Sharon Rooney: 'I didn't see many people like me growing up but here we are! Why has it taken so long?'

Sharon Rooney: 'I didn't see many people like me growing up but here we are! Why has it taken so long?'

Glaswegian actress discusses her role in Tim Burton's new live-action version of Disney's Dumbo

Ever since her breakout role in My Mad Fat Diary as the vivacious Rae Earl, Sharon Rooney has been a welcome presence in television with regular roles in numerous shows including No Offence and Zapped. Six years on since the acclaimed coming-of-age show debuted, the thirty-year-old Glaswegian actor makes a dazzling arrival in her first major studio role. She plays Miss Atlantis in Tim Burton's live action version of Disney's Dumbo and on this momentous moment in her career she says, 'It feels like I'm talking about someone else's experience because none of this feels real. Even sitting here, it's like, when will I wake up?'

We're sat in the Corinthia Hotel in London on the day of the UK premiere of Dumbo and Rooney's passion is infectious. When I ask her about her role as Miss Atlantis she says, 'Someone said to me the other day, "Are you a princess in Dumbo?" I was kind of like yes! I'm pretending I am because I got to wear the nice dress.' In actual fact Miss Atlantis is a sad mermaid circus performer who goes on an emotional journey in typical Tim Burton style.

As a self-proclaimed 'Disney Kid' Rooney tells me it was an exciting prospect to appear in the film, but there's also a touching story behind a scene in which she sings a gorgeous rendition of 'Baby Mine' from the original animated film. 'My gran used to sing it to me and she's not here so it's not bittersweet…well it is a bit I guess, that she's not here to see it. It meant a lot. It was the most magical day on set.'

On reflecting on how she came to be in a Disney film, and the aspirations she had growing up, Rooney says, 'I wanted to be Elaine C Smith. I wanted to do a panto like her. It's weird working with her now because I love her. I also wanted to be in Casualty. I love hospital dramas because I think I would kind of still love to be a nurse.' She adds with a mischievous laugh, 'Can somebody write me a part where I can be a nurse? With no responsibility so I don't kill anyone!'

Rooney also cites Smack the Pony and Chewin' the Fat as influential, 'I always wanted to do comedy and make people laugh. It was only as I got a bit older, I thought, I can make them cry too.' Her role in My Mad Fat Diary struck a great balance between both and was a real landmark moment in TV when it came to the representation of young plus size women. 'It's strange. I didn't see many people like me growing up but here we are! Why has it taken so long? But now there's loads.' We chat a little about Aidy Bryant and TV show Shrill which is based on Lindy West's novel of the same name and Rooney leaves me with some lovely words of wisdom, saying, 'Do what you want, life's too short. I will not change for anyone. Change for yourself if it's for you. If it's from your heart fine, but don't change for anyone else. Imagine if Dumbo had changed his ears…'

General release from Fri 29 Mar.

Dumbo

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 52min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin
  • UK release: 29 March 2019

In this remake of the 1941 film, one-armed circus worker Holt (Farrell) is struggling to reconnect with his bereft children while a certain large-eared pachyderm is figuring out the ropes. It looks lovely, but there’s a lot of extra plot shovelled in and it’s arguably overloaded, compared to the sincerity and simplicity…

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