Warning: This post contains spoilers for I Hate Suzie season 1.
If you’re familiar with creator Lucy Prebble’s other projects, like Secret Diary of a Call Girl or HBO’s Succession, on which she’s a producer and writer, you have a slightly better chance of not being gobsmacked by the dark humor and frenetic energy of I Hate Suzie, her latest series now streaming on HBO Max. For this series, Prebble took on the role of co-creator with longtime collaborator (and Doctor Who alum) Billie Piper, who stars as the titular Suzie, and together, they’ve created an eight-episode breakdown of a breakdown, a madcap adventure through the mind and body of a woman whose life as she knows it has just been utterly shattered. In a new exclusive interview with SheKnows, Prebble, Piper, and Suzie co-star Leila Farzad tell us how this portrait of a woman on the verge came together.
Suzie Pickles, a child star turned major actress, loses life as she knows it when a cell phone hacker leaks nude photos of Suzie — with a man who isn’t her husband — to the world. Suzie tries to claw her way back into control of the situation with the help of razor-sharp manager Naomi (Farzad), but fumbles again and again, until you find yourself wondering how much she can really want to fix things after all. According to these women, that’s exactly the point.
“I think we’re still fed the idea that somehow a husband and children is the norm and it’s a real relief to see a woman struggling with the idea of, do I want it? Or do I think I want it? Because how are you meant to be sure about something so unbelievably enormous?” Farzad explains, whose own character Naomi, unmarried, grapples similarly with what she wants out of the rest of her life.
Farzad speaks of a stigma around admitting that you might not want “the norm,” and Prebble adds that this is exactly what I Hate Suzie was meant to represent: saying things out loud that there’s a stigma against saying out loud.
“When Billie and I were creating the show together to begin with one of the things we put up on the wall was ‘things we feel but don’t think we can say,'” Prebble said.
That, then, may account for why so much of I Hate Suzie feels jarring, both visually and emotionally: we’re not used to watching characters who deviate from what we’re supposed to want, even in a work of fiction.
“We both wanted to be very, very cards on the table, very very honest about our experiences as women,” Piper says — and it’s the honesty that feels key, the ugly bit of honesty that makes us uncomfortable when we watch Suzie repeatedly cheat on her husband or spend all night in a hotel suite doing cocaine, and not necessarily feel happier for doing the wrong things either. I Hate Suzie takes the frenetic energy of a woman unhappy and unsure where to turn, and thrusts it onto the viewer: What would you do? And how about now?
The tension felt throughout I Hate Suzie is the tension between what women are expected to do and the many, many ways our pursuit of a certain kind of life has failed us. To watch I Hate Suzie is to step into the discomfort of a woman who’s suddenly no longer sure she’s holding the wheel of her own life, but who refuses to stop steering anyway. It’s exhilarating, it’s exhausting, and it’s about time we saw it on TV.
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