Amazon‘s streaming hit television show, Catastrophe is unique in several ways. First, Irish co-creator and lead actress, Sharon Horgan, ostensibly met her American comedic writing partner and co-creator Rob Delaney, on Twitter of all places. Second, this project marks her third endeavor with long time colleague, Samantha Harley, her trusted production designer. Third, and perhaps most poignantly, Catastrophe boasts the last frames of film to be graced by the late, great icon, Carrie Fisher.
The comedic, dramatic hybrid sensibility of this post modern rom-com is like nothing audiences have seen before. As film and television have been bereft of authentic romantic partnerships lately, Horgan and Delaney chose to be more ambitious in their portrayal of a long term committed relationship. Instead of the high sheen glossiness we might find in a Kate Hudson movie, our semi tragic yet earnest heroes offer a truer glimpse into every day working relationships.
Playing an Irish teacher living in London and a business man traveling abroad, respectively, the main characters hook up for an extended fling, get pregnant, and decide to make the best of a life changing situation. The two creators and leads are able to draw upon their real life experiences as Horgan is married with “a young family” and Delaney is also married with three small children, including an infant. Their main rule is “make nothing up.”
Samantha Harley has also worked with Horgan several times before on such BBC television shows as Comedy Showcase, the comedy/drama slice of life Free Agents, as well as the celebrated hit Pulling which provides a genuine, lived in look to the family’s busy, chaotic home. On Pulling, Harley served as more of a prop person in the art department. “I wasn’t designing at that point,” Harley noted, “but Sharon and Dennis Kelly were incredibly inspiring and cultivated a real trust. Working with Sharon at different stages of my career has been amazing.”
Although the brutally honest Catastrophe doesn’t have a huge budget, Harley “tries to make it as real as possible without being over the top.” You’ll notice the layers in the home such as “school books, and kids stuff everywhere… lovely layers to make it as relatable as possible within the palette and our resources.”
Indeed, the set designer has made London one of their characters as well. One particular challenge for Harley was when in the second season, Horgan had written scenes set in Ireland. To Harley’s credit and of course the crew, they were able to cheat a bit and shoot in England. However, as Horgan recalled, “We wanted to play to a critical Ireland audience and the churches in London are VERY different from Irish churches.” Plus, they needed to shoot the whole thing in six weeks, so there wasn’t time for pick-ups.
Looking forward to the next season, Carrie Fisher had played Rob Delaney’s character’s mother, and when asked if Horgan will address the beloved actress’ death, in relation to the story, she admitted, “It’s an ongoing conversation. It’s going to take a lot of talking and thinking to finish her story the way she wanted it. It’s tricky, but we’ll get to it indeed.”