Conversations With Friends

Lenny Abrahamson on how Normal People inadvertently became a year-defining show for 2020

Lenny Abrahamson on the set of Normal People (credit: Element Pictures/ Enda Bowe)

While we all tuned into Normal People to escape the news, executive producer and co-director Lenny Abrahamson tuned into the news to escape Normal People. Or, at least, he tried to.

"I remember thinking, ‘I'm just going to listen to something really depressing that has nothing to do with arts and culture," he says. "So I switched on Brexitcast, and the first few words were them talking about watching Normal People over the weekend. I just thought, ‘Oh, Jesus!’”

"I didn’t think we’d have a mass audience at all, none of us did." 

The complex genesis of Conversations with Friends

Normal People was the TV hit of the first Covid lockdown, a comfort blanket of a series that offered respite from what was a new and terrifying virus.

Viewers tuned into Marianne and Connell’s love story, adapted from Sally Rooney’s second book, in huge numbers. It became BBC Three’s ­biggest-ever series and the iPlayer’s most popular show of 2020, racking up more than 60 million streams in just eight months. Worldwide, it won countless awards.

Teaser trailer released for BBC Three’s Conversations With Friends

Sasha Lane, Joe Alwyn, Alison Olover and Jemima Kirke in Conversations With Friends(credit: BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu/Enda Bowe)

Adapted from Sally Rooney’s best-selling debut novel, the series follows the complicated relationship between college students Frances (newcomer Alison Oliver) and Bobbi (Sasha Lane, American Honey) and an older couple, Melissa (Jemima Kirke, Girls) and Nick (Joe Alwyn, The Favourite).

Casting announced for BBC Three’s adaptation of Conversations With Friends

Alison Oliver, Sasha Lane, Jemima Kirke, Joe Alwyn (credit: BBC)

Newcomer and Lir Academy graduate Alison Oliver, who attended the same college as Normal People star Paul Mescal, will lead the series as Frances, with Sasha Lane (American Honey) starring as her ex-girlfriend and best friend Bobbi.

The series will follow Frances and Bobbi as they become entwined in a complex affair with an older couple. Jemima Kirke (Girls) will star as the enigmatic writer Melissa, while Joe Alwyn (The Favourite) will play her partner Nick, an actor.

New series to look out for in 2021

The Serpent

BBC One

Release Date: New Year’s Day


Jenna Coleman as Marie-Andrée Leclerc and Tahir Rahim as Charles Sobhraj (credit: BBC)

The seventies-set international crime thriller The Serpent follows the true story of global efforts to capture Interpol’s most wanted man, the murderer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim, A Prophet).

BBC commissions adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends

Sally Rooney (Credit BBC)

The new series follows the adaptation of her second novel, Normal People, which airs this spring.

The series will be produced by Element Pictures, directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald, with several episodes written by Alice Birch.

Conversations With Friends follows two college students who make an unexpected and life changing connection with a married couple.