Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has admitted regret over the way her family “took the brunt” of the show’s success, as many wrongly assumed the show’s main characters were based on her parents and sister.
In 2019, Phoebe received huge critical acclaim for the second series of Fleabag, which saw her character continue to grapple with the dysfunctional relationship she has with her family, as well as an inappropriate new romantic interest played by Andrew Scott.
However, in a new episode of the podcast How To Fail, Phoebe revealed that she wished she’d been better prepared for how her family would be perceived, including by those who know them, because of the show’s themes.
“Because it’s about family and everything, my family suddenly experienced this really intense focus from people in their lives, and people asking about the show and asking about me,” she explained. “And one of my regrets is I wish I’d seen that coming.”
Phoebe went on to say that her family found themselves “being asked all the questions about the show”, referring to a “communication breakdown” with her loved ones.
She continued: “I’d underestimated, as we all had, what impact it was going to have and that people were going to want to talk about it so much and like it so much.
“And I was essentially just so far away from everybody and in a different timezone doing the play … I hadn’t really connected with my close friends and family when it went out, so they then had this strange explosion of this show happening.”
“The people closest to me didn’t invite that,” Phoebe added. “And there’s so much over-familiarity that comes with that: people assuming that [her sister, composer Isobel Waller-Bridge] is like Claire.
“And also people just assuming that so much of it is true. That bleeds into my family’s life when the show’s going out because, weirdly, they are having to defend our family.”
Phoebe also pointed out that the characters in Fleabag are not based on her own family, joking: “Women can make things up too! It’s not all our diaries! Of course I’m drawing on really personal things and things that echo in real life, but I write about my biggest fears.
“I write about losing my best friend or losing my mum, or not communicating with my dad, or not getting on with his new partner, and all those things are my worst fears: whereas actually my mum’s alive and well, my best friend is alive and well and we have an unbelievable relationship, my relationship with both my siblings is incredible, I get on really well with my stepmother and my dad; but it’s the ‘what if?’.”
The second series of Fleabag is expected to be the last, while Phoebe has also enjoyed huge success with her other TV series, Killing Eve, which is currently onto its second run.
Phoebe is currently working on the writing team on the upcoming James Bond film, which is slated for release in 2020.
Listen to How To Fail here.