I Hate Suzie star Billie Piper reveals more about her new Sky series
- Credit: Ollie Upton
Billie Piper stars in new Sky series I Hate Suzie about an actress who has her phone hacked and incriminating photos leaked online.
What do you do when your phone is hacked and embarrassing photos are laid bare for everyone to see?
That’s the dilemma of bold new Sky original series I Hate Suzie.
Former teen pop star turned successful actress Billie Piper plays Suzie Pickles in the eight-part drama.
The Suzie of the title is a former child star now appearing as Molly, a feisty WW2 civilian fighting Nazi Zombies in streaming show ‘AfterDeath’.
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She has her life turned upside down when she is hacked and private pictures emerge of her in an extremely compromising position.
The series then shows the unravelling of her life in different chapters as we, and Suzie, discover what she hasn’t been able to so far – who she actually is.
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Episode by episode we follow her through the stages of shock, denial, fear, shame, bargaining, guilt, anger and acceptance as Suzie and her best friend and manager Naomi (Leila Farzad) try to hold her life, career and marriage to college lecturer Cob (Daniel Ings) together.
Some of the scenes of the series were shot in and around Potters Bar during October last year, although which episodes the town will appear in isn’t known yet.
I Hate Suzie was co-created by Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble, who worked together on Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Now good friends, they first met in the canteen at the BBC.
“We talked about Secret Diary of a Call Girl and I remember being very impressed and excited by how smart and open she was,” says writer Lucy.
“The stakes were high for both of us, so it’s amazing we became good friends!
“The best thing that came out of that show for me was Billie.
“I’ve never worked with an actor whose radar for emotional truth is as good and honed.”
Taking up the story, former Doctor Who star Billie says: “We were still in touch a lot after Call Girl – the origins of I Hate Suzie were many conversations at a particular time in our lives, our late twenties and early thirties, where everything became very intense.
“We were talking pretty much every day, it felt like a shared anxiety.
“It started off as more of a friendship-based show, but it feels tonally different to that now.”
Lucy adds: “It needed to have a big idea behind it.
“When I found that, the idea of a woman whose life unravels because of a hack, I thought, we can look at everything we want to look at through a clear, big, modern prism.”
While Billie, and the part she plays, were both child stars, the actress says the programme isn’t her life story.
“This is not autobiographical, but a lot of my own feelings are there as a woman in her thirties.
“My photos have never been hacked, for example.”
Revealing more about Billie’s character, Lucy says: “She had a high-profile role as a kid, and now has a part on a zombie show. So, she has a job but not a big lead role.”
As Billie puts it, “she’s on the wane”.
However, episode one sees Suzie about to star in a Disney film.
Fresh from the giddy high of winning the slightly humiliating role of an ageing princess who refuses to grow up in an upcoming Disney movie, Suzie is living in an idyllic home in the country, raising her deaf son Frank, with her equally perfect husband Cob, played by The Crown star Daniel Ings.
She’s even got chickens!
All seems well, until Suzie discovers compromising photos have been hacked from her phone.
Suzie’s apparently perfect life spectacularly implodes.
Georgi Banks-Davies directs the opening episode.
“It’s all immersive in the sense of Suzie’s emotional journey,” says Georgi.
“That first episode was designed to feel like one continuous journey, where it becomes more like a cacophony of madness.
“You’re never separate from Suzie emotionally, but each episode does a very different thing, which is the beauty of it for a filmmaker.”
From a background of commercials and short films, Georgi was attracted to the project.
“It was the structure and content of I Hate Suzie that grabbed me: each episode is like its own mini-film to reflect a different stage of grief and trauma, so you can transition through different aesthetics.
“There isn’t another show like it.”
The two central characters in Suzie Pickles’ life in I Hate Suzie are her manager Naomi and husband Cob.
Playing best friend Naomi, who tries to protect Suzie’s career after the hacking scandal, is Leila Farzad.
Smart, vulnerable, impatient, emotionally repressed, and political, Naomi has been in charge of Suzie’s life for as long as they can both remember.
“She’s complex,” says Leila of her character Naomi.
“She’s got Iranian heritage, her mother died when she was young, so she protects herself.
“There’s a lot of pain that she tries to keep from the surface and things have messed her up a bit in the past.
“Her relationship with Suzie is incredibly complicated, as most friendships are with people you’ve known since you were 11.
“They’ve grown up together, so they’re co-dependent. Naomi finds it hard to know who she is as a person without Suzie and she herself bristles at people trying to get too close to her.”
Leila adds: “Because she works as Suzie’s manager now, the hierarchies are a bit odd: they’re not quite on an equal footing, even though they went to the same school and are from the same area. It’s discombobulating and messy.”
Leila was attracted to the role by the great script.
“The style was like nothing I’d ever read before.
“It was quite painful to read at points, which I loved.”
Playing Suzie’s university lecturer husband Cob is Daniel Ings, who appeared in The Crown.
“It’s rare to pick up a script that beguiles so early on,” he says.
“I’ve been in situations before where the people making the show didn’t really care one way or another how it panned out, so long as the crew made their days and everyone got paid.
“I’m trying to work with people I can learn from, so it’s great to work with people who really know their craft as much as Billie and Lucy. And it’s a great part.”
Of his character Cob, he says: “He’s a good dad. No one in the show is all good or all bad.
“When you see how he treats Suzie, Cob isn’t very attractive, but he loves his son and has learnt BSL so they can communicate.”
Daniel adds: “I felt real pressure to get the sign language right because I didn’t want to insult the community by passing something shoddy off as convincing.”
You can watch I Hate Suzie on Sky Atlantic.