“Depressingly, your teenage years are indelibly marked on you,” says Charlie Covell, writer of Channel 4 hit The End of the F***ing World.
“I think everyone can relate to that [feeling]” comments the 34-year-old. “When you’re 16 and you think everything’s conspiring against you.”
The award-winning drama garnered a cult following almost overnight earlier this year when it debuted on Channel 4 and shortly followed globally on Netflix.
At the centre of the dark and surreal story there is James (Alex Lawther), a self-assessed psychopath with a desire to kill, and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), the epitome of teenage angst, wanting to escape from her neglectful mum and stepdad in search of her deadbeat dad. Based on Charles Forsman’s 2011 graphic novel of the same name, it is not your typical coming-of-age story.
“Even though I never had the extreme experiences that Alyssa and James have had, I certainly remember all the insecurities and self-loathing,” Covell admits. “Wanting to be something you’re not and not fitting in…saying something that you feel like you shouldn’t have said; that’s all fairly accessible.”
Showing teenagers in a comedic light that is not your typical eye-rolling Kevin the Teenager, Covell writes a much more honest portrayal of growing up, with all of the complexity, naivety and confusion that goes along with it.
“It’s not self-indulgent angst that’s self-inflicted, they are dealing with really quite dark things.”
Initially running away from their useless parents - who Covell describes as “at the best, ... incompetent, at the worst, they’re pretty evil" - the darkness only seems to escalate for the pair on their road trip; with murder, theft, a police chase and another incapable parent at the helm.
“It’s trying to get that balance of it being deadpan and wry without being cold and arch…you’re trying to get a human warmth and reality in this heightened world.”
The eight-part series, which earned Covell a Writer Award nomination at the RTS Programme Awards, has shone a light on her writing talent.
Having built a successful career as an actor, starring in shows including The Inbetweeners, Peep Show and Misfits, Covell scored her first writing job on the Channel 4 series Banana in 2015.
Originally brought on to write for the series, a producer suggested she should star as one of the protagonists as well, “I was worried it was a bit megalomaniacal," she laughs.
"You've got to make sure you've got people who will just say 'no, that's not right' or 'that's not working'...I think I was in a very safe pair of hands to not turn into a complete control-freak nightmare!"
The comedy drama series, created by Russell T Davies, followed eight interlinking couples, covering different aspects of LGBTQ life in Manchester.
“Working with someone like Russell, you're having a crash course from someone, a complete master, of how to write," she says. "In the six months I learnt more than I would have in about five years. He was a real mentor."
Forging a career in both acting and writing, Covell has no intention of dropping one dream to make way for another, “I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to make a choice between the two.”
Following the success of The End of the F***ing World and its ambiguous final scene, the internet has been abuzz with fans demanding a second series.
Covell remains tight-lipped on the matter.
“There’s a world in which it ends when it does and that’s something I love and feel very proud of, and then there’s a world in which we carry on and that takes us somewhere new."
She added, “Both are possibilities."
However, not all of the fans are as excited at the prospect of another series, with many arguing that the end of the show was a fitting conclusion to the story. On whether the story should continue, she diplomatically says, “I haven’t made up my mind about what’s right.”
“Rather than showing something which was concrete one way or the other, [the ending] allows the audience to project themselves into it.”
“I feel that you have the ending you want, isn’t that the appeal of it?”