I kinda felt like I wanted to write something specifically about mothers and, you know, the difficulties that arise when you don’t have the entire skill set. We kind of felt like it was an area for, obviously good comedy, but also, amongst that world of competitive parenting, there's the possibility that really good friendships can come out of it. We really liked the idea of Liz and Judy, it takes a while over the series for their friendship to kinda breaks through. I met some really great friends just from being terrified of that whole area of the school run and mothering and all that. You always find your tribe, and you kind of have to!  

Parents.com: Is that message—that moms should feel empowered to find social support—something you hoped to get across in the show?

Sharon Horgan: Absolutely! I think it's really kind of damaging and dangerous to put a mask on, and say everything's great. It's more helpful to scream and tell the world that you’re going mad, and this is really hard!

Parents.com: In the trailer, we see the show touches on moms (and women in general) being told they can "have it all." What did you hope to convey about that message?

Sharon Horgan: It's one of my pet hates. It's really damaging, because you can't, and why should you, or why should you want to? It doesn't exist, it's not a real thing, and it kind of upsets me that women are being told that it's a goal or attainable, and they just need to put a b and c in practice. It's distressing. We need to wipe that saying out. Just get rid of it.

Parents.com: Could you share a moment from your own life in which you particularly felt like it is unattainable? 

Sharon Horgan: It is every day. Especially when work has gotten to a period where it is very, very full-on, but you are still desperately trying to get home to do bedtime. You know, at the end of the day, it's one bedtime. No one dies. A very happy child might be pissed off for a couple of minutes. Nothing bad has happened. But how badly we beat ourselves up when that happens. And so yeah, there's an accumulation of those kinds of feelings that sort of lead up to wanting to write about this, and I guess it's sort of wish fulfillment in the guise of Liz. Because Liz is someone we should all hope to be. She definitely, people might consider her a non-aspirational character, but she's someone who does what she can do as a parent and decides that's good enough, rather than kind of looking over her shoulder and thinking that [another mom] is doing it better. I'd love to have that level of confidence in my choices.

Parents.com: How much experience from your own mom life has informed the show?

Sharon Horgan: As soon as we started writing, I said can we please write the swimming pool scene? It was one of the most horrific experiences. No one should put other parents through that. In terms of my friends that I kind of took stories from, a lot of Liz is based very heavily on a close friend of mine who I've used as inspiration. She's a single mom, and what she has to worry about on top of everything else, and it was great to tell the opportunity to tell her story through the character of Liz. In the U.K., she's definitely a bit of a feminist icon. It's nice to do a character who is a single mom who's got great big balls and belief in herself.  

Parents.com: What have fans said about the show that has meant the most to you?

Sharon Horgan: We tried to make it as funny as we could; it's not just stories of difficulty and woe, we tried to find themes in there—whether with the friendships or parents. The responses have been mainly women saying that's their life and that's how they cope or that's how they cry when they get stuck in traffic. That's their experience. That's trying to find their place in the school mum tribe. It's just that they recognize themselves in the characters and the setups, and generally, it makes people feel a lot less mad when they realize they're not the only ones who feel those things or who fails in that way. We allow our characters to fail, and it's not the end of the world. You might have a cry or feel a bit bad for a while, but the world doesn't end, you know? 

“Motherland” premieres exclusively in the U.S. on May 10th on Sundance Now – AMC Networks’ premium video streaming service. For an exclusive preview, check out the clip below. 

Exclusive Clip From Motherland