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'Conversations With Friends' is an ode to flawed, messy relationships, cast says

Based on Sally Rooney’s book, the show follows two women (played by Alison Oliver and Sasha Lane) who become involved with an older couple (played by Joe Alwyn and Jemima Kirke).
Jemima Kirke, Sasha Lane, Alison Oliver, and Joe Alwyn in "Conversations with Friends"
Jemima Kirke, Sasha Lane, Alison Oliver, and Joe Alwyn in "Conversations with Friends." Enda Bowe / HULU

Warning: This article contains minor spoilers.

There are only two types of readers in the world: those who love Irish author Sally Rooney, and those who love to hate her.

The stars of Hulu’s and BBC’s “Conversations with Friends,” a show based on Rooney’s bestselling novel of the same name, belong to the former camp.

Before they were offered the series’ lead roles, Joe Alwyn and Alison Oliver said they were both “massive” fans of Rooney — who is best known for her spare, accessible prose that often tackles stories about messy relationships. And after reading Rooney’s books, cast members Jemima Kirke and Sasha Lane became devoted followers, too.

“I liked that I never felt that the book tied things up,” Alwyn said of Rooney's 2017 debut novel. “And even more so with the series, there’s an acceptance of being in flux, of the complexity of it all that will keep on going."

“Conversations with Friends,” which debuts on Hulu on Sunday, follows two female college students Frances and Bobbi (Oliver and Lane) whose lives unexpectedly become intertwined with an older married couple, Nick and Melissa (Alwyn and Kirke). The highly anticipated series is a follow-up to Hulu’s first Rooney adaptation, “Normal People,” which was released to critical acclaim in 2020.

The complicated web of relationships between all the characters — particularly that of Frances and Nick who begin an extramarital affair — taught Kirke that there were “so many different kinds of ways to be in love.”

“It doesn’t have to look like any one thing. It can be unconventional,” Kirke said. “Wrong or right, love is supposed to create some intense feeling in you that we all enjoy to an extent.”

She continued: “Love makes all these emotions feel like an array of colors, and I think there’s nothing wrong with being in the wrong relationship sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with struggling through a relationship and staying, and thinking it might just be worth it.”

Despite Frances and Nick being in "fragile places," the two are still able to find solace with each other's company, Oliver said of her character's actions.

Everything’s just always a little bit more complicated than it seems

-Actor Sasha Lane, who plays Bobbi

"There's a similarity in how they interact with the world," Oliver said. "They're both more introverted in their pairings and are used to being in the back seat a bit more in their relationships."

Like the other main characters, Nick can be "complex and contradictory and brilliant but also flawed," Alwyn said — which is exactly why the actor was attracted to the role in the first place.

Nick is "aloof" and "not great at communication, so it was a process to peel back those layers," Alwyn added, saying it was fun to flesh out every nook and cranny of his character.

Lane — who plays Bobbi, Frances' ex-girlfriend who also grows closer to Nick's wife, Melissa — said the show emphasizes that people can't always judge a book, or an affair, by its cover.

"Everything's just always a little bit more complicated than it seems... Relationships and love and all that," Lane said.

"S--- is just so much more complicated."