Most of us will know Laura Whitmore for interviewing bands on MTV or, more recently, hosting Love Island. But the Irish presenter is looking to take on more challenges. You might, quite literally, not recognise her in the short film she wrote and starred in last year; one of the first things you’ll notice is that Laura’s trademark blonde hair is dyed red. ‘No one really saw me with the red hair. But now looking back, I actually quite like it,’ she laughs.
Laura is talking to us over the phone as her screenwriting debut Sadhbh makes its way to virtual film festivals. She says the film has been a long time coming, as she's been meaning to work with the director, Arjun Rose, for years after meeting him when she moved to London. ‘It's really nice to see something come full circle,’ she says. ‘It's a little bit different to what I normally do, because I had more of a hands on approach. Because it was something I've written myself it was a very personal project - it was definitely a learning curve.’
The film, at 13 minutes long, is all about motherhood and sees the presenter play a struggling young mother along with a diverse cast of actors. Last year, Laura wrote candidly about suffering from a miscarriage in 2018 with her partner Love Island voiceover Iain Stirling - but she says she started writing the short before that.
A lot of the film, she says, is based on social media, and the insecurity which can spawn from Instagram. Particularly for women. There’s a part of the film where Laura’s character Claire is sat on the sofa scrolling through her timeline, scowling as she looks at other people’s picture perfect lives. ‘There's this kind of perception to live up to,’ she says. ‘You hit a certain age, you look on Instagram and you kind of go from doing something to being a yummy mummy. Every single person compares themselves. And it doesn't matter who you are or how successful you seem to be on the outside.’
It’s a cliche, but no matter how perfect someone’s life seems online, of course, you have no idea what they’re actually going through. ‘When it comes to having children or not having children, I don't think we realise how many women have to deal with things quietly,’ she adds. ‘I did a podcast recently with [the comedian] Katherine Ryan and she spoke to me about her experience of miscarriage that I didn’t know she went through. So many women will go through something really big. And then they'll have to pretend everything's okay and get up on stage or look after their other kids or go to work. And they don't talk about things.'
'I think it's really great that we're kind of talking about things a little bit more,' she adds. 'I mean, the film is talking about someone who can't deal with things. It's the opposite - but I think that's kind of a catalyst to start another conversation.’
While Laura, who originally trained as a journalist at university, has been incredibly open about her own experience - and says while it was worthwhile helping other women - she’s very conscious that she didn’t want to become the ‘poster girl’ for speaking about miscarriage. ‘It's really important for yourself when you do something to kind of put it into the world and then for you to move on to the next phase,' she says, 'because otherwise you can become so engulfed in this one thing that happens.’
After Sadhbh, Laura hopes to do more acting and writing, but for now, she’s enjoying the slower pace of lockdown, especially after the beginning of this year (in February, close friend and former Love Island presenter Caroline Flack took her own life). ‘At the start of lockdown, I weirdly kind of liked it,’ she says. ‘I mean, this year feels about 10 years and I spent so much of the beginning of the year back and forth on the plane to Africa, with Love Island, on the go, not having time to deal with things, obviously going through really traumatic situations. So, actually, to be home for so long was really good. Because I don't think I'm the type of person to normally do that.’