Fleabag

How Sally Wainwright brought her heroine to life in Gentleman Jack

Suranne Jones as Anne Lister and Sally Wainwright (Credit: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire)

Some 20 years in the making, Sally’s Wainwright’s new television drama, Gentleman Jack, was originally rejected by every broadcaster she took it to. The story of an openly gay woman who farmed in 19th-century rural Yorkshire was considered a non-starter by TV networks. Starting this month, the topic is getting eight hours of BBC One Sunday-night primetime.

It’s common for writers to describe their latest work as a “passion project” – often industry-accepted shorthand for what they hope is infectious enthusiasm for their new offering.

From acting to writing: Toby Jones talks Don't Forget the Driver

Barry Green (Toby Jones) in Don't Forget the Driver (Credit: BBC Two)

You wait years for a TV comedy centred on the disruption caused by the sudden arrival of a foreign migrant in a settled world and, suddenly, two come along at once.

This spring, Channel 4 has showcased Home, Rufus Jones’s well-­received show in which his uptight character, Peter, and partner return from holiday to find a Syrian man called Sami (Youssef Kerkour) living in the boot of the family car.

The power of female comedy

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag (Credit: BBC)

"I promised myself that I wasn’t going to say anything rude but I have actually been wet dreaming about getting a Bafta for the whole of my life.” With typically cheeky verve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge accepted her Bafta for her performance in Fleabag back in 2017. Now, with the follow-up series on our screens, fans will be clamouring for more of her stunningly clever tightrope act.

Launch date announced for second series of Fleabag

Fleabag's Godmother/Stepmother(Olivia Colman) (Credit: BBC)

The new series picks up with protagonist Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) trying to made amends with her dysfunctional family by attending an uncomfortable dinner to celebrate her Dad’s (Bill Paterson) engagement to her villainous Godmother (Olivia Coleman).

The evening takes a dramatic turn when old tensions rise to the surface after an unexpected attack.

Joined by familiar faces, Fleabag shares the awkwardness with successful sister Claire (Sian Clifford) and alcoholic brother-in-law Martin (Brett Gelman).

Fleabag series two casts Kristin Scott Thomas and Fiona Shaw

The stars will be joining Andrew Scott (Sherlock) as new cast members for the second series of the hit BBC Three comedy.

“Phoebe Waller Bridge cannot be ignored,” said Dame Thomas. “She manages to hit core issues with sledgehammer brutality as she trips along with a spring in her step.”

Fiona Shaw added, “Phoebe's mind is like nothing else.”

Sherlock star Andrew Scott joins Fleabag

Andrew Scott joins a returning cast which includes Olivia Colman (Godmother), Sian Clifford (Claire), Bill Paterson (Dad), Brett Gelman (Martin), Jenny Rainsford (Boo) and Hugh Skinner (Harry).

According to Executive Producer Lydia Hampson, Waller-Bridge began writing the new series in January this year, and the results, promises BBC Comedy boss Shane Allen, are “knockout”. 

Molly Windsor & Katherine Kelly to star in ITV psychological thriller Cheat

Windsor plays Rose, a high-flying university student who is accused of cheating in her dissertation by her professor, Leah (Katherine Kelly – The Night Manager, Strike Back).

The women’s relationship spirals out of control as what should be a fairly open-and-shut case of academic deception, gets blown up into a devastating series of events with fatal consequences.

Fleabag producer Lydia Hampson on comedy, drama and Reese Witherspoon

It is a motto she has picked up from Fleabag’s creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

“We wanted to shoot it like a drama and cut it like a comedy,” she explains. “Sometimes it feels like drama is comedy’s big older brother.”

For Hampson and Waller-Bridge, it wasn’t enough to create a ‘typical’ comedy. “We were trying to go for the ambition of drama, but not at the expense of the laughs.”

Fleabag to return to BBC Three for a second series

The news was announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival during a panel discussion with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and BBC Controller of Comedy, Shane Allen.

It was revealed that the second series will arrive on the online platform in 2019, following a hugely successful first series about a sharp and crude twenty-something woman living in London who is trying to come to terms with a personal tragedy. 

The first series was adapted from Waller-Bridge's multi award-winning one-woman stage show of the same name, which was first shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013.