Phoebe Waller-Bridge Interview: ‘Fleabag’
“I knew the biggest challenge was the relationship with the camera,” says Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the star and creator of Amazon’s comedy series “Fleabag,” about doing a second season three years after the first was filmed. She refers to her character’s habit of breaking of the fourth wall as she gestures, winks and speaks to the audience. “The relationship with the camera and Fleabag in Season 1 was the most complex and important to me.” Waller-Bridge covers a range of topics in the exclusive video interview above.
She initially wasn’t planning to have a second season about a young London woman struggling with grief and guilt while finding relief by engaging in copious amounts of casual sex. “She invites the audience in under the pretense of showing them a good time and telling them that she is hilarious, completely fine and on top of it all.” But at the end, “You realize she’s brought them in because she is desperate for them to sort of forgive her for this terrible thing she has done.” And, after she’s confessed, “She doesn’t look at the camera anymore.”
Thank goodness she found a way to revive “Fleabag” after being much ignored during its initial season. The second helping that premiered on the streaming service in May resulted in 11 Emmy nominations for the show, including an acting, writing and Best Comedy Series nods for Waller-Bridge herself (who is also nominated as a producer on “Killing Eve”).
A light bulb soon materialized and she knew what Fleabag’s next step would be: “I realized we have to move on from that relationship again for her to meet someone who could see what she was doing.” That person turns out to be the priest who will preside over her father’s marriage to her horrid passive-aggressive Godmother (a gloriously conniving Olivia Colman) — and not just any priest (played by “Sherlock’s” Moriarty, Andrew Scott) but one who swears with abandon and, in Fleabag’s opinion, is very hot.
Also, director Harry Bradbeer asked the actress whether her character has learned everything she could possibly learn? The answer was no, even though Waller-Bridge says, “She confessed as much as she could confess, But there was still a lot of learning for her. She learns to hope and she learns to love by the end.”
The episode that Waller-Bridge submitted for both acting and writing consideration was the second season’s opening “family-dinner-from-hell” scenario that brought together the main players –including Colman, Scott, Bill Paterson as her father, Sian Clifford as her dour sister Claire and Brett Gelman as her horrid brother-in-law. “I feel like it encapsulates the whole season in a really fast-paced way. It’s kind of like a mini movie in my mind.” The biggest change from the first go-round is that Claire and Fleabag call a truce and remain close and supportive of each other throughout the season.
Waller-Bridge goes on to touch on a number of other subjects, including the flattering black jumpsuit she wears in the first episode that costs all of $50 and manufactured by London-label Love that sold out after the show aired. And she reveals some of her inspirations for “Fleabag,” including Michael Caine‘s 1966 breakthrough movie, “Alfie,” during which he constantly addresses the audience as well as several Woody Allen films and the TV series “House of Cards.” Most surprising: author John Steinbeck‘s “East of Eden.”