“Scientists are still trying to figure out how someone so utterly talented can be so lovely,” he quipped. (That talent extends to selecting collaborators, as “Fleabag” bagged outstanding casting and single-camera picture editing awards at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend.)
The second season of “Fleabag” — which premiered on Amazon this past spring, a couple months after its British debut — was a critical smash, with several writers going so far as to call it the “best show” on television. Among its many praised qualities was the refreshing conciseness of Waller-Bridge’s storytelling. Each season, the first released in 2016, consists of just six roughly half-hour episodes.
But those episodes pack a punch. The titular character’s demeanor is far from that of the “lovely” English actress who plays her; while accepting the writing award, Waller-Bridge described Fleabag as a “dirty, pervy, angry, messed-up woman.” The first season slowly exposed how the tragic death of her best friend led Fleabag to spiral and pull away from her remaining loved ones. The second, which Waller-Bridge hesitated to write given how complete the first felt, explored the dynamic between Fleabag and a character referred to as the Hot Priest (Andrew Scott), whose turbulent emotional state presents itself as a match for hers. This is a problem for them both, however, as the priest has committed himself to celibacy.
Speaking to The Washington Post in May, Waller-Bridge said conflicted characters like Fleabag and the priest are the ones she tends to root for “the most, because I can relate to that. It shows that someone is reaching for something good, if they’re testing themselves all the time.”
“Fleabag,” Waller-Bridge continued, is a manifestation of her past cynicism. She first wrote it as a comic monologue, which she performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014 and later brought to New York and London’s West End. While the television show unravels the reasons behind Fleabag’s caustic nature, it never loses its remarkable edginess. Finding humor in something as traumatizing as a miscarriage is a tall order, and yet Waller-Bridge managed to do just that in the second season premiere.
This isn’t the only prominent project to which she has brought her dry wit. Waller-Bridge also created the BBC America series “Killing Eve,” which on Sunday earned lead actress Jodie Comer her first Emmy. She plays a highly efficient, psychopathic assassin named Villanelle, who develops an obsession with MI5 security officer Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh, who was also nominated in the category). The feeling becomes mutual, and their relationship evolves from a cat-and-mouse dynamic into more of a cat-and-cat sort.
“The idea of power, and each of them having a different superpower, really made it easier to measure the changes between them,” Waller-Bridge told The Post. “Eve’s superpower is that she’s a super empath. She feels things very deeply and sees through people very quickly. Villanelle is the exact opposite, with her psychopathic traits. What became really fun was working out which one had the upper hand, and why.”
At the Emmys, Waller-Bridge jokingly pointed out a more difficult aspect of her job.
“I find writing really, really hard and really painful, but I’d like to say honestly, from the bottom of my heart, that the reason I do it is this,” she said with a smirk, holding up one of her awards.