How are you feeling about the new series coming out? It feels like the first came out just yesterday [it was April 2021]. You’ve barely had a chance to breathe…!
It was quick, wasn’t it? I mean I’ve been done with filming for a little while now, but we started working on it just after the first series came out: it aired and then the next day we were filming. We didn’t even get to enjoy the response to the first series! So it was crazy – but to be honest it was a good distraction. I feel good; I feel happy.
I loved how season one ended: with Jessie and Tom just sitting on the back of the bus, after Jessie intentionally misses her flight home to New Zealand. It’s just like the way The Graduate ends. And then season two begins with that same scene… how can we expect their relationship to develop?
When I was writing Starstruck, there are certain routes that mainstream romcoms in the early 2000s would have taken – and we just don’t do that. In season two, we divert even more from those classic romcom tropes – because I think what we do is try and put those characters in those stories, then show their real-world reactions and consequences. Every rom-com ends with this amazing, beautiful, “They live happily ever after” thing, but that’s not real life.
“So it’s like, hang on, what happens next? It can still be romantic and beautiful, but there is a story afterwards; there’s so much more to explore. It’s very much like a sequel to that scene in The Graduate – that’s basically where we jump off for the second series.
Given the sheer amount of romcoms you reference in Starstruck, I can only imagine you’re a massive fan of the genre. But would you call yourself a critic, as well?
Of course. You’ve got to be both. For instance, I think often women are funnier than men – but in romcoms they’re not given credit for that. So that’s one thing I try to take from this genre and get right. I position Jessie as a funny character. And she’s intentionally funny. She’s not making you laugh cause she’s constantly falling over.
That’s so true – Jessie is unquestionably hilarious. Could you tell us more about why that’s important to you, particularly as a female comedian?
There’s something powerful about seeing women on screen having the good lines. It was such a thing in the Hollywood films of the forties – there were incredible female screenwriters who wrote lines for women. I’m such a fan of that era: all the screwball comedies. There was such power to it. But I think, in the films that came out when I was growing up, witty women suddenly weren’t fashionable or interesting anymore.
“I do think it’s a weirdly threatening thing – when women are funnier than men. For instance, I find most women funnier than men, but I don’t think most men do. And I love being able to bring a character to life who is not ashamed to be funny. I know women – and I’m probably guilty of it as well – who try to be “less than”, just to appeal. It’s such an instinct, as a straight woman, to appeal to men – and you need to train yourself out of it.