The End of the F***ing World’s Alyssa (played by Jessica Barden) has been described by critics as one of TV’s best teenage heroines, thanks to her abrupt honesty and bluster — all concealing a secret vulnerability.
However, in the show’s hotly-anticipated second season, the Alyssa we see has lost her confidence and is struggling to come to terms with the events of season one, set two years prior, which ended with James (played by Alex Lawther) apparently shot on a beach as Alyssa screams.
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In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, Barden revealed that Alyssa is now “dealing with depression and doesn’t understand it,” something that the actress says she was keen to portray realistically rather than being “on the verge of crying all the time”.
“I’ve always related to Alyssa in her more brusk personality traits. And it was really interesting, and it was a great challenge to play somebody struggling with the things she’s struggling with,” Barden said of her character.
Asked about how she thinks Alyssa has changed during the past two years, Barden said: “I think that the confidence that she’s lost is in herself, definitely.” She also added that while Alyssa’s depression isn’t outwardly evident, it becomes obvious during her voiceover narration, where she “start[s] lying to herself” and is “detached from everything that’s going on” — in contrast to the unfailing honest voiceover in season one.
“She does start lying to herself. Basically, it’s somebody that is dealing with depression and doesn’t understand it,” she said. “That is what I called what Alyssa is going through when I was filming it. And what I wanted to do was —personally for me, I feel like ever since Streetcar Named Desire, everything that you watch is a female character having a nervous breakdown, and crying all the time. Or being angry, or in some way living on the verge of a breakdown. When, for the most part, all of us know depression, or anxiety, or PTSD or grief — really, it’s about coping with it.”
She continued: “Day to day, you’re not doing any of those things. You don’t cry in front of people. You don’t articulate to anybody what’s going on. You’re not on the verge of crying all the time, because you have to cope with your life. That’s what it is. So, I really liked playing somebody that was a version of a depressed person that is pretending that they’re fine — because that’s what everyone actually does.
“So, with the voiceovers, and with the situations that you see her actually in in scenes, I liked the challenge of playing somebody that is completely detached from everything that’s going on. Because that’s actually what depression is.”
The End of the F***ing World season two will air on Channel 4 in the UK from Monday 4th to Thursday 7th November, with two new episodes double-billed every night across the week from 10pm. In the US, season two will be available on Netflix from Tuesday 5th November.