18 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Probably Never Knew About One Day

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall have lifted the lid on what really into creating the hit Netflix show.
Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod behind-the-scenes of One Day
Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod behind-the-scenes of One Day

It’s fair to say that One Day has fast become the show everyone is talking about.

Netflix’s new adaptation of David Nicholls’ much-loved novel is giving viewers around the world the escapism we’re all in dire need of, thanks to its dreamy locations and the on-screen chemistry between leads Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall.

And as more people are drawn in by Emma and Dexter’s complicated love story, fans are starting to wonder exactly how the show came together.

If that sounds like you, here are some of our favourite behind-the-scenes secrets about how One Day came together you probably didn’t know already…

For starters – yes, they did get to go to all of those fabulous locations

One Day took Ambika and Leo – not to mention the cast and crew – to glamorous places like Greece and Paris, as well as various locations around the UK.

“We all travelled a lot together,” Ambika told Rolling Stone. “We stayed in the same hotels. So we’ve become really close in the whole cast and crew.”

Leo with co-star Essie Davis in Rome
Leo with co-star Essie Davis in Rome

Ambika and Leo landed the roles of Emma and Dexter after meeting for the first time at “chemistry reads”

These screen tests are essentially like speed dating for actors, where they’ll meet a load of potential co-stars to determine how the different pairings come across on screen.

Recalling his shaky first meeting with Ambika to ABC News, Leo revealed: “She was talking to another potential Dexter, and I was like, ‘Oh God, how do I get in here?’. I said, ‘Oh, nice shoes’. And it was like, not mid-scene, but it was while we were supposed to be working and it kind of all just fell flat.”

Thankfully, Ambika’s first memory of the “cheeky and charming” Leo are more flattering.

“He was so open and warm just immediately and it felt really easy,” she told the podcast Reign. “The scenes felt really playful and I think that’s really rare.”

Still, Ambika wasn’t sure about the role – and initially turned it down

In fact, she told Vogue she initially didn’t even want to audition for the part at all.

“I didn’t think that I was right for the part,” she said. “I thought I would be wasting everyone’s time if I even taped for it.

“Then I just woke up in bed one night and I was like, ‘I’ve made a massive mistake’. I called my agent the next morning and I was like, ’Is it too late to tape?.”

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall at a screening of One Day last week
Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall at a screening of One Day last week
Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock for Netflix

Casting for the roles of Emma and Dexter were open to actors of all ethnicities

Ambika told the Watford Observer: “When they were auditioning it was colourblind.

“They weren’t looking for a particular race or ethnicity, they were just looking for the best person to play her, and I’m very lucky and very thankful that they thought that was me.”

She added: “Before we started filming, we talked about my race and my ethnicity and what that might mean for Emma.

“But it never really impeded or explicitly showed itself in the writing or in the series in any way because it’s not a story about a young brown woman — it’s a story about two people, Emma and Dexter, and their love, their friendship and their growing up.”

Leo was filming The White Lotus when he auditioned – leading to an unfortunate mix-up early on in the casting process

“I flew back to London to do my first in person meeting and I had forgotten to take off my neck tattoo,” Leo told Lorraine Kelly.

He later told Virgin Radio: “They all panicked, because they thought it real.”

Leo in The White Lotus
Leo in The White Lotus

After being cast in the roles, it was a pretty quick turnaround for Ambika and Leo

In fact, Ambika told HuffPost UK there “wasn’t time” for herself and Leo to grow their off-screen bond before filming began.

“We met for a gin and tonic before we started pre-production,” Leo said. “On the Southbank to just have a chat. But that was it.”

Ambika added: “I’d just finished a job, [Leo] had just finished a job, we went straight into rehearsals, so you just have to [build that chemistry] in real time.”


Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall discuss how they first met, and how they built chemistry together for One Day… #fy #fyp #viral #oneday #onedaynetflix #netflix #leowoodall

♬ original sound - HuffPost UK

The two leads also had a different approach to the original One Day book and its divisive 2011 film adaptation

Ambika read One Day as a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it, but told HuffPost UK that she avoided rewatching the first on-screen version, in case it “threw me”.

However, Leo had never read the book when he auditioned, so watched the film as part of his research.


Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod discuss One Day the film and Anne Hathaway’s divisive accent #fy #fyp #viral #oneday #onedaynetflix #netflix #leowoodall #annehathaway

♬ original sound - HuffPost UK

As you might expect, Ambika had Anne Hathaway on her mind when it came to preparing for the role

One major criticism of the 2011 film One Day was Anne Hathaway’s attempts at a Yorkshire accent, which made Hertfordshire-born Ambika all the more determined to really nail it.

“We were militant,” she told us, of her work with dialect coach Natalie Grady. “We met, like, three times a week, hour-and-a-half sessions, we went through every single sound.

“I learned a really, really strong, authentic Leeds accent, and then we pared it down and found an accent that felt really truthful to Emma and where she was in episode one, and then we tapered it from then on.”

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in their version of One Day
Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in their version of One Day

Author David Nicholls has said there’s one key difference between the TV show and his original book

“There is a lot more sex in this than there is in the novel,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I tend to fade to black and Nicole [Taylor, One Day’s head writer] doesn’t fade to black.”

He added: “Of course we’ve cut things. We’ve had to condense things. So there’s still those editorial decisions to be made, but I’ve been so happy with the process and it’s been an incredibly enjoyable experience.”

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in the first episode of One Day
Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in the first episode of One Day

Intimacy co-ordinators also worked closely with the cast to help convey the pair’s complicated relationship

Ambika told Vogue: “We all sat down and had a really in-depth discussion about the relationship, about what the intimacy in that relationship would look like, about how it evolves, how it differs from the intimacy in other relationships.

“I’d never thought about sex and intimacy in that way before, but it was so revealing and so helpful.”

As for that devastating ending, the pair were lucky in that they ‘got it out of the way’ pretty early on

“What’s weird is we filmed the last episode at the beginning of the series,” Ambika told HuffPost UK. “So actually, after we let go of that, it just kind of felt like a great time.”

Leo also noted that there were times he and Ambika were even able to “kind of forget” the way the story turns out, to which she agreed: “You just get it out of the way, and then you can kind of focus on the good times.”


Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall discuss the ending of One Day #fy #fyp #viral #oneday #onedaynetflix #netflix #leowoodall

♬ original sound - HuffPost UK

The very first scene the pair shot together was a bit earlier on in the story, though

Day one of shooting was the sequence in episode three, where Emma and Dexter have both moved to London and share a drink in Camden Town park.

As Netflix’s companion publication Tudum put it: “With the beautiful golden hour light, the stunning backdrop perfectly juxtaposed Emma’s disappointment in her lackluster London life.”

“It really helps bring home how important Dexter is in making her feel like she belongs to something in the city,” director Molly Manners added.

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in the first scene they shot together
Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in the first scene they shot together
Teddy Cavendish/Netflix

The real Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh was used in those early sequences – although it wasn’t exactly the best experience for Leo

“The weather was gorgeous. For me, a highlight was Arthur’s Seat,” Ambika told Rolling Stone. “Especially that that first day up there, that was a week into the shoot.”

“I had a slightly different experience on Arthur’s Seat,” Leo then admitted. “I got food poisoning, I think I’d had some dodgy pork! It was really windy and I was really not feeling OK.”

Leo later recalled to Bafta: “The second day was less fun for me, because I got food poisoning right as we hit the top of the huge, huge hill. And we had to just keep filming, it didn’t matter what state I was in.”

“It was far to fall after the first day,” Ambika joked.

Leo and Ambika filming in Edinburgh for the first episode of One Day
Leo and Ambika filming in Edinburgh for the first episode of One Day

The location actually held a place in Ambika’s heart

As well as her acting work, Ambika is a comedy writer and improv comic.

During an appearance on Graham Norton, she revealed she’d been feeling “a bit lost”, “quite depressed” and like she “wasn’t getting anywhere” after a run at the city’s iconic Fringe festival in 2019.

“On the last day of the Fringe, we climbed Arthur’s Seat and I remember it as a terrible time. I was not loving myself or my life,” she admitted.

“Then cut to almost exactly three years later and I am filming in Edinburgh at Arthur’s Seat playing the lead in a Netflix series of my favourite book. It felt very special. A full circle moment.”

Another of the show’s locations was used in another Netflix hit

For the scenes at Sylvie’s family home, the show took up residence at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, which was previously used as a set in the Bridgerton prequel Queen Charlotte.

Incidentally, Hatfield, Hertfordshire happens to be the town where Ambika was born.

Because Ambika and Leo weren’t actually born for most of the period One Day is set in, they ran into a few problems on set

“There was a lot to learn,” Ambika told Bafta. “We had to be taught how to use phones, desktop computers, payphones, typewriters… because we just didn’t [know]! We were like, ‘what do we do with this?’.

“And we had to be taught – usually by an older member of the crew who would begrudgingly give us instructions.”

Using older tech didn't exactly come easy to the show's young cast
Using older tech didn't exactly come easy to the show's young cast

The show also takes place entirely in the month of July, which presented problems of its own

“We did Paris but that was at the end of January and everyone was tired and cold,” Leo told Rolling Stone. “We were still pretending it was 15 July – and we were in limited clothing.”

Ambika continued: “From November onwards is when things started to get really tricky because we were outside with no clothes on, having to look like it was a nice warm summer’s evening, which was its own challenge that I didn’t think either of us could have foreseen going into this.

“Having watched it back, I’m very proud of us, you wouldn’t have been able to guess!”

“There were points where we had to almost hold our breath to stop frosty breath coming out,” Leo then added.

Adverse weather was apparently a bit of a recurring theme

According to Time Out, some on-screen magic was used to make Dexter look older for his second venture to Arthur’s Seat, which proved problematic when high-force winds came into effect.

One Day is available to stream now on Netflix.


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