What Fleabag did next: future looks bright for Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Creator of hit sitcom not short of offers and hints Fleabag could return – when she is 50

It has been described as “a near perfect work of art” with an ending that “raised the bar so utterly … all one could do was shake one’s head in appreciation”. Now, as the creator and star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, calls time on her raved-about sitcom Fleabag, her next step is being eagerly anticipated by viewers and industry insiders alike.

The BBC Three show ended on Monday after two series with a climactic episode that provided a definitive coda to the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Waller-Bridge’s eponymous millennial ne’er-do-well and Andrew Scott’s troubled, if much lusted after, priest. The episode and the series as a whole has received rapturous reviews from critics, with the Daily Mail describing it as “redemptive, unsentimental and beautiful” and the Metro declaring it a “masterpiece”.

With the show’s conclusion, which Waller-Bridge has insisted is final, comes speculation about what might be next for its creator. “She is quite unique as a performer,” says Sally Woodward Gentle, whose company Sid Gentle Films produces the hit series Killing Eve, which Waller-Bridge executive produces and has co-written for. “She works in a different way to other people. She’s very demanding and ambitious, with a ‘why can’t I do it like this’ attitude. I can’t imagine that will ever be watered down. It would be mad for her to be squidged into anything other than a Phoebe-like shape. That’s not her.”

Waller-Bridge has not quite said goodbye to Fleabag just yet. She is currently appearing in a six-week off-Broadway stage version of the comedy, which started life as a one-woman Edinburgh Fringe show in 2013. That New York run is due to end on 14 April, however, and she has no plans to perform the play again any time soon.

Meanwhile, Waller-Bridge has scaled back her involvement in her other acclaimed series, Killing Eve (in which she does not appear). While she remains an executive producer for the cat-and-mouse spy drama, which stars Jodie Comer as a hairpin-wielding international assassin and Sandra Oh as the MI5 operative fruitlessly trying to hunt her down, she has handed head writing duties for the show’s second series to the Call the Midwife star and author Emerald Fennell. Series two, which premiered in the US on Sunday, is expected to air in the UK later this year, with a third series already commissioned by BBC America.

One future project has already been confirmed: Run, which will star Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson, has received a full-series order from the US network HBO. The romantic comedy, about a woman who receives a text inviting her to fulfil a pact made with an ex-lover 15 years earlier, will be executive produced by Waller-Bridge, who will also appear in a recurring role.

Beyond television, another possible avenue for Waller-Bridge might beHollywood. The star has already appeared in one major blockbuster, the Star Wars prequel Solo, in which she voiced a sardonic droid.

Whatever Waller-Bridge does do next, it will almost certainly feature the same mixture of comedy and tragedy as Fleabag, says the show’s producer, Sarah Hammond.

“It’s all about the balance of humour and pain, she’s a lightning rod for that. She makes you laugh and punches you when your guard is down – that’s her lens on the world, her flavour of writing. Though she might just do a straight-up tragedy, with no laughs – who knows.”

For those still holding out a glimmer of hope that this might not be the last we see of Fleabag, it should be noted that Waller-Bridge initially was against doing its second season, but relented after taking some time away from the character.

Similarly, its 33-year-old creator has offered a tiny bit of encouragement about a possible third series, albeit with the caveat that the show’s return might be some time in the making.

“I don’t think I’ll do a season three [of Fleabag] before I’m 50,” Waller-Bridge told Variety last month. “It takes so much out of me, and at the same time, it gives me so much energy, this character, that I feel like I’ve got to go and do some more stuff before I find out where she gets to next.” A Fleabag reunion in 2036? Don’t bet against it.


Gwilym Mumford

The GuardianTramp

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