Backstage at the 71st Emmy Awards, the night’s big winner, Phoebe Waller-Bridge — who claimed awards for writing, lead actress and comedy series for her Amazon dark comedy “Fleabag” — bid adieu to “Fleabag,” which she has previously said she has no plans to bring back for a third season.
“This just feels like the most beautiful, beautiful way to say goodbye to it,” she said. “It does feel nice to go out on a high. You can’t get higher than this.”
The series, which stars Waller-Bridge as a grief-stricken, sexually impulsive woman in modern London known to viewers only as Fleabag, “is not autobiographical, but it’s really, really personal,” she said. “I feel this character did come out of me. In the very beginning of the writing, I was feeling quite cynical and quite bleak about the world and writing her was a really cathartic way of getting through that.”
She has not, however, slept with a hot priest — a character, in the form of actor Andrew Scott, who features in one of the most-talked storylines of Season 2, which also earned an Emmy for series director Harry Bradbeer.
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“Usually I’m a big fan of ‘Write what you know,’ but in this case … it wasn’t so on the nose,” Waller-Bridge said, throwing back her head and laughing. The bright mind behind “Fleabag” and fellow Emmy winner “Killing Eve” knew she wanted to write about religion and faith all along, and that her character needed to change. “In the middle [of writing] somewhere, this incredible man appeared and then Andrew walked into that space and everything started making sense. As I was modeling the character, it was very inspired by Andrew and his own heart and hotness.” (Among those also taken with Scott? Lin-Manuel Miranda.)
Waller-Bridge said she was most floored by fans’ and critics’ response to the latest season — which may have spurred Emmy voters to reward “Fleabag” so richly on Sunday night.
“It’s the word-of-mouth stuff that just kills me,” she said. “Knowing people said, ‘I’ve told my friend and my friend told their friend and my whole family watches...’ That stuff is really special. The press has been so amazing and writing these incredible pieces on it. It did feel like a tidal wave, didn’t it, just suddenly hitting us all? And here, because it lands as one thing, one bingeable thing here — in the U.K., it’s spread out over six weeks — it landed and there was this explosion of response. There were kind of shockwaves to it.”
As for landing the night’s most shocking upset, besting two former winners — Emmy royalty Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) and defending champ Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)?
“Those actresses have been such a huge part of my viewing enjoyment and I’ve been so inspired by them,” Waller-Bridge said. “Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I’ve been watching for all of those wins. And ‘Veep,’ I’ve studied ‘Veep’ from a performance point of view as well, and also from a writing point of view. Just being around those women is extraordinary. I feel like I’ve come in the back door and just nicked something. It’s the honest truth. It was very, very special.”