Sixteen months ago Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Fleabag director Harry Bradbeer were sitting in a meeting room in despair. “No one spoke for about two minutes,” Bradbeer recalls. “I’m always positive, but I said, ‘I’m concerned.’ Phoebe said, ‘Look, we’ll just give Amazon their money back.’ And we got the producers in, and we told them, ‘We’re really thinking this just can’t work. We can’t find a story that’s meaningful or good enough.’”
What Waller-Bridge and her director were struggling with would grow to become one of the biggest cultural phenomena of 2019. Season 1 of Fleabag—the TV adaptation of Waller-Bridge’s one-woman play about a sex-addicted, morally dubious Londoner trying to get over the death of her best friend—had a cult fan base. But Season 2? With the hot priest and “kneel” and the love story that puts your heart through a paper shredder? It became an international obsession.
Searches for “religious porn” spiked after the Season 2 premiere. Tiny fashion brand Love saw a 775 percent spike in jumpsuit sales after Waller-Bridge wore one of their designs. (“Thank god we had some spare fabric,” its designer tells me.) By the autumn people were doing Sian Clifford’s “I look like a pencil!” hair cut as a Halloween costume and a pop-up guinea pig café had landed in one of the biggest bookshops in London. Meanwhile, no potential think piece topic was left unturned: Was Fleabag too middle class? Was the priest actually emotionally abusive rather than hot? Did Kristin Scott Thomas’s speech perfectly sum up menopause?
The coproduction between the BBC and Amazon went into the Emmys an underdog and left with a hat trick of awards: Best Writing, Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and Best Comedy Series. It was followed by sell-out runs of the original play both Off-Broadway and on the West End. Seemingly overnight, Fleabag became as popular a British export as Harry Potter, but with gin in a tin, wanking, and sarcasm instead of wizards. Of course, the reality of the show’s rise is that it took much longer than just a few months this year. The story of how Fleabag became a cultural powerhouse starts way back in the early 2010s—with Waller-Bridge coming up on London’s DIY theater scene—and it’s as much of an emotional roller coaster as the plot itself. “Phoebe is a perfectionist,” says Bradbeer. “And so am I. We just don’t let it go until it’s done.”
“You have to find a way of mentioning it that doesn’t make you sound like a complete dick,” says theater producer Francesca Moody, of telling people that she worked on the original stage production of Fleabag. “You know … ‘I worked on this show called, erm, oh, erm …’”
Moody joined DryWrite, the theater production company founded by Waller-Bridge and director Vicky Jones, in 2012. (Neither were available to participate in this piece.) At the time the pair were temping while running scratch nights—when actors would perform writers’ draft material—in a room above a pub in the East End of London. “They were cool as fuck,” says Soho Theatre’s creative director, David Luff, who has known Waller-Bridge since drama school. “Normally scratch nights are really navel-gazing, but this was different. All the writers would be anonymous, so it didn’t matter if you were high profile or had no experience. … They’d set challenges like one called ‘Funny or Die,’ which asked: How do you make someone laugh one minute and then tragically sad the next minute? Phoebe and Vicky learned how to win over an audience in those evenings, and I think they used that to feed into Fleabag.”
There’s no doubt those experiments helped shape the original 12-minute Fleabag monologue, which Waller-Bridge performed at a short-form storytelling night in Leicester Square as a favor for friend Deborah Frances-White. Both Jones and Frances-White write about their first experiences of the monologue in Fleabag: The Special Edition. Jones explains that Waller-Bridge asked her to look over the piece one lunchtime before she performed it. “The voice of this character just filled me up,” writes Jones. “This young woman was in so much pain and so much self-denial, but she was so funny.” (In fact, Waller-Bridge has said that she wrote it with the main intention of making Jones laugh.) Frances-White adds: “She leaned into the audience of 70 as if they were her closest conspirators and confided Fleabag’s raciest secrets: her love of slutty little pizzas, her poorly timed sexual urges, her joy in her own hypocrisies and flaws. … The audience were captivated, thrilled and in hysterics all at once.”
Jones and Waller-Bridge showed it to Moody over a glass of wine. “It was short and very funny,” she recalls. Moody was sold. DryWrite decided to turn it into a play and take it to the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival “by hook or by crook.”
While Soho Theatre eventually came on board to help coproduce the show, the first Fringe Festival run was totally self-funded. (The entire crew had to squeeze into a two-bedroom apartment during Edinburgh tech rehearsals.) You can still find the crowdfunding page for the play online now. “Welcome to the world of Fleabag where the rules are out the window and she’s getting confused,” it says. “She’s angry, pervy, cruel, forgetful, unforgiving, flippant, capricious, but undeniably honest. And you can’t help but love an honest person. Or can you?” It also features a promo shot of Waller-Bridge drinking a beer in a Batman costume. Moody calls it “inexplicable,” but says, “We still love it to this day. It’s the messy spirit of what Fleabag’s about.”
Moody pitched the monologue to Fringe Festival venue Underbelly before the play had even been mapped out, and they took a chance on it. The Kickstarter hit its funding target. But the team had a major problem. “We got to two weeks before rehearsals started,” says Moody. “And myself and our stage manager Charlotte went around to Phoebe’s. … There was a sea of Post-it notes everywhere. Phoebe admitted to us that she hadn’t written the show yet. It was truly terrifying.”
Moody’s solution was to “lock” the writer in a room with Jones and stage manager Charlotte McBrearty to rehearse. “That’s when Fleabag came into being,” she says. “It was a very ‘by the seat of your pants’ creative process.” (Many of Phoebe’s collaborators talk about how she’ll keep tweaking scripts until the very last minute. Sarah Hammond, one of Fleabag’s TV producers, remembers Waller-Bridge writing an entire monologue for Brett Gelman, who plays Fleabag’s brother-in-law, in the car on the way to set. “He kept talking it out, and she’d go, ‘Great, that’s one thing I want to jump on,’ and change it.”) The process is unorthodox, but then so is Fleabag. “I think the intense way it came together is probably why Fleabag felt so of-the-moment and urgent,” says Moody. “It was exactly what we wanted to say right then. We didn’t have a chance to go back and get too meticulous with it.”
The result of those frenzied rehearsals was an hour-long first-person show, performed by Waller-Bridge with voice recordings from other characters. The script absorbed critical conversations about feminism, anger, and sexuality that were happening at the time and spat them out in the form of a compellingly unlikable and yet strangely relatable woman. “You could tell there was something really special going on with the writing and with Phoebe and with the production,” says Luff. “It was this sense that you were witnessing something very unique, like: ‘Oh my god, did she just say that? Did she just go there?’”
Waller-Bridge’s writing method meant that each of the four preview shows the company did before Edinburgh (three in the Soho Theatre’s tiny studio and one at Latitude Festival) had different conclusions. The endings remain a secret to everyone but those who were there, but they apparently include one in which Hilary came to a very different kind of end. “I remember being in the greenroom at Latitude,” says Fleabag’s lighting designer, Elliot Griggs. “And Phoebe frantically rewriting bits and scribbling them in the margins of her script, which she took on stage with her. The bit where she stands on Claire’s doorstep, toward the end of the play, and Claire snaps that Fleabag has to stop talking to people like she’s doing a stand-up routine. I think that line got scribbled in on that day.” Griggs had almost turned down the opportunity to work on Fleabag, as he was already working on four Edinburgh shows that year. “I found an old email where I said that I was really busy and might be able to fit it in,” he laughs.
The Edinburgh run sold out; they put on extra dates. Fleabag won a Fringe First award, a prize for presenting some of the festival’s best new writing. Waller-Bridge and the team locked in a run in the studio at Soho Theatre in London for when they got back; that also sold out. “I watched the early show in our 90-seat upstairs studio, perched on the edge of the tech box,” says Luff. “It felt like a hot ticket. It was completely crammed. On the back of that, we offered DryWrite the opportunity to be in our main house [the bigger theater space], and at that point we asked, ‘Do you want us to coproduce the show together? We can help with some of the management.’”
Waller-Bridge has described those first few months of Fleabag as a taste of “true freedom” and the first time the DryWrite team did something completely on their own.
“I think we’re very lucky in the U.K. because we have the Edinburgh Festival,” says Moody. “It’s a great level playing field, great place to launch work. It’s one less barrier in terms of launching work that you’re making.”
“I went to see it randomly,” says Chris Sussman. The former BBC comedy commissioner had brought cult shows like pirate radio mockumentary People Just Do Nothing, Jack Whitehall school comedy Bad Education, and Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe to the British broadcaster’s channels when he stumbled across Fleabag.
It was the third, or maybe fourth, night of Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Sussman had found himself in one of the city’s many brick-walled, dripping-piped spaces for the one-woman show. “When you see Edinburgh shows I’d say most are entertaining, some are truly awful, and one in a hundred you think is brilliant. It was pretty clear that from the very first scene of the play, where Fleabag goes to see the bank manager and lifts up her top, that this was something that had TV potential.”
He got in touch with Waller-Bridge’s agent the next day to talk about developing the show for BBC Three, but they didn’t meet for nearly six weeks. “There was a rumor that Channel 4 had been to see it the night after I saw it,” says Sussman, who now works as an executive for Netflix. “And they had also got in touch. I know that BBC Films were really interested as well. We were just lucky we got there first.”
Waller-Bridge had already been in discussions for a TV show, meeting with Harry and Jack Williams, the founders of Two Brothers Pictures, when Fleabag was still just a 10-minute monologue. “We met over in Victoria somewhere in some weird pub,” says Harry. (The production company was so new it didn’t have an office yet.) “She said the first 10 lines over a drink with us, and we were like, Shit.” The trio, along with final Two Brothers producer Sarah Hammond, started developing a pilot script while Waller-Bridge was writing the play. “For a long time it was the four of us in a living room in Wandsworth Town,” says Hammond. “But we sort of put that on hold for a bit while she got the play up and running and performed that character over and over again.” Then they pitched it to the BBC.
“There were lots of chats in the early stages about what the series would be,” recalls Sussman, explaining that the plan was to take the hour-long play and turn it into six 30-minute episodes. Would that involve slowing the story down? Would it involve writing something new? “You know the Boo flashback story line?” says Sussman. “There’s one point we actually looked at that being Series 1, and Series 1 culminating in Boo’s death. In the end we let Phoebe do what she wanted and trusted in her instincts and her voice. What she wrote for the pilot episode was fairly true to the stage play, which was kind of disjointed, in a good way.”
For Sussman, one of the most magical moments of Fleabag’s development was a live read-through before the pilot was commissioned. Usually these are held in a meeting room with the head of BBC Three; Waller-Bridge did hers in the basement of a pub off Oxford Street with an audience of around 40 of her friends. Most of the final cast were there, including Olivia Colman, Sian Clifford, and Jenny Rainsford. Producer Lydia Hampson was brought on by Two Brothers just before the read-through and was tasked with making it an experience. “I went around a load of cafés in London near the BBC building to try and find somewhere that we could feasibly present as the guinea pig café,” she says, explaining that at the time she had more experience producing live comedy and Edinburgh Fringe shows than making TV shows. “In the end we did it in the ground floor of a bar near the BBC. We printed the cast list on café menus and served sandwiches.”
Kelly Valentine Hendry helped cast the read-through, and says it was the best one she’s ever witnessed. “Olivia Colman is so great,” she says. “Her and Phoebe are very good friends. They had done Broadchurch together, which I’d also cast. I said thank you [for taking on the role] and she was like, ‘Oh god, no, thank you, I never know if I’m going to work again.’” Naturally, Waller-Bridge also had a big hand in casting the show. “There are stories that have gone out about how Sian Clifford nearly didn’t get the role of Claire,” says Kelly. “They’re not true. Phoebe said she had an actor friend she wanted to play her sister. She came in for a reading and she immediately got the job. It was obvious that she had to play that part.”
Hampson adds that it’s also down to Waller-Bridge that Colman plays Godmother. “Before the read-through Godmother was just a voice at the top of the stairs,” she says. “It wasn’t a fleshed-out role. Phoebe was like: ‘Olivia’s always said that she’d love to do something that I’ve written. Do you think it’s worth us asking?’ I was like, ‘Yes!’ She fleshed out that character and wrote that scene where she’s painting and Fleabag goes in and steals the statue because we were desperately trying to get Olivia to come to the read-through. Which she did. It suddenly felt very exciting to be in the room.”
Just a few hours later, the pilot was green-lit to be part of BBC Three’s Comedy Feeds strand, a long-running series of stand-alone pilots from which a few would be commissioned into full series. (It’s where People Just Do Nothing was born.) Harry Williams estimates that they had about half the budget of a usual pilot to make it: “The whole crew—credit to them—pulled out all the stops and cut their rates to get this thing made.”
“When you get these low budgets,” says Hammond, “you worry about getting the right people into it … but we didn’t struggle to fill a role, actually. People were itching to do it.”
There were two important style decisions about the pilot: First, while the temptation with comedy series is to make things look really bright, the plan for Fleabag was to make it look real and dramatic. Second, they wanted to re-create the connection Waller-Bridge has with the audience when performing the play on stage. “When she decided she would do the looks to camera, that was the genesis of the show,” says Harry Williams. “It was in the DNA. We needed to make sure we communicated that properly. One of the ways to do it was to get anamorphic lenses, which brings the viewer right into the eye line. It does give Fleabag that really unique look.”
The pilot was so good that the BBC decided to take the show out of Comedy Feeds and commission the whole series in one go. “BBC Three, at that time, were good at taking a risk on new talent,” says Sussman. “Giving them their own show, and letting them do what they wanted. The six-eight-episode run that we do in the U.K. is easier than the 13-22-episode run that they do in America. It’s easier for a new star to really author something small and individual and special, and that’s certainly what Fleabag was.”
Harry Bradbeer joined the Fleabag team as director a year after the pilot had been shot. “It was love at first sight,” he says. “There was something about [Fleabag] I just connected with. … It struck me that her character was entirely normal and approachable and sane. She just said what was on her mind, which we rarely do, so I was connected with that.” A BAFTA-winning drama producer, Bradbeer had worked in TV since the 1990s, including on groundbreaking shows like lesbian teen drama Sugar Rush. Bradbeer focused on the structure: His first note on the pilot was that the comedy clicked, but they needed to work to protect the pathos of Fleabag’s story. “I think a good example of that was the confessional scene we did in Season 2, Episode 4,” he says. “I fought her into being more emotional with the priest and breaking down. She thought tears would be too pathetic, but the scene turned out to be one of the most wonderful things I’ve seen her do. The character is in a state of vulnerability, which initially makes her very defensive, and use humor against the feelings boiling inside her, but eventually she starts to break down.”
Waller-Bridge, Hampson, and Bradbeer worked up the script at both Bradbeer’s house and a meeting room in Soho. Of the springtime work in the Soho location, Hampson says, “The windows were open and there were constant drug busts going on on the street outside. It felt appropriate to have the frenetic city outside.”
Bradbeer recalls that he and Waller-Bridge would sometimes work until 2 a.m. in his living room, becoming increasingly frank about their personal experiences and feelings about the show. “I remember once when she started to cry,” says Harry, “because she was worried about us losing something [from the story], and I picked up a paper knife and I said I would stab anyone who got in the way, and we were both in floods of tears, and this was all in front of our producer [Hampson], so it was quite funny, and is fondly remembered.”
“Harry and Phoebe feel everything incredibly strongly,” says Hampson. “They were tearing their hair out and I had an iron face on and didn’t cry. I thought: ‘If I cry it’s game over for all of us. I can’t get this over the line.’ I probably looked cruel at the time, but I was trying to keep a steady handle on the situation, even though I didn’t feel that.”
The team’s honest relationship meant they could debate the inclusion of some of the show’s core moments. “I fought against the fox in Season 2,” admits Bradbeer. “I thought it was silly, and that’s where she was so right and I was so wrong. It was glorious.” Meanwhile, it was Waller-Bridge who lost the other big animal debate of the show: Bradbeer stopped Fleabag from killing Hilary the guinea pig, as she does in the play. “She’s just imaginary in the play but in the TV show we’d meet her and see how cute she is. I thought we’d hate her character for it. Phoebe kept trying to lose her or see her out the back door.”
Hampson adds that working out how to keep the guinea pig alive was a tricky one. “Phoebe was self-flagellating and we were there for hours trying to work out what to do with it,” she says. “At one point Harry’s wife came home like, ‘Oh my god, these women are still in my kitchen trying to work out how not to kill a guinea pig.’ It was probably 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night and we’d be there all weekend.”
Season 2 presented a unique challenge in that Season 1 had already been planned like a film: It had a beginning, middle, and, most importantly, a conclusion so conclusive that Fleabag, the character, literally bats the audience away. “Here is a character who would finally have owned up to her sin, her depravity and awful betrayal,” says Bradbeer. “Who had found a platonic friend in the bank manager. That seemed to us all a fitting end. Where could we go from there?” As Waller-Bridge writes in Fleabag: The Scriptures: “I lost faith in [the second season] so many times. I really felt Fleabag’s story had ended and that we had seen and heard the most interesting thing about this woman. Harry was adamant I was wrong. ‘If she has something else to learn, then we have more story to tell’.”
In February 2018, Waller-Bridge shared an idea for how to play with the breaking of the fourth wall again. There would be a character—a priest—who would be the only person who would recognize that there was someone else whom Fleabag spoke to. (Fleabag editor Gary Dollner says Waller-Bridge thought carefully about audience interaction throughout the production process, one time asking him to take out all the looks to camera in the first 20 minutes of the second season. “We spent two and a half days taking out all of the looks to camera from the engagement dinner. It was quite intricate,” says Gary. “And we watched it back and the producer said, ‘Oh my god, what have you done, we want Phoebe back, we want Fleabag back.’”)
The sad, horny, caring, awkward relationship between the two characters was so captivating on screen that you might be surprised to find out that Waller-Bridge had initially been nervous about the idea of making Fleabag fall in love with a man of god. In Fleabag: The Scriptures, she writes: “I resisted it. I was too aware of the potholes and pitfalls of TV comedy priests. It seemed too obvious. … Then Andrew [Scott] stepped to the front of my mind and suddenly the character roared into existence.” The pair had met while starring in the play Roaring Trade at the Soho Theatre in 2009. Waller-Bridge met him for coffee in the theater’s bar almost a decade later to pitch him the role. “He brought a soul to the character, that I believe we could all feel when watching him,” says Waller-Bridge in the book. “He even insisted on the character saying ‘I love you too’ to Fleabag at the end, and thank God he did.”
Fleabag became a love story—and not just a lighthearted one. “There’s a great deal of cynicism in women’s comedies,” says Bradbeer. “Girls that give no fucks. And what we needed to do with this character is make her give a hell of a lot of fucks and be deeply, deeply engaged, at risk of heartbreak.”
“I absolutely love the moment when Andrew [Scott] and Phoebe are kissing by the confession booth and the Jesus painting falls down,” says producer Hammond. “I think it’s an absolute prime example of Phoebe’s writing. She can present you with sparkling drama, but she always undercuts it with something funny. Or she lures you in being really funny and then just hits you in the gut with something incredibly emotional and insightful. That’s what makes her writing special.”
While Fleabag’s story line can veer dark and sad, filming was by all accounts a blast. “From the get-go hanging out with Phoebe’s a bit like hanging out with someone you fancy,” says Hampson. “She’s incredibly magnetic. It’s a bit intoxicating. It’s also a bit like having a weird affair. I’d come home late at night, because I was working so late, and my boyfriend would be like, ‘Have you been hanging out with Phoebe again?’”
The best stories I heard are about how the behind-the-scenes team were given cameos. Hammond played Elizabeth Sawkin, the woman who doesn’t win the Women in Business Award and goes, “Oh for fuck sake.” “I think I was giving it a bit too much,” she says. “Harry Bradbeer was being so nice: ‘Darling, darling just a little bit less,’ but my A-level drama was kicking in.” Meanwhile, Bradbeer got bullied into appearing as Full Bush Man, a character whose defining characteristic is that he prefers women with a full bush. “I was minding my own business having a cup of tea, and Phoebe got Olivia Colman to come along and help her do a two-pronged attack to persuade me to play this part,” says Harry. “In the first series he had a speech at the mother’s funeral, and then that got cut, and I was very happy to see the back of myself actually. I thought that was that, and then in the second series he appeared in the funeral scene and Phoebe wrote my name in closed brackets after the character.”
Dollner didn’t learn about his cameo until he was watching the season back. During his work on the show, he’d fallen in love with the final scene at the bus stop, so much so that he kept finding himself involuntarily waving back at Phoebe when she waved at the camera. “Fast forward to the show going out,” says Gary. “And Harry, Phoebe, Lydia, Sarah, and myself are in a group chat messaging. I got to the last scene and they’d inserted my surname on the bus stop sign so it read Dollner Avenue. The show finished and I texted them all: ‘What have you done? I’m sitting here in buckets. As if the ending wasn’t good enough, you went and did that!’” He’s not the only Fleabag alum who cried watching the series. “I found myself constantly weeping during the second season,” says Moody. “It was a combination of the fact it was my friend who wrote it, that I was part of it, and also it was so fucking good as well.”
The scene on the bench at Dollner Avenue might have been the end of the story for Fleabag the TV show, but Fleabag the character’s final goodbye came with Waller-Bridge’s 30 final performances of the play on the West End this summer, to a nightly audience of 800 people. (The cheapest tickets sold out within an hour.) The show was then livestreamed in cinemas around the world. “There isn’t anything more we could do with it,” says Moody. “It just doesn’t get better than that. The most satisfying thing is it’s the same show that we did in Edinburgh. Nothing has changed, with the exception of two things: We built a platform for Phoebe and we changed the chair she sits on.”
The show’s legacy will run on longer than even Waller-Bridge’s final performances. The show broke new ground for comedy storytelling. “I’ve always felt comedy and drama were always quite binary choices,” says Hampson. “You either make comedy and it’s half an hour long and it’s very funny, or you make drama and it’s an hour long and it’s not funny at all. After Fleabag it feels like there’s more of an openness and understanding that shows and stories don’t have to be this way or this way. There can be an overlap and shades of gray.”
Meanwhile, Waller-Bridge’s rise to success has laid a new path for the storytellers who’ve followed her—widening the places where TV producers look for their future star writers. David Luff says he’s noticed this with the one-person shows that Soho Theatre often runs in its studio. “I think [TV producers] have realized that you can take this really direct first-person narrative,” he says. “Which is unfettered, and unfiltered, and totally raw and true, and you can expand it outward to get it onto screen.” He cites Milly Thomas—who, with Catastrophe star Sharon Horgan, is adapting her play Dust, about a woman who dies by suicide and then is forced to watch the aftermath on TV—and Natasha Marshall, whose partly autobiographical show Half Breed is also getting developed for screens, as two of those success stories.
Moody thinks that change is mirrored by how the show has reignited a DIY spirit in writers, who might have before thought that Emmy-winning projects were worked up in 20-person writers’ rooms in Hollywood. “Fleabag really served as the poster show for people just going out and making their own work,” says Moody. “People feel like it’s more possible to go out and do your own thing and end up with an Amazon series because Fleabag is the show that did that.” Even Maddie Rice, who starred in Waller-Bridge’s leading Fleabag role when the play toured the U.K., was inspired by the production’s origin story. The actor turned writer worked up the one-person show Pickle Jar while doing that run of shows. The dark comedy, which tackles the silence around sexual assault, debuted at Soho Upstairs and is now also getting turned into a TV show. “There’s more crossover between mediums,” says Moody. “There’s more chance for really exciting partnerships between film and television and theater in a way that maybe there wasn’t before. It’s an exciting time to be telling stories and writing plays and doing stand-up.”
Most of all, though, the show has acted as a launching pad for a wave of groundbreaking British TV and theater talent who are changing the types of stories getting told on stage and screen. Waller-Bridge worked with Bradbeer again on psychopath-thriller-meets-midlife-crisis-comedy Killing Eve. He says it’s one of the defining shows of our generation: “The way that genres can be reinvented is very impactful within the business of making television and film,” he says. “In the early ’90s Tarantino shook it up with his films, and I think in television Killing Eve has done something similar.” Since then, Waller-Bridge was parachuted in to rescue the script for the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die, with the trailer (out last week) signaling that she has pushed the story into more gender-balanced times. Plus, in September, after the Emmys win, it was announced that Waller-Bridge had signed a $20 million deal to produce original content for Amazon Prime Video.
Meanwhile, Vicky Jones is writing and producing an HBO comedy drama called Run. The series, about a woman who’s living a dull life until she gets a text to fulfill a childhood pact, is the first TV show produced by Jones and Waller-Bridge’s company, DryWrite, and will feature a recurring cameo from Waller-Bridge herself. Moody started her own theater production company, Francesca Moody Productions. Her latest play, Baby Reindeer, based on the Richard Gadd book about a chance encounter that leads to obsessive behavior, racked up five-star reviews during its run at the Bush Theatre in London. Two Brothers’ new BBC Three coproduction, Back to Life, a dark comedy about a woman returning home after 18 years in prison, is also gaining critical acclaim—particularly in the United States. “The fact that it was so successful over there recently shows that there’s a real appetite for British shows,” says Harry Williams. “Not just the traditional way of buying the format and remaking it in an American style. People really want to relish in these new, strange, brave British stories.”
Even Hilary the guinea pig is doing well for herself. Because of the gap between shooting Season 1 and Season 2, the production team suspected that the critter might not make it through filming—“She had very distinctive hair, so we thought we might have to get a replacement and put a little wig on it,” says Bradbeer. But he was wrong. Hilary is still thriving even now. The nearly 6-year-old has gone on to star in All Creatures Great and Small, and will be retiring after shooting. “She’s looking forward to doing very little,” says her handler, Jill Clarke. “Running around in her hutch, having as many treats as she can possibly get her teeth into. Basically, being a happy little pig.”
Kate Lloyd is an award-winning journalist from London who writes about both pop culture and real life—often at the same time.