Dolly Alderton and Phoebe Robinson on adapting their memoir for TV – News Kidda

At first sight, Everything is waste and Everything I know about love Perhaps most similar for their titles, the two nicknames offer a lot of potential for a “Who’s on First” riddle. Both series are about the dangers and joys of being young in the big city. Everything is wasteThe protagonist Phoebe, a well-known podcaster living in New York City, is at that particular crossroads of young adulthood where the career momentum has not yet translated into the life she hopes for; while Everything I know about loveMaggie has just moved to London with three girlfriends (post-uni) and is desperately trying to get her foot in the door at every professional door she can. Waste’s Phoebe navigates the specifics of a black woman in a field that still mostly belongs to white men; LoveMaggie’s navigating the sexual politics of young adulthood.

But where the two shows really come together is their origin: Both are adaptations of best-selling memoirs, translated into their largely fictional on-screen versions by the memoir writers themselves. Love, taken from Dolly Alderton’s 2018 memoir (of the same name) which appeared on Peacock on August 25 after airing in her native UK earlier this summer. “All of my written work, whether it’s my memoir or novel or column, is very emotional and very heartfelt, so naturally it tends to appeal to people because each of us has experienced a heartbreak,” Alderton said. THR. “But it was the next level with the TV show. People are so passionate about that world.” The adaptation of Phoebe Robinson’s second memoir Everything is trash but it’s ok is currently in the midst of its first season on Freeform – the season finale airs on September 7. “I always try to keep an arm’s length away from feedback because I just want to make what I want to make,” Robinson says. “But you know, I’ve been on Twitter and the reactions have been mostly good [laughs]. It’s really cool to have a sense of community with the viewers.”

Robinson and Alderton both spoke to THR about the very unique process of taking your most personal words and translating them through a group project for a wider audience – and what they learned about themselves and their craft in the process.

On their adaptation journeys

Alderton’s show was in the works before she even finished writing the source material. She sent the first half of Everything I know about love Submitted to booking agents nearly six years ago (aged 28), and a scout got hold of the proposal and sent it to production company Working Title, who chose it almost on the spot. “It was a very lucky and privileged position to be in, but I had to pretend the adjustment wasn’t happening in order to focus,” says the author, now 34. “I couldn’t finish writing my life story while also thinking about how it would translate cinematically.”

Robinson bought an adaptation of her memoirs herself. She launched her own production company, Tiny Reparations, in 2019 and teamed up with ABC to develop a half-hour sitcom in which she would star. Her agents arranged a kind of showrunner blind date for her, and she eventually met TV veteran Jonathan Groff, known for his work on Happy endings and blackish. “I wanted a black woman, but my agents felt I would get along with Jonathan,” she says. “We FaceTimed and had a blast — we’re both comedic nerds, and he’d read my book and the same essays that resonated with him really resonated with me then.” The couple focused on Everything is trash but it’s ok as their source material for the sitcom – “It’s a bit ambitious, but still grounded in reality, especially in terms of finances and what it’s like living in New York as a creative” – ​​and built the show from there.

About fictionalizing their life stories

“I always want to try to write the most interesting story possible, and when you’re working on a series in a writer’s room, you want to take advantage of everyone’s different experiences,” Robinson says of the decision to forgo strict adherence to her memoir plot. details. “The rule was: the funniest or most moving idea wins, and we build a world based on that. We knew we wanted to stay true to the spirit of the book, but we wanted the flexibility to tell great stories for TV.” The result was a protagonist, played by Robinson, who very much reflects the real Robinson in her sensibilities and sense of humor. Phoebe from the show is also a podcaster who lives in Brooklyn, but they added fictional side characters and gave her a brother in the same neighborhood (Robinson’s real brother lives in Ohio). “I wanted to prioritize the brother-sister relationship,” she says. “We’re pretty close, and I felt like I hadn’t seen a show that brought that dynamic to the fore.”

Alderton’s creative team initially considered following her memoir closely, but quickly dropped the idea: “You’re so limited if you just follow the plot points of reality; it just doesn’t deliver a juicy enough story.” She describes the fictionalization process as taking the essence of the book and placing it in an unlimited wonderland of details and characters. “We knew we wanted it to be a central love story between two childhood best friends and that the big moment of suspense would be when one of them would fall in love for the first time,” she says. “I wanted it to be a celebration of the entanglement of women’s home-sharing and the claustrophobia of closeness — the intimacy and foolishness and rudeness of girls living together.”

Robinson was also strongly committed to staying true to a few real-life elements of her book, namely the discussions of money and financial security. “Like my podcast Two Dope Queens came out in 2016 and it was number one on iTunes, people assumed I had a lot of money because I was successful,” she says. “But I was still struggling with student loans and credit card debt, and I wanted to show that in this character — that while she has this career momentum, she doesn’t have it all, that she’s still trying to figure things out.”

About learning to go from writing solo to group projects

Everything I know about love is largely an unsanitized depiction of youth – Maggie and her roommates are shown drinking, taking drugs and having sex. It was that kind of “freewheeling rawness” that worried Alderton about having to negotiate with a network. She produced the show with the BBC and describes a pleasant surprise in the way executives approached the more evocative material from her memoir. “Something funny happened that I’m sure will sound like the most British thing ever,” she says. “All the potentially offensive items are brought to different people on the network and at the end of it we got an email saying, ‘We can see editorial justification for all the fucks and c-ts.’ I got it on a Friday afternoon and was like, ‘drinks on me at the pub tonight!’”

Robinson noticed the difference between writing books and writing on television most strongly in the network note-taking process. “When I write my books, my editor gives general ideas for changes, I take what I want and leave the rest, and it’s not brought up again,” she says with a laugh. “You have to talk about things more on TV. One of the areas I grew the most with this experience was the ability to sift through feedback and understand that everyone wants the show to succeed — they don’t give you notes because they don’t trust you.”

Seeing their own stories differently

“I’m certainly grateful that I wrote the script at age 33 and no younger,” Alderton says. “The further you get from your childhood, the more understanding you get of what mattered and what was ephemeral.” She recalls a particularly poignant scene from the show where Maggie is summoned to confront her own reflection in the mirror; the script notes wrote about Maggie taking her face, which she’s been taking apart since she was 13 years old. “Seeing those actresses visually in these situations made me feel more compassion than I’ve ever felt before, compassion for not knowing your worth in the world and still being confused about who you are.”

Robinson, for her part, has used her show to reflect on how far she’s come in her career and her life, especially when it comes to finances (a topic of the series that she says has gotten a lot of positive feedback). “I am proud of where I have come. When I wrote about the first season of PortlandiaI took all that money and paid off my credit card debt, and I felt ready for the Phoebe 3.0 life I wanted. Now I have the book imprint and production company, and I don’t feel like I have to say ‘yes’ to every job for fear of the money drying up. And it has helped me figure out where I want to go, which is to a place where I feel even more confident and can prioritize my personal life. I know I want to try things and enjoy them.”

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