Daisy Haggard: ‘Before Kids, I Sat In My Flat In My Pants And Didn’t Achieve Much.’

Daisy Haggard talks working motherhood, swearing and Breeders with Rhiannon Evans – after they’ve compared sleepless nights...

Daisy Haggard

by Rhiannon Evans |

Breeders should carry a trigger warning. The first episode of the new Sky One half-hour comedy, about the sweat and the struggles of parenthood, didn’t feel too funny when I watched it an hour after crying because my one-year-old just would not go to sleep. But when it comes to the relatability factor, the show scores highly – parents, played by Daisy Haggard and Martin Freeman, lie in bed, debating over who has the hardest day tomorrow as their son cries for them, refusing to sleep because he’s watched a fire safety video at school that he’s now anxious about.

‘Yes, I’ve heard “triggering” used a lot,’ laughs Daisy, who later admits that, while those without children can (and have) enjoyed the new show, it might also ‘act
as a giant condom’. She auditioned for the role of Ally on tape, having had her second child a mere four weeks earlier. ‘I was reading the script with my husband, like, “Oh God, is this what it’s going to be like in five years? What have I done?” All while rocking my newborn with my foot...’

You’ll know Daisy from all your favourite shows. Her IMDB page reads like a history of noughties TV – Green Wing, Episodes, Black Mirror, Uncle, Psychoville, a Sense And Sensibility adaptation... and, more recently, the dark comedy Back To Life, which she wrote and executive-produced.

‘I’m gonna make no sense today because I had one of those nights yesterday,’ says Daisy, whose two daughters are now five and two – referencing that first episode. ‘We started off with two of us in the bed and ended up with four of us and a dog, and I was the one squashed in the middle with one asking me where the moon was and another one who’d peed her bed, so was in our bed, and I thought, “I’m never going to sleep again.”’

She does of course, go on to make a lot of sense – especially in the way she speaks about modern working motherhood. Daisy – 41 and married to musician Joe Wilson – says that, like many mothers far from being waylaid by children, she’s found new creative energy and a reinvigorated work ethic.

‘Having children is liberating because,
at the moment, nothing is as important, so that really helps me with big decisions and things that used to scare me. It helps me put those things in perspective,’ she says. ‘I used to agonise about my decisions regarding work, where as now it’s really simple: is it worth not seeing the kids that day? [I feel like] my whole life, I sat in the flat in my pants and didn’t achieve much and then
I had kids and suddenly had no time, was absolutely exhausted, and found myself achieving more than I had before, so that was a revelation. I think I had the luxury of too much time and not enough discipline. Now, when I’m away from them, I’m not going to waste that.’

Writing, she admits, helps – she’s currently working from home on series two of Back To Life. ‘I want to do breakfast and the school run and hang out with them
for a bit,’ she says. ‘And then I go, “Right, do five hours’ really hard work” and then
I want to do pick-up and dinner and be really present.’

I’m on a one-woman mission to make lovely short working days where everyone gets to see their family

Back To Life was a critical success when
it aired on BBC Three in 2019 – a black comedy telling the story of Miri Matteson, who returns to her childhood home after serving 18 years in jail for murder. She was commissioned while eight months pregnant with her second child.

‘I was so scared of anyone thinking I’d changed, and of course you’ve changed. And – this was me, no one was asking me to – I found myself almost like, emailing when I was in labour, like, “Nothing’s changing, nothing’s changing.” I was so determined to not let anyone think, “Oh she won’t be able to do this, because she’s had a baby.” I was laser-focused and, actually, I probably should’ve given myself a bit of a break.’

The experience fed into the filming of the show. ‘On set, as an exec, I obsessed about how we could do this in as short a space possible and get as much done, so everyone could go home. If everyone has more time for themselves, or their friends, or family, or gets to put their kids to bed, I believe they will work harder and be better because they’ll be happier,’ she says. ‘I’m on a one-woman mission to make lovely short working days where everyone gets to see their family.’

Back To Life drew Fleabag and Phoebe Waller-Bridge comparisons which – at best – seem extremely lazy to anyone who’s watched both. ‘I mean, it couldn’t be less Fleabagy, it’s not at all. But we’re both women!’ She laughs. ‘I am such a huge Fleabag fan, so I was honoured to be mentioned in the same sentence, but we all look forward to a time when women can make shows and we’re not all bunched together. You just don’t get that with men, do you?’

The show – ironically, given the PWB comparisons – was obsessed with the different ways women and men are judged. And it’s often the same when it comes to parenthood. Breeders, though, does seem unusual in its ability to see parenting as a dual endeavour, not just a mum’s business. Perhaps because the show was birthed by a dream of Martin Freeman’s, where he saw himself climbing the stairs to his children’s room, telling himself to stay calm – before opening the door and exploding with anger. That turned into the show’s opening scene.

The series was co-created by Martin, along with renowned comedy writers Chris Addison and Simon Blackwell. I say I thought it was refreshing how it focuses on a dad’s honest point of view – but Daisy disagrees and considers it quite even. Though maybe that says something about the ways in which we usually see family life portrayed on TV. Two Point Four Children, Breeders is not. Even Catastrophe, for all
its ground breaking, has the dad in the big money-making job.

‘I think it’s pretty even in terms of the male/female persepective,’ Daisy says. ‘It’s that it shows a father who’s not all, “Oh what’s she like?” and rolling his eyes. It’s quite a balanced, functioning relationship, but with all the strains of life and parenthood.’

And those strains result in a lot of swearing. At the children. But not at the child actors, in case you were worried. ‘No! You basically had a script with substitute words, so they don’t hear the swearing,’ says Daisy. ‘Then when you do a close-up just on you, you let rip. Like, you use clock instead of cock, fudge... it just made me laugh even more. I couldn’t do it, I just got the giggles – it’s actually much harder.’

If you’ve ever felt swept up by what Instagram tells you everyone else is doing with their kids, then Breeders is the antidote you need. ‘It’s an unflinching look at parenthood, it’s not cute,’ says Daisy. ‘It’s the non-soft-focused version of parenting.’

And thank fudge for that.

‘Breeders’ is on Thursday, 10pm, Sky One and streaming service NOW TV

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