I Hate You interviews

Category: Press Pack Article


Who are you playing in I Hate You?

So, Becca… she’s quite an outgoing character and she's pretty much filterless. I think she's quite fun and she kind of plays by her own rules. She moves through the world quite unapologetically and just takes each day as it comes really. I find her quite relatable in some ways, but the thing I would say that stands out to me about her is that she says what she's thinking — she has no filter in terms of her face, her reactions and what's on her mind.

How did you come to be cast?

I think I got cast a lot later than Tanya [Reynolds, Charlie] did. It was just something that kind of came through, a last-ditch search for someone to fit this role. I sent my tape off. I did it via Zoom with a friend, because obviously we were doing everything via Zoom during the pandemic. I called up my friend who really loves comedy and I said, ‘Look, I've got this script,’ and we did the tape together — we kind of had a bit of fun with it and sent it off. And I got called back! Within a week I got a callback, had a chemistry read and then I got cast for it, which was a bit crazy. And then everything happened really quickly.

How would you describe Becca’s relationship with Charlie?

They have a very, very love/hate relationship, which is super relatable, I think, with lots of close friends. Each of them can be quite selfish but they do love each other very much. And I think like they’re such a bizarre pairing, but it completely works. They can kind of say what they want to each other and even if it's like a bit harsh they know that the other one's not going to take it too personally. They just know that they've got each other's backs. But also they really play around and I guess kind of like prank each other and shove each other about. They just get up to so many ridiculous things.

Do you have a favourite moment of peak Charlie/Becca stupidity from the show or any time when you and Tanya were corpsing?

I can't remember which episode it's in now — it might be at the end of the series — but there’s a moment when they get into a bit of a bickering tangle. We just spent ages with tears in our eyes, because it was such a ridiculous thing, just kind of chucking each other about. Tanya and I — and the whole crew — were in stitches, but I don’t really want to say exactly what happens. But it's quite funny to watch, because it's so ridiculous.

How does she express herself through the medium of breakfast cereal?

She loves Rice Krispies! She has this really cool mug that she always eats them out of. I think she’s quite messy in that way in terms of like when she's eating, she eats very unusual things sometimes! But that's probably her favourite thing to eat. And I therefore had to eat so many Rice Krispies. They weren’t my favourite thing to eat in the first place but after eating so many Rice Krispies for this job I don't think I ever want to eat them again. Too much! And obviously when you spend the day eating Rice Krispies, and then you break for lunch, you’re full already.

What was it like getting to getting to know Tanya and working so closely with her?

I love working with Tanya. And we kind of like hit it off, because we weren't friends before the show. But when we met during our chemistry read we immediately were like, ‘Oh, you're a cool person. I like you,’ and I felt like we were friends from that moment. Off the air we're really good friends too, which is honestly one of the greatest things. We laugh a lot and we also have really deep conversations — there’s just a lot of honesty and trust between us which is really nice. We had to do a pilot before the show got commissioned and it was during the pandemic and we hadn't met. I was quite worried about playing best friends and not having had any actual time together — and everything's riding on this pilot. But I messaged her on Instagram and I was like, ‘Do you want to have a zoom coffee?’ and so we spent over two hours just on zoom talking and getting to know each other. It went straight into a really comfortable conversation which was a good sign I think.

What did you make of Robert Popper’s scripts when you first read them?

Honestly, when we sat down to do the readthrough with all the cast members it just felt absolutely nuts. I remember reading the stage directions for the title credits and just being like, ‘Why is there a horse?’ And Robert just said, ‘Well, why not? I just thought I’d put a horse in.’ It’s absolutely ridiculous, but such ridiculous fun and that was quite nice and refreshing.

Also, we haven't really got many comedy shows that have female leads. So it was really nice to kind of see two female friends just getting up to absolute nonsense. Leading women always seem to get serious themes or life-changing struggles to deal with. But this is something different — it's just looking at two crazy friends getting up to silly things and making each other laugh. And dancing with a horse.

A real horse?

Yes. He was called Rusty. We only did a small amount of stuff for the credit sequence with Rusty because of all the lights and the music. But there was a reveal and there was Rusty, just behind the curtains. Unfortunately he kept walking away so we did the whole title dance sequence in one shot and then did Rusty’s moment separately. But in the main he was very chilled. To be honest he outshone both of us.



Who are you playing in I Hate You?

I play Charlie. She's in her 20s and she's… well, a bit of a dickhead. She's a bit… lost. She's working in a job she doesn't like for this ridiculous man, an autograph collector called Bob Oxygen [Johnny Sweet] and she lives in a flat with Becca [Melissa Saint] who's been her best friend since university. They love each other absolutely, but they're incredibly co-dependent and can be quite horrible to each other too — but it's all from love. They're just not very well adjusted human beings, so they're not very good at expressing their feelings to each other. And yeah, they just live in this flat and work ridiculous jobs with ridiculous bosses and it's all just about them being ridiculous really.

How did you get the part?

I think it was November 2020, the end of the OG Pani D and I got sent the pilot episode or possibly an extract from it, I can't remember. But I just read it and thought this is so funny. I did a tape for it, then I had a zoom with Robert [Popper] and Kenton [Allen, CEO of Big Talk Productions]. And just before Christmas, I got what I thought was a callback. But it was actually them going, ‘We really want you to do it.’

When did you meet Melissa, who plays Becca?

I did lots of chemistry reads with lots of actresses to play Becca and Melissa was I think the last one. As soon as she walked in, and we started - it just was right. She was so funny. And then when they offered it to her, we just kind of started hanging out a bit and we've become so close. Everyone thought that we knew each other before. We didn’t: there was just a lot of chemistry there immediately. Because we have so much ease and comfort with each other it feels like there's there would be nothing off limits to talk about. Like, if I was struggling with something in a scene, for example, I could talk to her about it and we'd figure it out. There was an openness between us that just meant that we were we were both able to improvise and play around together. I mean, it's probably doable if you hate your co-star but it’s much easier if you get along.

You’ve been in several hit comedies already. What stood out about the I Hate You script?

That it was just really funny. It's actually quite rare to read things that are just funny, have no levels of seriousness to them and don't take themselves seriously in any way. I was brought up on a diet of sitcoms like; Blackadder, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and The Young Ones and then as I got older, obviously The Inbetweeners was huge for me, The IT Crowd, Peep Show, so it's always been a massive desire of mine to be in a sitcom like the ones I grew up watching. It’s also quite rare to see comedies like that with female leads: I just really liked that this was just two girls who were idiots and being silly. And it was just funny. I don't really want to take myself too seriously at the moment. So this is perfect.

What’s the dynamic between Charlie and Becca?

It's like a level of comfort that you have with someone that you only have with maybe one or two people in your entire life. I recognise it a lot with a few of my friends where you love each other so much and you're so at ease with each other: you don't need to beat each other up.

What was it like working with Robert Popper and [director] Damon Beesley?

Really, really chilled. It was the most laid-back set I've ever been on: Robert and Damon were like little kids. So often we would do a scene and then I would go into video village, which is where the director and the producer and the script supervisor sit, and ask if that was okay. Damon and Robert would be there just dicking around playing games and drawing cartoons. I love them both. They're just joyfully silly and, and playful. And Robert in particular — he's got so much childlike energy. His brain is like a playground. He's got this gorgeous kind of childlike imagination. He just thinks, ‘Oh, that's weird.’ And then just does it and I love that in an in an adult, grown person. Both of them were so open to like, collaboration and ideas and you can only do that when everything is really, really chill.

How closely is I Hate You scripted?

Robert likes to keep to the script. There were more physical things that we improvised rather than the dialogue. There were some things that we kind of changed and tweaked, especially because there were a few things where we'd have to say, ‘Robert, a 20 year old girl just wouldn't say this word.’ Likewise he would sometimes come over and be like, ‘Would a girl say this?’ He was quite good at asking us things. I remember when we were doing the pilot he asked if it was inappropriate to have them saying, ‘Your vag-esty.’ He was so tentative about it. And we both roared laughing. We're like, that's so funny. Of course you can write that.

The thing is, one of Robert’s many skills is he writes well observed relationships. I think that the way that Becca and Charlie behave with each other is exactly how most people behave with that kind of friend, or maybe not most people but certainly people our age: it's just the language, the physicality, everything about the way they interact. I think it's quite real.

Has any of Charlie rubbed off on you?

Yeah. I can’t say fair enough now without saying ‘Furry Muff’ like Charlie and Becca do. Impossible to go back.



Where did the idea for I Hate You come from?

Let me have a think. It might have even come from the title. We’d done quite an intense show about an intense family: Friday Night Dinner. And I suppose the germ of that was the way my family and my friends spoke growing up. Like fast, intense, arguing the whole time. Also, they're quite funny people and I've always found funny people interesting, apart from just being funny. I quite like writing about that. Then I started thinking about my friends, that sort of intense friendship you have with your friends growing up, whatever age you are. Similarly, you kind of fit into a certain role but the older you get, the more you start to think, ‘You know what? I love my friends, but they're like… dicks. I sort of hate my friends. Sometimes.’ I think everyone has that. So I started thinking about intense friendship. It was me saying, ‘I hate my friends,’ quite a lot to my wife — sort of half-jokingly — and I just suddenly thought, ‘I Hate You’ is such a good title for a show.

From that I suddenly thought, a really intense friendship… it would be good to do girls. I really enjoyed writing for the women on Friday Night Dinner. And I just thought, no reason really, that it'd be a nice challenge. And girls are funny. And I want to do that.

What was the timeline?

It was about five years ago, probably, that I started thinking about it. While I was doing Friday Night Dinner I had another file on my computer with ideas that I’d just shove in a folder. At the end of 2018, I think, I pitched it to Channel 4. They gave me a script and I wrote that in probably 2019, a first draft. We made a seven minute little mini pilot thingy. And then we got the series and wrote the series and then shot the series. Boom. Done.

How important is casting and finding the right Charlie and Becca?

So, so important, and we had a brilliant casting director called Rachel Sheridan who was great. We started looking during COVID so it was generally everyone's self tapes. That is quite hard for actors to keep doing. We got a bunch of people and Tanya [Reynolds] popped up within five seconds. You kind of know if someone's brilliant first of all, but straightaway I was like, ‘That's definitely her.’ In her little bit she just threw a scarf on. And just the way she did that and spoke at the same time made us think, ‘You're brilliant.’ She got the part basically more or less there and then.

And then for Becca [Melissa Saint], we saw 220 girls. We saw everyone. None of them were quite the one. Rachel Sheridan said, ‘I've got literally 17 more people I can show you and that is it. Melissa Saint was the 13th. She was doing a scene where she has to eat. And the way she eats Rice Krispies is so sharp and she had such a nice attitude going on there and a screen presence… we knew it was going to be her.  She and Tanya just clicked and have since become best buddies, which is nice. So yeah, the chemistry was immediate. That was a relief.

How important is their chemistry to the success of the show?

The whole thing falls on if you like the pair together. If you like them individually, cool, but together they're the extra element. It's like if in Peep Show, they didn't have a chemistry, that would have been terrible. They just seem to have a natural chemistry and suddenly it all feels real: ‘Oh, I get this friendship. Yeah, I get them.’

There are lots of bonkers ideas and leftfield humour in I Hate You. Where does it all come from?

I mean, everyone works differently to everyone else but I probably do write differently. First of all, I have, like a thing where all my ideas or anything funny that someone says I just stick in a file on my computer. And it's big. Then I start writing scenes. That's a good tip someone once gave me – write scenes. Write the dialogue, even if it's just a few lines, or a few pages. Gradually, you're sort of practising writing the show without going, ‘Oh, God, I've got to write a new show now.’

What about individual catchphrases and hooks — they’re one of your specialities…

You can’t plan to write catchphrases but I suppose I like hooks. When I'm writing, I'm always thinking about 1) Is it funny? Okay, fine. 2) What's the story? Can people follow it? Or imagine where the stories go? And 3) Stop them turning off. Because they can turn off at any point. So I like to have little hooky things that keep people engaged.

Did you go in with an idea of Charlie and Becca’s characters or did they emerge in the writing?

I think I did have an idea who they were, first of all, broadly speaking, but then when you meet your actors, it changes. You go, ‘Okay, right, they're really good at that. I can play to that; they can play that,’ and so you write to their strengths. Often people go, ‘How do you think of the characters?’ Well, half the time it's when funny actors start acting as your character.

You’re a white middle-aged man yet this is a story about twentysomething girls, one white, one black, and their lives. What makes you the right person to be telling it?

I sort of think people are people. I'm not trying to write about issues facing people in the modern world, particularly, I'm just trying to write a funny show with believable people. When I meet people of that age, when they talk, they have the same issues that I had when I was that age. And they're funny. And women are as funny as men. I've got lots of friends that are girls that love arguing, and these are the kinds of things they say and do. So why not?

How did you wind up with a talking horse in the title sequence?

I noticed when I start writing it that shows don't generally have title sequences anymore. So I wanted to do things differently — and I just thought it'd be funny. I think I thought about it in bed — the girls are doing like a high-end dance thing to camera on this moving walkway and they've been told that at the end there's a pair of curtains that open: don’t worry about what’s behind the curtains. And then there's a f*cking horse and they have to carry on dancing. All you can see in their eyes is, ‘Don’t look at the horse.’ We did have a real white horse there when they did it.

Introduce Charlie and Becca? Who are they? How are they friends?

Charlie is kind of a miserabilist. Probably. She thinks people are idiots. Becca doesn't really think anything through, stumbles through life and just always does the wrong thing. Where they met I’ve got no idea, but they’ve got a super intense friendship. I like to think they’ve only known each other for a few years, which is even weirder. But deep down, they just love each other. They have their own thing, their own little lingo, their own shared culture between them.

But also they hate each other. Or they just wind each other up. As the show goes on, particularly in Episode Six, you see that they’ve got real love for each other..

What do they do for a living?

I didn't want to write, ‘One of them works in a café, one of them works in a pub…’ I wanted them to have quite bespoke, odd jobs. Because sometimes you speak to people and you go, ‘Oh! You do that. Okay…’ One of my wife's best friends used to work for someone in the art world, a French guy. And she used to work from his flat, which was weird. Because his bedroom was nearby. Every day about one o'clock, he would say, “and now I go to bed,” and he would sleep. I always found that funny. And I thought, I'm gonna use that for Charlie's job.

Then one of my cousins married someone in the autograph world. I always thought that was interesting. But I just wanted them to do specific jobs. I wanted the whole show to feel very specific, and never general.

There’s a running gag about Charlie and Becca altering a sign offering ‘Dog Adoptions’ to ‘Dog Abortions.’ Where did that come from?

It was something I did actually, when I was in America, Los Angeles, once, with my friend Peter Serafinowicz. We passed that ‘Dog Adoptions’ sign on a blackboard and I just changed it with my finger.