Phoebe Waller-Bridge“As a playwright and a writer, I think it’s our duty to go that epic every time, however small the story is.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge develops a theory during her conversation with Ryan Tubridy on Friday: maybe all her success to date has been down to her desire to write a good part for Andrew Scott, meaning they could get to hang out together more. So all those Emmys and BAFTA awards are at least partly due to the Irish actor probably destined to be forever known as the Hot Priest from Fleabag. Phoebe first worked with Scott on stage in 2009 (one of her first jobs) and the experience left an impression:

“He’s just the most kind and lovely and generous person. And then this extraordinarily charismatic and talented actor and I was just so desperate to work with him again.”

The success of Fleabag and Killing Eve – both series created by Waller-Bridge – have meant that Phoebe, as well as needing an extension to her mantlepiece to cope with all the awards, is currently being touted as the most powerful person in television (“It just sounds like I’m armed, doesn’t it?” she says to Ryan). She might be forgiven for letting it all go to her head, a notion she’s happy to entertain when Ryan asks her if she has proper friends to keep her grounded:

“No, I ditched all them when I got my Emmys… I just like the people who agree with me and who tell me I look fabulous when I look horrendous.”

She’s just kidding, of course. She has lots of real friends, most of whom she says she met while making Fleabag. But back to the Hot Priest: Ryan wondered if Phoebe realised just how much attention the character would get when she was making the second season of the ground-breaking comedy/drama. Turns out she did indeed have an inkling of what was to come:

“When we were filming episode five and Andrew whips open the curtain at the confessional scene and I saw the playback of that on the day. I was like, oh, I think we might be in trouble.”

It felt like a sort of iconic D’Arcy moment to her:

“I knew that if we could capture even a thimble of what Andrew had in real life in this character, then we’d have everyone screaming for more.”

The conversation moved from Andrew Scott to fellow-Irish actor, Fiona Shaw, who featured in both Fleabag and Killing Eve:

“If you can get Fiona Shaw in your thing, you just, you have to just do anything possible to make it happen.”

The inspiration for Fleabag came from classical Greek drama, Phoebe told Ryan. He was a little… unsure about that, but she insisted that even sitcoms need to have that epic feeling – not that they need to feature a cast of thousands, but that they should have the feeling of real consequences for the characters.

“As a playwright and a writer, I think it’s our duty to go that epic every time, however small the story is.”

There’s more, including her work on the latest Bond movie, No Time to Die, and Ryan’s confession that he sees Fleabag as a manual on understanding women… You can hear all that in Ryan’s full chat with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, here.

Fleabag The Scriptures by Phoebe Waller-Bridge is published by Sceptre.

Niall Ó Sioradáin

© The Listener 2019

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