Aisling Bea and Sharon Horgan talk mental health and lockdown, and why their new TV show is something we all need in our lives

Georgia Humphreys catches up with the stars of This Way Up.

On the day Aisling Bea found out she had won a Bafta Craft award last year, she had been knocked off her bike and felt lucky to be alive.

“It definitely put the Bafta into perspective,” recalls the Kildare-born comedian, actress and writer, 37. “The awards were virtual, due to lockdown, so I won watching it in my sling and flip flops, in the garden with a few pals – and it ended up feeling far more special as a result.”

The Breakthrough Talent win was for her work on the uplifting and moving Channel 4 series This Way Up. She plays the lead character, Irish immigrant Aine, who works as an English-as-a-foreign-language (Tefl) teacher in London. The new series showcases Aine and Shona’s (Sharon Horgan) unshakable bond, and how they always have each other, even in the darkest moments.

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The authentic exploration of themes such as loneliness and vulnerability has really resonated with viewers.

Mental health is an issue Bea has discussed previously in her stand-up routines, and in 2017, she also wrote a piece for The Guardian about her father, who took his own life when she was three years old.

Asked about what she hopes people will take from series two, the star – real name Aisling Cliodhnadh O’Sullivan – says: “Truthfully, I hope if you have had a rough lockdown or year, I hope you feel seen, I hope you feel hopeful and like it’s worth battling through and giving it a go.

“I hope you identify with the show and see that there is a value and nobility to the middle ground of health, where you don’t have to be a millionaire to be a good person or have a good life, and that you are not supposed to be happy all the time, but that is OK.”

Aisling Bea as Aine
Aisling Bea as Aine (PA Photo/Channel 4/Rekha Garton)

Horgan agrees with this sentiment. “I think there’s a real message of hope in it,” suggests the 50-year-old Irish star. “It’s hard-hitting when it needs to be, but even when there are tough subjects being discussed, or scenes enacted, there is a message of hope.

“This series sends a message to hold on to life, because it’s precious. I think maybe, after the year we’ve all had, it’s a good message to put out there.”

This Way Up returns to Channel 4 on Wednesday July 14.