Fleabag: arguably the best and most-loved comedy of the 21st century (sorry, Mrs Brown’s Boys). But what makes it so engaging? Obviously, most of the credit goes to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose acting and writing has been praised as “perfect” by fans.
But it turns out Waller-Bridge abides by a simple but clever rule in her scripts to keep viewers engaged. “I always think there should be at least three things going on in one scene at the same time,” she told Deadline.
“I think every actor should know that there are three things this person is dealing with, and usually it’s like they’re having to eat lunch, or they’re having to deal with a really hot room. It’s something like that.”
To illustrate this, Waller-Bridge pointed to the series one scene where Fleabag speaks to the bank manager played by Hugh Dennis. “I feel like the more you put on a person, the more real it feels, because otherwise it’s just a conversation about a bank loan. But then if she’s sweaty and she’s under-prepared, and she forgot to put a top on underneath but she needs to impress this guy,” she says.
“When there are three things going on at the same time, at minimum, I think you instantly have reality.”
Waller-Bridge also opened up about the other signature component of her Fleabag scripts: breaking the fourth wall. “The central relationship for me in this show is between Fleabag and the audience,” she said.
“At the beginning [of series one], she invites them in. She goes, ‘Come into my life. I promise you it’s going to be a riot. I’ll show you I’m sexy and funny and my world’s kind of crazy.’ But secretly, she wants something else from us. I just thought that was the perfect journey.”
Although she initially worried the unnamed Fleabag lead wouldn’t have a reason to talk to viewers directly in series two as they knew all her secrets, Waller-Bridge brought back her remarks to camera after one idea came to her.
“I knew that she was going to meet somebody,” Waller-Bridge explained. “I knew that that person was going to go, ‘Whoa. What was that? Where did you just go?’ And when that idea came up, I went, ‘Oh, sh**.’
“It was one of those rare feelings. It surprised me when I thought of it. Then it was like, ‘When this happens, it’s going to be huge for her.’ Knowing that he did that became central to his whole existence in the show, really.”
Sadly, we’ll never see those sassy side-stares in Fleabag again, with the BBC show ending for good after two series. However, Waller-Bridge is lending her scriptwriting skills to the James Bond franchise following a personal request from 007 himself, Daniel Craig.
And we’ve already got some very high hopes for the upcoming Bond 25 film, with Waller-Bridge hinting that although the secret agent’s attitude to his ‘Bond girls’ might not change, the women themselves will.
“There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not [the Bond franchise] is relevant now because of who he is and the way he treats women,” she said. “I think that’s boll****. I think he’s absolutely relevant now.”
“It has just got to grow. It has just got to evolve, and the important thing is that the film treats the women properly. He doesn’t have to. He needs to be true to this character.”