Billie Piper (‘I Hate Suzie’) on exploring stages of grief: ‘Not used to seeing every shade of a woman on screen’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“We wanted each episode to feel formally different,” says Billie Piper of her wild new HBO Max/Sky series “I Hate Suzie.” The Olivier Award-winning actress plays the central role of Suzie Pickles, an actress about to revive her career with a major role. But her professional and personal life unravel when her phone is hacked and salacious photos end up on the internet. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

The “we” Piper references refers to her friend Lucy Prebble, the writer with whom she co-created the show. The pair previously collaborated on British series “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” and the play “The Effect.” The actress confesses that she wanted to befriend Prebble because “she wanted to talk about things that were uncomfortable and that’s always been very interesting to me as a performer.” Their bond reached its stride during the women’s late 20s, where Piper says the pair “would counsel each other through significant changes in our lives…that’s where ‘Suzie’ was born.”

Their initial idea for a female friendship driven series wasn’t dramatically juicy enough, so they switched gears to focus on what happens to a woman’s life after her privacy has been invaded. “Lucy likes a big theme,” explains Piper. So the series explores the emotional fallout through eight stages of grief, which also serve as the titles to each of the eight episodes.

That structure allowed for varied tones and gave the actress the opportunity to dive into material that was both emotionally rich and quite extreme. The “Fear” episode feels like a horror movie, borrowing elements from Alfred Hitchcock. The “Shock” episode “feels like a literal panic attack” according to the performer, thanks to the use of extreme closeups.

“I feel like in the last five years, I’ve been able to find work that has facilitated the part of me that I sit in creatively,” explains Piper. Her natural taste leans more into the abstract, a perfect fit for the dramatic tonal shifts of “Suzie” which occasionally dances into surreal territory. “I’m just drawn to honest portraits of women,” Piper suggests. Though a character like Suzie might be labeled as heightened or extreme, the actress pushes back: “I just think we’re not used to seeing every shade of a woman on screen.” With Suzie, she is determined to present every shade in her truthful performance, even if it might appear unlikeable or extreme on the surface. As Piper puts it, “let’s just have it all out.”

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