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How Billie Piper made ‘I Hate Suzie,’ an awesome dark comedy about revenge porn

I Hate Suzie lives with a feeling that most of us, if we’re lucky, only experience a few seconds of panic at a time. It’s that moment after hearing a bit of upsetting news – when a void seems to form deep in your throat and the atmosphere around your head seems to thin out, leaving you floating in the space inside. of your own body. Everything is too close but also extremely far, and even if your mind is spinning, your feet constantly feel glued to the ground.

Here, the inciting incident is a photo hack. We first meet Suzie Pickles – yes, Suzie Pickles – as she greets a swarm of people who have arrived at her house in the English countryside to shoot her for a magazine. As the afternoon wears on and various designers and decorators coat Suzie and her home with furs, trinkets and fake blood, the actress realizes why loved ones have blown her phone all day. Images began to circulate online of her blowjob on a man who, based on the color of the skin in the photos, is definitely not her husband.

Start a futile campaign to collect all the modems and WiFi phones in the house. If Suzie can just prevent everyone from finding out what happened, she seems to think she might not lose the career opportunity of her life – the chance to play an aging Disney princess. (If that wasn’t clear, this show is a dark comedy.) The camera hovers right in front of Suzie’s face for most of this, clutching her as the claustrophobic fear slowly builds – until she eventually explodes, yelling at the photographer to just take the shot and beg everyone to get out of her house so she can assess the damage.

Doctor Who and Terrible penny Billie Piper stars as Suzie and co-created the series with Succession writer and playwright Lucy Prebble. The first two collaborated on the ITV2 series The secret diary of a call girl in 2007, and again in the Prebble 2012 play The effect. During a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Piper said she spent years sending Prebble ideas for new TV projects, only to be shot over and over again.

“We kind of got in touch every day like lovers in our late twenties, early thirties,” Piper said. “We realized that the things we were saying to each other were really revealing, often quite dark and always hilarious. We share a sort of sickly humor.

Eventually, the two realized that their thoughts could turn into something more. At its beginnings, I hate Suzie would’ve been a friendship-based series – and to some extent, it still is. Suzie and her manager, Naomi (Leila Farzad), have been friends since childhood, when Suzie first rose to fame in a TV singing competition. Their codependency – and its inherent toxicity – is just one of the many things Suzie eventually needs to re-evaluate in her life.

But Prebble was determined to find something bigger – to give a twist to the idea that hadn’t been seen before on TV before. That’s when Prebble invented the hack, Piper said.

“It felt like a way to talk about all the things we wanted to talk about,” she said. “All the axes we wanted to grind.”

Then came the second revelation: using eight stages of mourning to structure the season. Each episode focuses on one emotion as Suzie’s life unfolds slowly: shock, denial, shame, bargaining … You get it.

I hate Suzie feels spiritually connected to Chip bag and, more recently, I can destroy you– both unpacking with nuance and empathy the messy lives and traumas of equally messy women. Suzie Pickles, like “Fleabag” by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Arabella by Michaela Coel, is prone to self-sabotage but also deeply readable as a character. We understand her choices, even if they aren’t the right ones – in large part because, given the options she has, it’s not as well hard to imagine doing most of it ourselves.

It can be tempting to read into the biographical similarities between Suzie and Piper. After all, Piper started her career as a pop star, just like Suzie did – and she, like her character, played a beloved role in a hugely popular sci-fi franchise. But the actress says these parallels are not to be read; the choice to make Suzie famous, she said, was more metaphorical.

Thanks to social media, most of us are “famous” in our own circles to one degree or another – and we all probably have information on our phones that we’d rather keep private.

“Like, imagine if someone went through your notes,” Piper says. “Notes, for me, this is the one I hide deep in my phone.” To be clear, the actress would prefer no of her private information or photos are hacked – “but the Notes are what I want to keep with my life.”

Making Suzie an actress simply raises the stakes and allows the series to delve into the sometimes absurd world of show business and sci-fi conventions – where, it should be noted, it does indeed run into quite a few problems. (Read: Cocaine. Lots of cocaine.) “It has allowed us to open up the world a lot more,” Piper said, “so it’s not just a domestic situation.”

But speaking of Suzie’s domestic situation: alongside Piper and Farzad, the other performance I hate Suzie belongs to Daniel Ings, who gradually reveals the monstrous depths of Suzie’s seemingly harmless husband, Cob.

At first Cob looks like any other pitiful husband – but over time we see how he slowly exhausted Suzie, attacking her respectful nature and seizing every opportunity to tear her down. Ings brings a quiet fury to life at Suzie’s house – turning their idyllic country home into something of a Gothic nightmare.

Notes, for me, are the ones I hide in the back of my phone … notes are what I want to keep with my life.

“The reason we picked him was because his audition tape was so angry and unrefined, in a way, and so porous, big and non-judgmental,” Piper said of Ings. . “He wasn’t sort of an actor commenting on the character, or trying to make the character more likable to the viewer, or trying to get the viewer to understand his riddle.”

“A lot of times actors do that, and it’s something I find so boring and such a wasted opportunity,” Piper continued. “Like why don’t you just blow up the fucking roof and show them what it is – what it is is in fact? He could do it and he wanted to do it too.

The arguments with Cob are just one of a thousand intense and bizarre moments that we follow Suzie for eight half-hour episodes. There’s coca binge, fantastic masturbation sequences, and even a musical number or two along the way. With each episode, what we’re watching becomes clearer: a slowly simmering nervous breakdown. By the time Suzie really loses it – in an incident that, once again, takes place on the pages of the tabloids – it’s mostly a wonder she’s done for so long. without declaiming and raving in the streets in his sweatshirts and a pair of fluffy boots.

Maybe that’s why, for me personally, the climax of the whole series comes when Suzie comes out of a rehearsal with a condescending and glowing director – singing her way to a passionate delivered, wonderfully melismatic.Fuuuuck … youuuuuu! “

When asked if she had had such moments in her career, Piper replied that “unfortunately” she didn’t have enough. She wanted to do a justified stunt like this on several occasions, she said, but never had the confidence to do it. But now? “I think I passed him.

“It’s so satisfying to to pretend making it really worth doing it, ”Piper decided. “I think I’ll really invest to have it with people.” (Not unfairly, she says, “it should be justified.”)

After all, she says, this is the real point of this show: “Imagine if we had the balls as women, without years of conditioning, and being bright, polite and easygoing, and employable, and all that. shit you have to do to be seen and heard, ”Piper said. “Imagine if we didn’t do this for a day.”

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