Conversations With Friends cast address Nick and Frances age gap: ‘Part of it’

Conversations With Friends BBC Three trailer

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After steamy college romance Normal People took BBC viewers by storm during the first Covid lockdown, the same team of creators have returned to bring bestselling author Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations With Friends to the small screen. Ahead of its release this Sunday, the cast have pre-empted some of the show’s potential backlash regarding the age difference between the two romantic leads.

Joe Alwyn and newcomer Alison Oliver don’t think the age difference between their characters should be the main takeaway from the new Sally Rooney-inspired TV drama.

In her first ever screen role, Alison portrays a young poet and publishing assistant, Frances, who falls in with an aspirational older couple after a poetry reading.

“I think it’s there but honestly, it’s not something, I think, as a series we really lean into,” Joe assured at the series’ premiere.

“I don’t think it’s like, ‘This is a story about a way older man having a relationship with a way younger woman’.”

After taking her friend Bobbi (played by Sasha Lane) to visit successful author Melissa Conway (Jemima Kirke), she starts developing an undeniable attraction to her soft-spoken actor husband, Nick (Alwyn).

From there, the two begin a quiet affair which begins with flirtatious texts and theatre visits and eventually develops into something more intense.

Meanwhile, Bobbi is also grappling with her own feelings for Melissa, and the stage is set for a more meditative yet equally compelling follow-up to Normal People.

Though it’s never directly confirmed just how far apart they are in age, Nick clearly has a few years of experience over his love interest, who has just started her life as a young professional.

However, Joe maintained viewers shouldn’t be preoccupied with the age gap, and simply sit back and enjoy the thoughtful and messy drama which plays out over the course of the series.

He explained: “It’s obviously part of it but I never really thought about it in terms of that dynamic.

“I think that these are two people who, particularly in the beginning, are at a pretty low point in their lives and searching for something. Certainly, in this case, he’s at a point of recovery from which you don’t know what it is until later.”

Joe went on to describe how Nick and Frances’ romance goes on to embody so much more than their generational and experiential differences.

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“They say opposites attract,” he continued. “But I think they’re quite similar in energies in some way, and they’re both used to being defined by capable, outspoken people next to them.

“So it’s interesting what happens when those people step to the side in some sense and they provide a space for the other person to grow and heal a little bit.

“But I never thought of it really as like, ‘This is an old guy having a good time with a young girl.’ I’m sure it’s in his mind to a degree, but it never felt, for me, even reading the book, like a huge theme. It never felt like the crux of it.”

His co-star Alison weighed in, adding: “We really did lean into the side of Frances exercising her own agency.

“She, in a lot of ways, is sending the initial texts and actually really thrilled by a lot of that, that he’s responding to her in that way.

“I think that’s the less conventional thing, actually. It’ll be more interesting to see how it happens with that point of view.”

And Jemima suggested: “It’s not so much the age difference as it is the stakes are different for each of them. They’re at very different stages in their timeline in terms of achievements and success.

“I think the number is just representative. The age difference is subtle for a reason. I don’t think it’s supposed to be so big that it’s the only thing.”

The series has already received some divisive feedback when compared to 2020’s smash hit drama starring Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones, but viewers will soon be able to make up their own minds on whether Conversations With Friends stacks up later this week.

Conversations With Friends premieres Sunday, May 15 on BBC and Hulu.

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