I TALK TO Melissa Saint

"If people are going in expecting it to be like Friday Night Dinner, they're in for a shock."

From the second Channel 4 announced Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper's next project, I Hate You, I have been eagerly awaiting its arrival. At the start of 2022 I included Melissa Saint in my TV Stars of Tomorrow list as she prepared to co-lead this new comedy with Tanya Reynolds.

Launching on Thursday 13th October on Channel 4, I Hate You is getting an exclusive early release on All 4 today (Thursday 29th September).

The six-part series follows an intense, messy friendship between two friends in their mid-20s, Charlie played by Tanya Reynolds and Becca played by Melissa Saint in her first major TV role.

I Hate You is about the one friend you can say anything to and do anything with: the idiotic in-jokes, the laughing till you almost puke, as well as the insane bickering and late-night shouting matches. It's about that one friend you really love - and really hate.

Charlie, a bit of a worrier who thinks 99% of humans are dickheads, and Becca, who has no embarrassment gene and usually makes the wrong decision, share a flat that is half spotless (Becca's room) and half 'shittery' (Charlie's room). Together, they're complete chaos. And you really should be crossing that road when they're walking towards you...

Across the series, Charlie learns the perils of jogging to jazz, Becca tries to seduce her own stepbrother, the girls meet a guy who believes humans came from bears, and both start dating older guys - more specifically, men in their 70s. All of this, plus a lord who keeps a fly as his pet.

Now that I Hate You is finally here, launching early on All 4, I caught up with newcomer Melissa Saint to talk about her first major TV role including working with Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper, her on and off-screen friendship with Tanya Reynolds and so much more.

This is your first major role in a television series, so let's start at the very beginning then, how did you first get into acting?

I actually didn't want to go straight into acting. I knew I'd always wanted to do it, but I wanted to set myself up before that, so I went to university and studied English because I enjoy writing.

Then when I came out of university, I went to IDSA (Identity School of Acting) for a year. After that, I thought I needed to get an agent, but how am I going to do that? What is this industry? I kind of went into meltdown.

I got a group of friends together from the class that I was in and decided that we should just create some work which would represent me as a young black female. At the time, I felt like there wasn't enough out there that represented me accurately. There were too many stereotypes, too much trauma and suffering.

So I co-wrote a play with a friend called PYNEAPPLE. That got commissioned at the Bunker Theatre which was insane. We dropped a trailer on Twitter which everyone really loved and Chris Sonnex (Artistic Director, Bunker Theatre) called up my director and asked if we wanted to bring PYNEAPPLE to the Bunker in three weeks. So we were like "Yeah! Of course."

I then got signed to Denton (Denton Brierley) which was insane. It was a very insane year for me. And then we were supposed to go to VAULT, but the pandemic shut everything down. Which meant I had a year of lots of auditions, sending lots of tapes and banging my head against the wall.

I did an episode of Doctors and then I got this through. And do I say, the rest is history? Maybe I do.

So when the script for I Hate You came along, what was your initial reaction?

When it came through, it was for a new pilot, a taster for Channel 4 and when I got it, it was a final callout. Which I later learnt, meant that they'd spent four months trying to find someone to play the role of Becca.

I remember reading the script and thinking - OK, this is tricky dialogue. I didn't know if it would sit in my mouth really well, so I had to take a minute to get the pacing right and get the words in my mouth so that they felt natural. And not try to be funny.

Sometimes with comedy, there's a fine line. We're not trying to be funny, but it's a funny script. Everything is there, so you have to play it as naturally as you can.

Melissa Saint and Tanya Reynolds as Becca and Charlie in I Hate You

How would you describe I Hate You?

It's about the lives of two best friends. It's about having that one friend that you love so much, but also really hate because they drive you a bit nuts. You can be your full self around them. You can say what you want. You can be really filterless. It's like unconditional love. They feel like family.

Whenever I talk to people about it, I tell them it's a ridiculous show. It's absolutely nuts. It's bonkers. The tone of it is unserious but also relatable and actually, I think after everything that's been happening, it's what people really need right now. It feels like something that I haven't seen. It sits in its own realm of comedy.

What drew you to Becca? What kind of character is she?

I always say that she's absolutely filterless. She can be immature at times as well and she can be a bit selfish, but I think sometimes as human beings, we have to be. She just does what suits her which is something I really like about the character.

She doesn't think very much about repercussions or what other people will think about her. Her self-esteem is level 100. She's fun as well. She gets herself into ridiculous situations and then just has to get over it.

Is there something in Becca you wish you had?

The things I wish I could take from her would be the way that she does the most ridiculous things and doesn't think twice about it. I'm quite a sensible human being. I'm quite a sensible woman. And she just does things that I would never do because they're really dangerous or stupid.

That freedom to do something, not care and not give two craps about consequences is something I kind of wish I had. I'm less of a risk taker than she is.

Becca works in a curtain shop. A job she doesn't like. What's the worst job you've ever had?

She doesn't like her job very much, no. I don't think I've had any terrible jobs, to be honest. I used to work in a sports shop. That was my first job and I worked there for quite a while. I left when I went to uni and transferred stores, then transferred back to London.

I think that whilst sometimes retail can just make you... I think when you're surrounded by good people and you get on with your colleagues, it always makes it enjoyable. I don't think I've ever had any really bad jobs. I tend to stay in them for a long period of time, as well.

Melissa Saint and Tanya Reynolds as Becca and Charlie in I Hate You