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I Hate Suzie Too: 'A fun ride through the glitter and the blood of Christmas'
We hear from Billie Piper, Lucy Prebble, Omari Douglas and more of the cast and creators of I Hate Suzie Too, which is coming to Sky Atlantic and NOW on December 20.
Stream I Hate Suzie Too on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Tuesday 20 December
It might be Christmas time, but things are getting even darker for Suzie in season 2.
Now living apart from her son Frank and going through an acrimonious legal battle with her ex-husband Cob (Daniel Ings), she is attempting to revive her career and public image by taking part in TV’s most popular Christmas reality show, Dance Crazee.
Dance Crazee is a chance to restore Suzie’s reputation and rediscover her childhood love for dance, but with her new PR team and the producers crafting her story, her first husband Bailey (Douglas Hodge) also taking part in the show, and chaos in her home life, events are even more dramatic off the stage than on it.
With a new cast for season 2, including It’s A Sin’s Omari Douglas, we discovered more about the making of I Hate Suzie Too.
'A fun ride through the glitter and the blood of Christmas'
We might normally associate TV dramas set at Christmas with cheer and goodwill to all, but I Hate Suzie Too’s co-creator Lucy Prebble believes that the festive setting is perfect for the chaos and bleakness of this series.
“Christmas is a fascinating time, filled with as much pain and mayhem as joy. Women particularly, I think, feel a lot of pressure and chaos around this time,” said Prebble.
“It’s an emotionally heightened time. This series is very much about extremes and opposites: the onstage glitter vs the backstage tat. The most wonderful time of the year vs the period where people are most likely to decide to get divorced.”
She added: “Most art feels a pressure to present Christmas as something magical and sweet and twee, but it can also be a nightmare.
"This is a fun ride through the glitter and the blood of Christmas, and I think will feel quite cathartic for everyone who feels they have to keep up a certain face at the most wonderful time of the year.”
'You're on the rollercoaster with Suzie'
It’s A Sin star Omari Douglas is one of the new cast joining in season 2, alongside Douglas Hodge and Blake Harrison.
Omari plays Suzie’s new trendy PR Holland Fitz-Patrick who is trying to boost his client’s public image and whose elegance and poise is in contrast to the grubbiness of his work.
“I was completely obsessed with [season 1]” said Omari, who admits he was determined to land a role in the new episodes.
“Its style and point of view were like nothing I’d seen. I loved that there was this hero who should be difficult to like: you got this hyper-focused view of someone trying to navigate life. Despite all the obstacles, she’s able to maintain her sense of agency and autonomy and fight for her independence. She owns her sh*t!"
Season 2 has the same adrenaline and stress levels as the first, but the young actor said it was a joy to work alongside the creative team of Piper and Prebble.
“It felt like me and Anastasia (Hille, playing Sian) were constantly on the move, quite literally, so there were always stakes involved,” he said.
“Lucy Prebble’s writing is so pacey, you don’t have the time to second guess anything, you’re just on that ride. You’ve often got one shot sequences, so it felt like live performance in the sense that you’re not really doing much cutting, you’re just going straight through, on the roller coaster with Suzie’s (Billie Piper) madness.
“There was something enjoyable about leaning into the stress of those situations”.
'For a while we thought about making it into a movie'
Billie Piper admits that the process of making season 1 left her feeling exhausted and that she was anxious about returning to the character.
“We had the support from Sky to have some time, a year or so, then we started feeling energised and alive to new ideas,” said Piper.
“I was having a run and I remember having this fantasy of bringing Suzie into a dance competition to win back the love of the public.
“I felt really jacked about that, presented it to Lucy and we both started getting excited. Then it tumbled out and we decided to go away and get some sun and feel inspired, which was the beginning of the writing process.
“For a while we thought about making it into a movie, then decided on three single hours spread over Christmas, so there was some other sense of spectacle to it.”
It meant that I could do Strictly without doing it in any way. I’m in awe of those people.
- Billie Piper
And does the invented Dance Crazee reality series indicate a desire from Piper to take part in Strictly Come Dancing?
“No, never. It’s too scary,” says Piper. “This ticks so many boxes because it meant that I could do Strictly without doing it in any way. I’m in awe of those people. It’s just incredible to me.
“It’s bad enough coming out on set and doing the routine for the first time to a camera crew. Going live to the nation – how do they do it?”
'The anxiety in the show is baked into its DNA'
Series director Dawn Shadforth said that the “rabbit in the headlights” experiences of Suzie and inherent anxiety of the drama are enhanced by the filming methods requested by Prebble and Piper.
“Billie and Lucy really encouraged us to shoot in a bold way. One of the earliest directives from the execs was ‘Billie doesn’t like coverage’. So we really ran with this as a team going for long held takes and a moving camera,” said Shadforth.
“This approach, using long takes, not cutting, feeling like it’s all playing out in front of you in real time ramps up the feeling of tension.
"The stress and a certain rhythm has to be created in the performances and can’t be adjusted in the edit so we worked really hard to create the right pace and pitch of performance on camera in single takes, in the full knowledge that with this way of working we would have less options to change things in the edit as you normally would in TV," she added.
'Some of it is uncomfortable, but these things are uncomfortable'
Season 2 of Suzie is at times even bleaker than the first, but Piper believes that is was essential to show uncomfortable moments to capture “the truth” of female experiences.
“The show is a lot about motherhood,” said the actress.
“It’s about a woman who’s chosen to have an abortion at some point in her life but then chosen to have a child at another point in her life, and another woman who has chosen to do that later in life, and it’s hard and problematic and deeply sad.
“There’s no point in talking about those things unless they are going to be fully exposed and wholly authentic. Some of it is uncomfortable, but these things are uncomfortable and really challenging.
“Or sometimes they’re very clear: a very clear choice and not something people think about a great deal.
“We wanted to talk about that too. For some women, abortion is a deeply traumatic thing. For others, it’s just not the right time in their life and they don’t give it much thought. Unearthing that felt really important, because that is the truth.”
The show’s third episode is going to shock viewers, but there was never any consideration to making it more comfortable or uncompromising.
“The last couple of years have offered some genuinely shocking and unacceptable realities concerning women,” said Prebble.
“I don’t think we wanted to end the show on anything except an honest expression of that. I don’t think a tidy resolution would be right. I’m tired of my tragedies about women being valued less than my tragedies about men.
“I’m tired of them being called messy when what I write is apoplectic. I don’t have any more smiles to hand out.”
And is there any chance of a season 3? If Suzie Pickles does return, we’ll have to wait a while.
“It’s like when you have a kid and they’re four months old, and someone asks if you’re going to have another kid,” said Piper.
“How could I possibly have another kid? That’s how this show feels to me.”
Stream I Hate Suzie Too on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Tuesday, 20 December