Few women in the film and TV industry can compare to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. As a writer, actress, and producer, Waller-Bridge is a monumental talent. After a series of relatively small roles in films and shows like “Albert Nobbs,” “The Iron Lady,” and “Broadchurch,” she burst onto the scene with her show “Fleabag.” The show was based on her one-woman show of the same name about a young woman’s trials and tribulations with modern life in London. After starring in and writing the show, Waller-Bridge quickly became one to watch. The first season ended up winning four Emmys.
After her success with “Fleabag,” Waller-Bridge continued to act, but it was her writing career that really took off. From 2018 to 2019, she wrote the award-winning series “Killing Eve.” She also joined the writing team of the James Bond film “No Time to Die” and a new TV series called “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (via IMDb). It’s clear that Waller-Bridge is set to become one of the biggest writers and actors around. Curious to find out more about her? Here is the untold truth of Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge fell in love with acting after performing in a school play
Phoebe Waller-Bridge got her first taste of the limelight when she was still pretty young. As she explained in a 2019 interview with NPR, she fell in love with acting during her first school play — even though she didn’t exactly have a big part. “I remember my first-ever job at my school … it wasn’t a job. It was just a play … at school. I [must have] been about 8,” she said. The play was “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw. “I really wanted to play the lead,” Waller-Bridge recalled, “and I was cast as the butler. And I was furious.”
Apparently, the character only had three lines. Even though Waller-Bridge didn’t get the starring role, she still made the most of the opportunity. “I just made my voice really low and just spoke really slowly and kind of screwed this whole scene up for everyone else,” she said. She made a few people in the audience laugh, and, from then on, she was hooked. “I was like, ‘I’ve found my reason for living,'” she said. Sounds like Waller-Bridge found her talent for comedy pretty early on!
Phoebe Waller-Bridge spoke to a monk to write the "Hot Priest" in "Fleabag"
As fans of “Fleabag” will remember, the second season of the show featured a surprisingly steamy romance between Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character and Andrew Scott’s “Hot Priest.” The storyline followed the celibate priest as he struggled with his feelings for Fleabag. As Waller-Bridge explained to NPR, she was careful to write this struggle with as much honesty as she could. “I spoke to a monk quite extensively,” she said. “It was very important to me that this priest in [‘Fleabag’] was portrayed as a fully multidimensional person and that … we could really feel his struggle.”
As Waller-Bridge went on to explain, the monk that she spoke to was “incredibly, incredibly open.” He apparently told her that celibacy was a “daily struggle.” She said, “He basically was saying it’s a bloody nightmare.” No wonder Scott’s portrayal of the conflicted priest felt so real.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge has two siblings who also work in the entertainment industry
While Phoebe Waller-Bridge may be the only Waller-Bridge you know, it turns out, she actually comes from a super talented family. Her sister, Isobel Waller-Bridge, is a famous musician and composer, who actually wrote the entire soundtrack for “Fleabag.” As Isobel told Radio Times, it was “the dreamiest collaboration.” She added, “I honestly can’t tell you how much fun it is to work with your best mate.” Isobel also did the soundtracks for ITV’s “Vanity Fair,” BBC’s “War & Peace,” and “Dark Horse,” along with dozens of theatrical productions.
Phoebe’s brother, Jasper Waller-Bridge, is also in the entertainment industry. He works as a producer for Day One Entertainment. Previously, he worked at Sony Music and had even worked as the manager for Harry Styles. His other claim to fame is his girlfriend. In 2019, it was announced that Jasper was dating Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” fame (via Birmingham Mail).
Phoebe Waller-Bridge got her posh accent from attending boarding school
As fans of “Fleabag” probably know, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a pretty posh accent. As she explained to The Guardian, she didn’t always sound so prim and proper. In fact, she got her accent when she was 11 when she was sent off to boarding school for a year. When she returned home, the other children apparently couldn’t understand what she was saying.
As one interviewer for Vogue noted, many fans Google, “Is Phoebe Waller-Bridge a Tory?” presumably due to her voice. Waller-Bridge told the publication, “I don’t know what’s worse — the idea that people are writing that with hope or fear? No, I’m not a Tory. Proudly not a Tory.”
While Waller-Bridge is proud of her progressive politics, her posh accent does affect the universality of her work. As one reviewer for The Guardian wrote, “‘Fleabag’ is a work of undeniable genius. But it is for posh girls … Fleabag is posh, and so is her creator.”
Phoebe Waller-Bridge gets inspiration from books
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is famous for writing smart, unique scripts. As she explained to The Guardian, she often uses books to help her get inspired. When asked what she likes to read, Waller-Bridge replied, “It can be literally anything. I just feel it’s good to jolt the brain a little.” She went on to explain that while writing “Fleabag,” she ended up reading her flatmate’s copy of “Vagina” by Naomi Wolf. “I read a paragraph on the creative power of the orgasm and it gave me the idea for the Godmother character having an orgasm while she painted a picture,” she said. It sounds like books give Waller-Bridge plenty of inspiration. We wonder what other moments in “Fleabag” were inspired by things she happened to read.
In a 2019 interview with The New York Times, Waller-Bridge opened up about some of her favorite books. A few of her recent reads included “Three Women” by Lisa Taddeo, “So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away” by Richard Brautigan, and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” by George Saunders.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge met her onscreen sister, Sian Clifford, at drama school
One of the best things about “Fleabag” was the relationship between Fleabag and her sister, Claire. Sian Clifford, who played Claire, is actually a close friend of Phoebe Waller-Bridge. As Clifford told the Los Angeles Times, the pair met while studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. When they happened to ride the subway together in their first week at school, they became fast friends. “By the end of that journey,” Clifford recalled, “I can honestly say we were really close friends, and that’s never wavered.”
As Waller-Bridge told the publication, she noticed Clifford’s sophisticated approach to acting early on. “When the rest of us at drama school were throwing ourselves at walls and wearing ridiculous costumes to get attention, she was working on the detail, the depth and the integrity of the character,” she said. Apparently, Clifford first played a version of Claire in a sketch written by Waller-Bridge 10 years before the show was written. Eventually, the scene from the sketch ended up in the show. We totally love their friendship!
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is BFFs with Emerald Fennell
Phoebe Waller-Bridge seems to have plenty of super cool friends. In addition to Sian Clifford, Waller-Bridge is also close friends with the actress and writer Emerald Fennell. You probably know Fennell as Camilla from “The Crown“ or as the writer and director of the smash hit “Promising Young Woman.”
The pair met while on-set shooting the film “Albert Nobbs” (via Grazia). Both women have a wry, dry sense of humor that comes across in their writing, so it’s no surprise they became close friends. As Waller-Bridge later said of Fennell to The New York Times, she is “the most stylish person I’ve ever met. Not just in her work and her appearance, but in her spirit, how she speaks, how she carries herself.”
When Fennell was eventually chosen to take over from Waller-Bridge as the writer of “Killing Eve” in Season 2, she was the perfect fit — and Waller-Bridge was clearly pleased with her friend’s work. As Waller-Bridge told Harper’s Bazaar, “Her roar is very evident in it and that’s what gives it its energy.”
Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a bizarre writing routine
Every writer has their own unique approach to getting words down on paper. For Phoebe Waller-Bridge, writing isn’t exactly a tidy process. As she told The Guardian, she writes “in bed. On Post-its. Often in weird combinations of clothes.” She added that she doesn’t like to write in public in cafes. When the inspiration strikes, she can apparently write “all day and night in bed.”
In fact, Waller-Bridge can get so carried away with her writing that she even forgets to eat. She joked that she will then get “panic-hungry at around 5 p.m., scramble downstairs on all fours like a fox and eat everything in the fridge.”
Of course, her writing routine isn’t always so isolated. Sometimes, she also works in an office with her producers. “We put all my notes — ideas, images, jokes — on the wall, then talk about them for hours, moving them around to see if it sparks anything,” she said.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is dating this playwright
Phoebe Waller-Bridge was married to the author Conor Woodman until 2018 (via Express). Since then, she has dated another well-known writer, Martin McDonagh. You may know McDonagh as the writer behind movies like “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “In Bruges,” and “Seven Psychopaths.” He’s also the playwright behind well-known plays like “The Pillowman,” “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” and “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.”
Talk about a writing power couple! As Waller-Bridge told The Guardian that she first became aware of McDonagh when she saw his play “The Pillowman” years before meeting him. “It was the first play I saw that made me think theater can be really exciting,” she gushed. While Waller-Bridge is happy to praise her boyfriend’s skilled writing, she’s a little more private when it comes to their personal lives. As she told Vogue, “I’m much braver in my writing life.”
In 2020, The Sun reported that the pandemic may have put a strain on things. One source claimed (via Mirror), “Phoebe decided to isolate at home with her sister, who she gets on well with, and concentrate on work projects,” which meant the relationship took a “back seat.”
Phoebe Waller-Bridge once auditioned for this famous TV show
Phoebe Waller-Bridge seems to have enjoyed one success after another throughout her career. However, like all actors, she has also had her setbacks. In a 2017 roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, she opened up about one of her failed auditions. As she explained, she once had an awful audition for “Downton Abbey.” “I went in and I remember it was quite a serious part and I had really been auditioning for comedy for a couple of years and I was really thrilled to come in for this part, so I really put my heart and soul into it,” she said. Apparently, the audition scene took place in a church. “I gave this really heartfelt audition, and when I finished, they were like, ‘We had no idea she was so f***ing hilarious!'”
It sounds like Waller-Bridge was just too funny for this mystery role on “Downton Abbey.” As she put it, “I had really given myself, and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re not right.'” It just goes to show — you can’t win them all!
Phoebe Waller-Bridge was really slapped by Olivia Colman in Fleabag
One incredibly memorable scene in “Fleabag” featured Phoebe Waller-Bridge getting slapped by Olivia Colman, who played her godmother on the show. As Waller-Bridge told Vulture, that slap was 100% real!
“I basically had a fight with Olivia Colman,” she said. “She did whack me really hard.” Luckily, they managed to get the shot in one take. And, as Waller-Bridge explained, having a real slap meant that it looked incredibly real. “It was just so great to have that flush of red [on my cheek] and have the genuine reaction,” she said. “Because even though I know it’s coming, it’s still pretty shocking when you’re slapped by a national treasure.” At least she was able to see the bright side of the situation.
And it seems it paid off. As Paste wrote the slap was “louder than that one we heard on ‘The Good Wife’ series finale.” High praise indeed.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge founded a theater company
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is best known for her television work, but her show “Fleabag” started out as a one-woman play. Waller-Bridge actually founded her own theater company called DryWrite, through which she produced the play, along with her good friend Vicky Jones. Jones went on to direct the TV series, according to Harper’s Bazaar.
Their theater company also produced Jack Thorne’s play “Mydidae,” which also featured Waller-Bridge in the cast and Jones as the director, and the play “Touch.”
In addition to producing theatrical productions, DryWrite went on to produce a few television productions, including “Run,” which premiered on HBO in 2020 (via Deadline). As Jones told The Times, “For me this is all very big and very exciting for it to do well would be beyond amazing.” It sounds like Waller-Bridge and Jones are just getting started as longterm collaborators.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge joined the writing team of a James Bond movie
As if Phoebe Waller-Bridge didn’t have enough impressive credits on her writing resume, she’s now credited as one of the four screenwriters on the James Bond film “No Time to Die.” As Waller-Bridge told radio host Chris Evans, it was literally a dream job (via Independent). “I had been sort of been dreaming about the idea of it only a few months beforehand,” she said.
Her role on the film involved fixing up some dialogue and offering ideas. As she put it, “It’s about just offering different alternatives.” As she went on to explain, Daniel Craig was involved in the script-building process, too.
In fact, it’s pretty clear that Craig is a big fan of Waller-Bridge’s work. In 2019, Craig was asked by The Times if her inclusion in the film helped the film “look more representative.” He retorted, “Look, we’re having a conversation about Phoebe’s gender here, which is f***ing ridiculous. She’s a great writer. Why shouldn’t we get Phoebe onto Bond?” He went on to explain that he had actually asked for her to join the team, calling her “one of the best English writers around.”
Phoebe Waller-Bridge comes from a well-off British family
As it turns out, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has some pretty impressive ancestors. According to the Express, the family was once landed gentry in Sussex. In other words, they were part of the upper class and “given an estate by the crown, and therefore the ability to live off the rent.” Her ancestors include Rev. Sir Egerton Leigh, a member of Parliament, and Sir John Edward Longueville Clerke, 12th Baronet of Hitcham (via BBC America).
It would seem Phoebe certainly benefited from a privileged upbringing. As one writer wrote on Twitter, “Your privilege didn’t create ‘Fleabag’ — but it helped ‘Fleabag’ get made!” Phoebe was definitely lucky to have a great education and a solid support system behind her so that she could take the time she needed to write “Fleabag” — but that doesn’t take away from her creative achievement. We just hope she uses her platform to champion some less privileged writers as her career progresses.
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