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Conversations With Friends: Five things to know about new show from Normal People writer Sally Rooney | Ents & Arts News

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When the first TV adaptation of one of Sally Rooney’s novels hit screens during lockdown 2020 it became a mega-hit.

Normal People gave iPlayer its best-ever week at the time, was nominated for Emmys and made instant stars of its leads, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal.

Now the writer’s 2017 book, Conversations With Friends, is about to hit our screens.

It tells the story of two students who become friends with an older married couple and the complicated relationships that are formed.

Here’s what you need to know about the highly anticipated series.

It’s not a follow-up to Normal People – despite being set in Dublin and featuring the hit series’ director Lenny Abrahamson and co-writer Alice Birch.

Joe Alwyn who plays Nick, an actor struggling in his marriage to Melissa (played by Jemima Kirke), tells Sky News he never saw the project as a sequel.

“It isn’t part two, it’s its own thing and was its own thing even reading the book. It felt quite different to me, to Normal People,” Alwyn, 31,says.

“I think that sense of separation is quite a nice thing and it feels, you know, obviously kind of tonally and aesthetically it is in kind of the same family as Normal People, but it’s very much its own story, which I think is a good thing.”

Joe Alwyn and Alison Oliver in Conversations With Friends. Pic: BBC/ Element Pictures/ Enda Bowe
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Alison Oliver was the first to be cast. Pic: BBC/ Element Pictures/ Enda Bowe

Newcomer Alison Oliver was first to be cast – as Frances, the main character, who finds herself drawn to Nick while neglecting her relationship with her best friend Bobbi.

The rest of the cast was then brought in around her.

“I’d started auditioning, I think, in the summer of 2020 and then when I was cast only like a couple of days later, I find out that Joe was doing it,” Oliver, 22, says.

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“I think [director Lenny Abrahamson] is really brilliant, he has so much importance on chemistry between people and [thinking] it’ll only work if these people bond or have this kind of blend.

“I auditioned in a pretty standard way through self-tape and and a couple of auditions in person, and then it was just such an exciting process, just hearing step by step who was next and who was going to be a part of it.”

Alison Oliver and Sasha Lane in Conversations With Friends. Pic: BBC/ Element Pictures/ Enda Bowe
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Oliver and Lane play best friends in the show. Pic: BBC/ Element Pictures/ Enda Bowe

Girls and Sex Education star Jemima Kirke nearly turned the project down.

“It got sent to me while I was working on another TV show and I had been away from my kids for maybe four weeks straight, and I could not imagine doing another job, so I just said no, right way,” Kirke, 37, says.

“They didn’t offer it to me, it was just like, here’s the script, read it and send a tape, and I said no. And then maybe two or three nudges later I read it and I really, really loved it.”

It’s a reflection of modern life, looking at non-traditional relationships.

Alwyn says he thinks we’re becoming more accepting of less conventional set-ups.

“I think we must be, I think we are. I think that’s a good thing,” he adds.

“I think one of the reasons people liked the book, among many, many reasons, is because it is quite a modern love story, and the questions that it’s asking – can you love more than one person at once, and can you find love and happiness outside of conventional constructs that we’ve created for ourselves of conventional relationships, friendships, families – is kind of an increasingly modern discussion.

“And I hope people are approaching those things with more acceptance and are more tolerant.”

Conversations With Friends is an adaption of the Sally Rooney novel. Pic: BBC/ Element Pictures/ Enda Bowe
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The show is an adaption of Rooney’s 2017 novel. Pic: BBC/ Element Pictures/ Enda Bowe

It’s also a study of female friendship – and the importance of nurturing those bonds as much as romantic ones.

Sasha Lane, who plays Bobbi, says that’s not something she worried about when she was younger.

“I’ve always kind of been the opposite – I’ve always zeroed in more on those friendships,” Lane, 26, says.

“I was always best friends with the girl who was a spoilt brat and an only child and I was like, ‘Yes, like I want to teach you how to share’… I can handle bitchy, I can handle all that and so I kind of like thrived on those.

“I could care less about the relationships, it was more about that friendship.”

Conversations With Friends is out today on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer



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