The brilliantly compulsive TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People immediately catapulted itself into our hearts (and our TV viewing schedules) when it was released last year. It seems no one could get enough of Marianne and Connell or their tender coming-of-age tale of first love, and we’ve since been left with a Normal People-sized hole in our lives.
Alas, we do have something to look forward to, as the BBC gave the green light to a dramatisation of Rooney’s lauded 2017 debut novel, Conversations with Friends, which earned the author her reputation as ‘the first great millennial author’.
Rooney will again collaborate with Oscar-nominated Irish auteur Lenny Abrahamson and Royal Court playwright Alice Birch (both of whom worked on the production of Normal People) to produce the new series. In a statement, the author said: ‘I am so pleased to be working with the team at Element, Lenny Abrahamson and the BBC to produce an adaptation of Conversations with Friends.’
Here’s everything we know so far about the exciting adaptation…
Set in Dublin, the novel, which Rooney wrote in just three months and was published when she was 26, follows a year in the life of 21-year-old protagonist Frances as she and her ex-girfriend Bobbi become increasingly involved in a complex ‘love quadrilateral’ with an older, sophisticated married couple, Nick and Melissa. The relationships inevitably become muddled, lines are blurred and hearts are broken as their four lives collide and make lasting impacts on each other.
It’s imagined that the plot will stay fairly true to the book, however Rooney revealed in a statement that she is ‘confident we’re going to find fresh and interesting ways of dramatising the novel’s dynamics, and I’m excited to watch the process take shape.’ All we know is, with the writer heavily involved, we can rest assured it will be another achingly beautiful moment of storytelling.
Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, stated: ‘We are all addicted to Sally Rooney’s writing and will plunder her literary canon as long as she is writing. And so, on the back of the taut and tangled Normal People we are delighted that Sally has entrusted us, and the wonderfully talented people at Element Pictures, with her debut novel Conversations With Friends. To top it all Lenny Abrahamson has agreed to continue his association with Sally to direct.’
While the storylines in Normal People and Conversations with Friends are completely unrelated, they do both explore similar themes of love, hurt, friendship and desire, and can both be categorised as coming-of-age tales and stories of first love.
The cast includes Alison Oliver, a graduate of Dublin’s Lir Academy (which also counts Normal People‘s Paul Mescal as alumni), in the lead role of Frances and Sasha Lane, who has starred in American Honey and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, will star as her ex-girlfriend and best friend Bobbi.
Joe Alwyn (of The Favourite, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and coincidentally Taylor Swift’s boyfriend) is Nick and Girls star Jemima Kirke is set to play his wife, Melissa.
Director Abrahamson said in a statement: ‘I feel so excited to be collaborating with four such superb actors to bring Sally’s brilliant novel to the screen. Over the last few months it has been a privilege to work alongside Element Pictures and our extraordinary team of writers to get the scripts to a point where we all feel so excited to start shooting.’
When asked if the show would take place within the same universe as Normal People, she said: ‘Yes, that’s perfect! And Connell could be some moping boy in the background, licking his pencil. Now we’re talking, that’s gold!’
Okay, so Marianne and Connell might not be a permanent appearance in the new show. But wouldn’t it be great to see them in a surprise cameo?
The air date
In an exclusive interview with Radio Times, director Abrahamson said that the show is in production but she doesn’t know when it will air.
On 26 April 2021, it was revealed that filming for Conversations with Friends had officially started and the news was obviously very exciting for fans.
— Conversations with Friends (@ConvosOnHulu) April 26, 2021
The official Twitter account for the series shared a behind-the-scenes photo, writing: ‘It’s day one of filming #ConversationswithFriends in Northern Ireland! We’re so excited to bring this world to life.’
While things are finally underway, it’s fair to assume we could be waiting a little while longer for the drama to grace our screens. We do know that it will consist of 12 half hour episodes and will be produced for BBC Three.
In the meantime, we can keep rewatching Normal People to keep our burgeoning Sally Rooney desire satiated, and working our way through this Normal People-esque reading list.