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Actress Sharon Horgan on her TV show "Bad Sisters" and its season finale


Never in my life have I wanted to have a sister as badly as while watching the new dark comedy "Bad Sisters."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You don't need two eyes to aim. It's all about the stance, the grip, breath.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) We have time to do all that now because it's going to be very frantic on the day?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Can I just hit it first before you start dismantling the plan?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) No one's dismantling the plan.

KELLY: They are a band of five murderous Irish sisters. Actually, only four of them are murderous. Their target is the husband of sister No. 5.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Shove him into deep, dark water.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Feed him to the sharks.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) Let the seagulls pick out his eyes.

KELLY: Sharon Horgan plays the oldest sister, Eva. In real life, she's a writer, and the series is her creation. "Bad Sisters" is an adaptation of a Belgian show which featured a zany plot and a murder attempt every week, a murder attempt that Horgan says usually ended with more bodies.

SHARON HORGAN: What I wanted to do was to just really ground it, because to me, the interesting thing at the heart of it was this relationship, this awful, abusive, coercive relationship that the sisters decide to rescue their other sister from. And so in order to really feel that and believe that and ground that, I had to sort of take the whole thing down a notch, and for the collateral damage to really be, you know, what happens to the sisters themselves when they decide to do this, you know, pretty terrible and careless dangerous thing, which is to take their brother-in-law out. And I felt like it really had to sort of almost destroy them.

KELLY: Yeah. It's so interesting because you're describing - there is a certain kind of screwball or madcap comedy aspect to it. There's some crazy stuff that happens and we'll get to a little bit of that. But it's also this portrait of this unique relationship. I mean, I said I've never wanted a sister so much as watching the show, and I mean it. I have a brother. He's great. But this band of five women who are so different, and yet the intimacy and the loyalty and the snarkiness, like, they're mean to each other in a way that I wouldn't be.

HORGAN: There's a lot of snark.

KELLY: There's a lot of snark. It's unique.

HORGAN: It is. There's - a friendship isn't like that, you know. But, you know, a marriage or a partnership isn't like that. It's very, very unique.

KELLY: Well, let's describe what at least four of them are bonding over, which is the plan. They have to kill their rotten, awful brother-in-law. Describe John Paul.

HORGAN: (Laughter) With pleasure. Well, I don't know if it is pleasure, really. He's an awful, terrible man. You know, he's a religious man. He's a man who feels he's got moral righteousness on his side. But he's a monster.


ANNE-MARIE DUFF: (As Grace Williams) We'll be back as quick as we can.

CLAES BANG: (As John Paul Williams) You had a glass of champagne. You can't drive.

DUFF: (As Grace Williams) Maybe you can drive us then.

BANG: (As John Paul Williams) Of course I can't. I have a glass myself.

DUFF: (As Grace Williams) I've not missed a swim since I was little. I'll be perfectly fine.


DUFF: (As Grace Williams) Oh.


BANG: (As John Paul Williams) Now, why would you go and make a scene like this, miss?

HORGAN: He's abusive emotionally and, you know, verbally and financially. He's taken away all her sort of autonomy. And she's basically about to disappear. And on top of that, they have a child together. And you can see that he's beginning to minimize his daughter as well. And so the four sisters are sort of watching this happening before their eyes. And they're worried that there's going to be nothing left if they don't step in there.

KELLY: Did you worry that you were creating a character so despicable in John Paul that there might not be enough tension in the show?


HORGAN: No, because - well, I mean, yes. But, I mean, I hope we got past that in the writing and the execution of it, because, you know, I desperately wanted to make sure that he was incredibly entertaining to watch. A villain has to have more going on. You know, they have to have layers. And I don't think it can just be straight out and out kind of badness or evil, you know, unless they're like a side character. Do you know what I mean?

KELLY: Totally, because it's not interesting.

HORGAN: It's not. And for a main character like him, it was really important to us that we see him have tender moments with his daughter, to have vulnerable moments with his own relationship with his mother and, you know, a past that's really difficult. There's a couple of moments within the season where you do feel for him. You know, I mean, I knew an audience had to completely be on board for what the sisters are doing. And for that reason, the audience had to be prepared to, you know, make a child fatherless. That was kind of my biggest worry, I think. You know, it was so clear that he was - he had to go. But at the same time, you're robbing a child of her father. So there had to be a sort of good enough reason for the sisters to do that.

KELLY: So no spoiler alert required. He dies. The first episode has him laid out in the Cascades. He's - you know this from the get go. And the 10 episodes are kind of taking you through how that came to be. And I want to take people a little bit through that. The sisters start off trying to blow him up, if I'm not mistaken. And then there's poison.


KELLY: There's a paintball incident which stunningly didn't work. There's an almost drowning. The guy - this guy will not die.

HORGAN: He is a master at cheating death. I mean, that is the slightly cartoon aspect of it. That's the slightly heightened thing, this sort of Wile E. Coyote, you know, not being able to off the Road Runner, even sort of...

KELLY: I was about to say, that was the line your character - give me the line that you got to deliver. I swear to God.

HORGAN: I swear to God, we'd have an easier time trying to off the Road Runner. I think that was it probably.

KELLY: Off the bloody Road Runner.

HORGAN: Off the bloody Road Runner. OK.

KELLY: Which must have been fun, both to deliver and to write.

HORGAN: Oh, yeah, for sure. A lot of it you have to do on the hoof. And the great thing about me being there as the actor and, you know, the writer is that you can sort of, as it goes, find those little moments and sort of, you know, throw them in or adjust as you go.

KELLY: How do you figure out how to end a show like this? Because it could spin, it could jump the shark. It could spin off into a direction so bonkers that it's not satisfying.

HORGAN: Oh, listen. I had so many sleepless nights. You just, like, desperately, desperately want an audience to feel that they were rewarded for sticking around for old hen. You know what I mean? The sleepless nights where people, you know, getting to the end and going, huh? Which has happened to me many times when I've watched a TV show. And then I got to the finale, and I'm like, what are you talking about?

KELLY: What did you want people to get here by the end? Where did you want us to end?

HORGAN: Oh, you know, I just really wanted them to feel it. I wanted it to take them on a sort of roller coaster. And I wanted to emotionally sort of wring it out of an audience. I wanted there, of course, to be a surprise. Yeah, I wanted it all. Actually, I was very greedy. I wanted everything.

KELLY: Well, Sharon Horgan, I felt it, so well done.

HORGAN: Good. Thank you.

KELLY: It was a lot of fun to watch. And it's been such fun to speak to you.

HORGAN: Oh, thank you so much.

KELLY: That is Sharon Horgan talking about her diabolically delightful new show, "Bad Sisters." "Bad Sisters" is out now on Apple TV+. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.