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I TALK TO Lydia Wilson

Lydia Wilson took the lead in BBC One's Requiem and now she's back on our screens starring alongside Anna Paquin in W's new drama Flack.

"I was worried that the way I wanted to play Eve would be too outrageous..."

It's not a scandal if nobody knows. That's the tagline for W's new female-led, sharp, feisty and deliciously entertaining new drama Flack. The six-part series, written by Wilson's Requiem co-star Oliver Lansley, centres around Paquin's character Robyn, an American PR executive who lives in London.

We follow Robyn across the six episodes as she figures out how to make the best of bad situations, using work as a distraction from her personal life, which grows ever more out of control.

Wilson plays Eve, Robyn’s foul-mouthed best friend and colleague, who comes from a world of money, influence and privilege. And boy does she know it and own it. Most of the laughs in Flack can be attributed to Eve who has some killer one-liners throughout the series.

The series also stars Sophie Okonedo, Rebecca Benson, Arinzé Kene, Marc Warren, Genevieve Angelson and Rufus Jones.

I recently caught up with Lydia to talk about her favourite moments from Flack, what it was like working with Anna and whether or not she'd be friends with Eve.

First things first, how would you describe Flack?

It is a show about the PR industry and the celebrity obsessed culture that we're living in and it explores the possible human cost of keeping that facade up. Behind-the-scenes there are all these people in the wings who are manufacturing them.

What was it that first attracted you to Eve?

I could just hear her voice. I think Oli writes so well that I just had to do the voice that I could already hear in the scripts. It was really unusual because sometimes you have to build people from lots of different places, but this character was sort of up and running as soon as I read her.

That being said, did you base her on anyone?

Well... (Laughs) I guess she's reminiscent of a lot of iconic characters that everyone knows. And yes, I did put a couple of people into the blender that I know. But I guess I probably shouldn't say who!

Did you speak to any PRs before filming?

I spoke to my friend Julia who's a PR agent and I ran a few of the storylines past her and she kept going "Oh yeah, that would happen". I was worried that the way I wanted to play Eve would be too outrageous but she said to me "Babes, you couldn't go far enough!"

She told me some anecdotes which I obviously can't reveal but reassured me that not only was the script very true to life but also that people in her world would celebrate a show that really leaned in to some of the stereotypes.

Do you think you could be friends with Eve?

Eve would bully me... initially. But now that I'm a big strong grown-up of 34, I would take up the challenge and go out and get drunk with her and realise that she probably has a lot to teach me about being sassy and not giving too much of an F about what other people think of you. But she's very loyal.

She does have a great friendship with Robyn though doesn't she?

Absolutely. She's completely in love with her. Eve is slightly worried about not having substance as a person and she thinks that Robyn, with her extraordinary backstory, is brilliant at putting on masks. Not only that, but also being American and so smart and so beautiful, and complicated - I think Eve finds that really compelling and really looks up to Robyn. She thinks of Robyn as 3D and sees herself as only 2D. She will be loyal to the end to Robyn.

What's her relationship like with Melody?

I think that Eve's probably a bit jealous of Melody, because Melody sounds like the name you'd give to a child that you really love. Eve thinks she was silver-spooned into the industry where as Melody's there on her own merit.

She expects a lot from Melody but I do think that Eve respects her and the only way she can show this is by attacking her. That being said, I think asking her to manage her dating profile is quite unacceptable!

Can you ever see a time where Eve lets her guard down?

I don't even think she knows what that would look like. I think that's the problem. There probably is something underneath, but it's very under-developed.

Eve is the queen of the one-liners. Any favourites?

I wish this isn't what sprung to mind first, but "I'll punch you so hard in the vagina, I'll turn you in to a glove puppet" - it took us about half an hour to get through that line because Anna couldn't get through it without corpsing!

Speaking of Anna, what was it like working with her?

It was amazing actually and we talked earlier about looking up to somebody like Eve does to Robyn and I really do to Anna. I grew up with her as a bit of an icon and I've always really respected her work. She always seems to choose really beautiful, intelligent and deep projects - so when I heard that she was doing this, I was really excited.

She holds the space in the middle of this show with proper actor's weight. On screen you realise what a dark performance she's giving and what a hard thing that must have been for her. Whilst we were having a lot of fun - and so was she - but she really holds the toxic centre of this celebrity PR story and I'm full of admiration for her.

And then of course she'll also be producing and so protective of us. She briefed us before to say "If anything or anyone makes you feel uncomfortable, you tell me" - she was ready to take her gloves off at any moment for us.

What were your favourite scenes to shoot?

I like all the stuff in the office. I like it when Melody and Sophie (Okonedo)'s character Caroline and Anna and I get to pinball around.

How do you think you'd cope as a PR?

Honestly, I don't know how they do it! The hours and keeping things friendly whilst also being a mastermind of strategy etc. - maybe it would be thrilling or maybe I'd have a nervous breakdown. It's just the hours! Getting up in the morning, doing stuff in the evening as well, I'm lost in admiration basically.

What was it like watching the first episode on the big screen with an audience at the press launch?

It was great. My brothers came and they found it funny. I also did take away the darkness of Anna's performance. The reality she brought to it was shocking and I thought at the time, if I got into this show, it's because I got really caught up in her story. It reminds me a bit of The Handmaid's Tale. Elisabeth Moss does something so still, but I got completely drawn in in such a deep way and I feel like Anna's holding that space.

How are you hoping audiences will take to Flack?

I hope people love its irreverence and find it actually funny. It has a level of velocity that a lot of comedy shows don't have.

I have big hopes and hope people really relax and go "Ah, they're saying something much worse than I could have even said". After the screening my agent came up to me and said "Just when I thought my job was something, it's not like that!"

Flack starts Thursday 21st February at 10pm on W


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