Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge Talks ‘Fleabag’

The Knockturnal attended a roundtable conversation with the writer and star of the British comedy series, Fleabag. Waller-Bridge talks of her character’s feminism, and being openly expressive about sexuality as a female. This is a short segment of our conversation with her.

Do you ever feel awkward saying certain lines or acting out certain things (in the show), like in that scene when you’re taking pictures of your crotch?

P: I’m quite used to that from doing it in the play version so I got well warmed up. I think because so much of the show is about her expressing herself so openly with such genuine candor about her life, it gave me armor about it. It was important to show that women are doing these things. As long as I knew there was a human angle in those things and it wasn’t just gratuitous—if I ever felt that something was a bit gratuitous or even gross, I don’t think I’d ever do it.

Where did this character (Fleabag) come from?

P: A friend of mine asked me to do a kind of ten-minute slot in her stand up storytelling night that she was doing. I’ve never done anything like that before and I was really flattered and terrified to do it . I thought, I gotta do it because I’ve never done anything like this before. But I also had no clue how stand up stuff worked, so I knew rule one was to get the audience on your side, so it had to be funny. But the rest of the time, a friend of mine would be there, who ended up directing the play, Vicky. She was going to come along and see it. So I decided since she’s going there, I’m going to write it and perform it just for her. Just to make her laugh, and not to appeal to the masses—it was for Vicky, for her naughty sense of humor. I felt like it would be a conversation that we’d be having. Those ten minutes ended up being the first ten minutes of the stage show.

Would you say the character Fleabag is a conflicted feminist?

P: She’s definitely a feminist. She knows in her heart is, of course she’s a feminist—because really everybody should be one because that’s just the equality between men and women. She knows that, but she’s become conflicted from all the other messages she’s getting. Like that question in episode 1, “Would you give up five years of your life for a perfect body?” and her attitude is like, “Of course I would, you know how easy my life would be!” She thinks that’s the right answer, because it’s the truthful answer, but she quickly works out that it’s not the right answer. And it’s all those conversations about it that make her more conflicted about what she thought was quite simple.

There’s not really a comparable word to ‘slut’ for men and your show is kind of a response to that. 

P: Definitely. In 2013 or 2014, when we did the show, there were a lot conversations happening about women’s sexuality and porn stuff…But it was incredible when we first did it because women would come up to me and say things like, “Thank you so much for talking abut women masturbating.” And it was this huge thing. There seems to be a huge wave of it now. It was sort of peeking behind the curtain into women’s brain about being bored of sex or not seeing it as a massively big deal—that’s what really shocked people in the play in the beginning.

The show will be available on AMAZON Prime on September 16.

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