Interview with Jessica Barden about The End of the F***ing World
Your new series is called The End of the F***ing World. Presumably it’s not for CBeebies!
Although the show has a swear word in the title, it isn't a show that features a lot of swearing! I would say most people would feel comfortable showing 14 year olds but probably no younger. Although I'm old now so I have no idea what young people deem scary or disturbing.
What’s the show about, and who do you play?
The show is about Alyssa and James who run away from home to escape their depressing existence in suburban England. Charlie Covell the writer did an excellent job of bringing the teenage existential crisis feel from the comics to the series. The show starts very comedic but you soon learn as the series goes on, both Alyssa and James are dealing with issues that are genuine and very relatable.
What was it that attracted you to the role?
I wanted to play Alyssa because she was a character I would have wanted to see on the TV when I was growing up. She reminds me of myself a lot, I've never played a character that is like me, including doing my own accent! I was very happy to be able to do my own accent in a show! I love how angry Alyssa is and how much she wants her life to be different. I hope people watch the show and feel like she is a friend. I always felt she was relatable and I hope people feel that when watching it.
It deals with some very dark and bleak material – did you have any misgivings about that?
I usually am in quite dark projects so I didn't really notice how dark it was until I started explaining it to people. Without giving too much away, there is only one event in the series that I haven’t experienced or had a close friend or family experience, so I guess that's why I don't think the show is really dark. It's just real life and what happens to people...
It’s based on a series of comic books – did you read them?
Yes I read the comics, I love Chuck [Charles Forsman]and his girlfriend Melissa. They were a huge part of the show, it was thankfully a very happy collaboration. Chuck I feel has a very similar career goal to everyone on the show, he only wants to create things that are from his heart, I know that sounds cheesy but it's important and I think that's why everyone got a long so well.
Did you do anything else in the way of research?
I didn't do any specific research for this, I always felt Alyssa was like me. I just did what I usually do which is to write down stream of thoughts I think the character would have on certain things in the script. I don't know why I do that I just do.
The script is at times very funny, at others very disturbing, and at others heart breaking. How would you define what genre this fits into?
I think it's a dark comedy. I haven’t actually seen the show so I don't know how dark it is, it never felt that awful to me! I might be mad though.
You and Alex [Lawther] are in almost every scene – how did you enjoy working with him?
Alex and I are totally different people which I think is the only way someone could have worked that much with me without wanting to have sex with me or kill me. Alex did neither, which was so nice of him. He's very considered and calm with his acting and I think we balanced each other out. I really enjoyed working with him, he's a very kind and talented man anyone who works with Alex is very lucky.
At its heart, this is a bit like an old road movie. That offers lots of opportunities for some excellent cameos along the way, doesn’t it?
The actors that came in for the cameos were great and I loved it. Every week Alex and I would have someone come in and you get their energy which changes the set slightly and the feel of the show. Sometimes it was difficult, sometimes it was easy but on a long shoot it was really wonderful having people come in and change it up. Felicity Montagu was a fire cracker.
You played the eponymous lead in Channel 4’s Ellen last year – do you think there are similarities between her and Alyssa?
Ellen and Alyssa are similar in a way as they are both young women trying to find their way in a world where they haven’t been given the best start, but they are both strong and funny as well.
Were there any scenes that you found particularly difficult to film? Either because they were so disturbing or because they were so funny?
I found scenes with Geoff Bell hard because he's a flat out legend and I have worked with him before and he's such a maverick and I want to have a laugh with him every day of my life. I adore him. He's a wonderful man and very funny. Also Earl Cave was hilarious in this, I corpsed a lot but I always do because I just love to have a laugh. I hope Earl has a wonderful career, he's brilliant in this.