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The stellar cast poised for Sally Rooney stardom as Conversations with Friends airs on BBC Three

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The stellar cast poised for Sally Rooney stardom as Conversations with Friends airs on BBC Three

As the highly-anticipated adaptation of Sally Rooney’s steamy novel Conversations with Friends hits the small screen tonight, the show’s star-studded cast are sure to be poised for superstardom.

After Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal enjoyed global fame following the wildly popular adaptation of Normal People, fans are desperate to see which how the next cast of actors bring the authors work to life.  

Leading the cast of the adaptation is Taylor Swift’s actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn, 31, Girls star Jemima Kirke, 37, Utopia actress Sasha Lane, 26, and British newcomer Alison Oliver. 

Conversations with Friends launches on BBC Three this week, telling the story of how former couple Frances and Bobbi end up enjoying an affair with writer Melissa and her boyfriend Nick. Pictured from left: Bobbi (played by Sasha Lane), Nick (played by Joe Alwyn), Frances (played by Alison Oliver) and Melissa (played by Jemima Kirke) 

The BBC Three adaptation, which premieres today, follows a mysterious, sexy married couple, Nick (Alwyn) and Melissa (Kirke), and their unusual attraction to two younger women, Frances (Oliver) and Bobbi (Lane).

Frances embarks on an erotic affair with Nick while trying to reconcile her feelings for best friend and ex-girlfriend Bobbi, whom she is in love with. 

Like Normal People, the novel is packed full of racy moments sure to get viewers hearts thumping and will likely follow in the footsteps of the cult show in thrusting its cast into the spotlight.  

Here, FEMAIL reveals the stellar cast of Conversations with Friends sure to become cult stars after the hotly-anticipated show. 

Joe Alwyn 

Leading the cast of the BBC Three adaptation, which premieres today, is Taylor Swift's actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn, 31, pictured with the pop star in New York in 2019

Leading the cast of the BBC Three adaptation, which premieres today, is Taylor Swift’s actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn, 31, pictured with the pop star in New York in 2019 

The star has acted alongside A-list stars including Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult in dark comedy The Favourite

The star has acted alongside A-list stars including Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult in dark comedy The Favourite

Actor Joe is best known for his roles in critically acclaimed films like The Favourite (pictured playing Masham in the 2018 film) and Mary Queen of Scots

Actor Joe is best known for his roles in critically acclaimed films like The Favourite (pictured playing Masham in the 2018 film) and Mary Queen of Scots

Actor Joe Alwyn is best known for his roles in critically acclaimed films like The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots. 

The Kent-born actor was raised in North London where he attended City of London School and joined the National Youth Theatre after discovering his passion for acting. 

Joe’s first big flick was Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 2016, where he played the titular character and was seen embarking on a steamy scene with co-star Makenzie Leigh.

The sizzling scenes saw the British hunk comfortable on a bed, while Makenzie positioned herself on top of him, before two romped. 

He also acted alongside A-list stars including Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult in dark comedy The Favourite, plus Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in historical drama film Mary Queen of Scots.

In 2017 reports began emerging that Joe was dating pop singer Taylor Swift, with her pal Ed Sheeran confirmed the two were dating during an interview on a British radio programme. 

And while its unclear exactly when they met, fans believe it was at the 2016 Met Gala – with sleuths deciphering the song Dress on her 2017 album Reputation refers to their first meeting. 

In 2020, Swift confirmed that Alwyn had co-written select songs for her album Folklore under the pseudonym William Bowery. 

Fans had long suspected that the mystery writer was actually Swift’s boyfriend, whose great-grandfather William Alwyn was a successful musician and composer.  

He continued to collaborate with the singer on her next album, Evermore, collaborating again under the moniker William Bowery on three tracks. 

Jemima Kirke

Jemima pictured in New York in 2019, rose to fame in the smash hit HBO series Girls, known for its no holds barred nudity and adult themes

Jemima pictured in New York in 2019, rose to fame in the smash hit HBO series Girls, known for its no holds barred nudity and adult themes

The actress starred in the HBO series Girls for six seasons on the show between 2011 to 2017 as as bohemian Jessa Johansson, regularly stripping down in a number of raunchy scene

The actress starred in the HBO series Girls for six seasons on the show between 2011 to 2017 as as bohemian Jessa Johansson, regularly stripping down in a number of raunchy scene

After her stint on the television programme, Kirke starred alongside her real-life sister and fellow actress Lola, plus British actor Jamie Dornan, in 2018 film Untogether

After her stint on the television programme, Kirke starred alongside her real-life sister and fellow actress Lola, plus British actor Jamie Dornan, in 2018 film Untogether

Jemima Kirke rose to fame in the smash hit HBO series Girls, known for its no holds barred nudity and adult themes. 

London-born Jemima was raised in New York with her father Simon, the former drummer of the rock bands Bad Company and Free, and her mother Lorraine, the owner of a vintage boutique that supplied a number of outfits for the series Sex and the City.

At university, she studied fine art, before being asked to star alongside her childhood pal Lena Dunham in her debut film Tiny Furniture and later taking on a role in her hit series Girls. 

The actress starred in the series for six seasons on the show between 2011 to 2017  as as bohemian Jessa Johansson, regularly stripping down in a number of raunchy scenes. 

She often took part in steamy scenes during series, with her character Jessa shown masturbating, romping with Zachary Quinto and Adam Driver and walking around naked.

The comedy-drama series, following four young women living in New York, received critical acclaim upon its release and has won various awards including the BAFTA for Best International Programme.  

Speaking of the series in 2017, she told ES magazine: ‘Like Lena, I think I was always quite comfortable being nude. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t without my insecurities.

‘When I was younger, I would pretend to be really confident when I wasn’t necessarily, but then, I think, real confidence did follow from that.’ 

‘I’ve never been so nude anywhere I don’t think,’ she recalled. ‘I was naked for hours and hours and hours.’ 

The actress started dating Australian musician and singer-songwriter Alex Cameron in 2017 and she has two children from a previous marriage to lawyer Michael Mosberg. 

After her stint on the television programme, Kirke starred alongside her real-life sister and fellow actress Lola, plus British actor Jamie Dornan, in 2018 film Untogether. 

British fans may also know the actress from her role in Netflix series Sex Education, where she played the stern headmistress of Moordale Secondary School Hope. 

Sasha Lane  

Playing Bobbi will be Sasha Lane, an American actress who made her film debut after being scouted by a film director on a beach in 2016

Playing Bobbi will be Sasha Lane, an American actress who made her film debut after being scouted by a film director on a beach in 2016

After dropping out of university, Sasha starred in the 2016 teen road drama as an Oklahoma runaway called Star, who starts selling magazines door to door and falls in love with a man called Jake

After dropping out of university, Sasha starred in the 2016 teen road drama as an Oklahoma runaway called Star, who starts selling magazines door to door and falls in love with a man called Jake

Mother-of-one Lane, who became pregnant with daughter, Aster, aged 23, landed a role in 2018 gay conversion drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Mother-of-one Lane, who became pregnant with daughter, Aster, aged 23, landed a role in 2018 gay conversion drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Playing Bobbi will be Sasha Lane, an American actress who made her film debut after being scouted by a film director on a beach in 2014, aged just 19. 

Sasha was born and raised in Texas, where she had an impressive High School athletics career in basketball and track and field before attending Texas State University. 

While at university, Lane was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, previously telling the Independent: ‘There are voices in your head, things are really dark. 

‘It’s hard to explain to people who care about you that you can’t sleep and you’re hearing voices all day and you’re sad and you’re just tired. By the time I was a teenager, I was so tired.’ 

However Lane didn’t finish her studies in social work and psychology after she was spotted on a Florida beach by director Andrea Arnold, who asked her to improvise a scene for her. 

After dropping out of university, Sasha starred in the 2016 teen road drama as an Oklahoma runaway called Star, who starts selling magazines door to door and falls in love with a man called Jake (Shia LeBeouf). 

Following her first ever acting project, which earned numerous awards and nominations, Sasha has bagged various television and film roles including a part in MCU TV series Loki. 

Mother-of-one Lane, who became pregnant with daughter, Aster, aged 23, also landed roles in 2018 gay conversion drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Gillian Flynn’s 2020 adaptation of British TV series Utopia. 

Sasha revealed in a recent interview that she and Kirke became fast friends ahead of filming together, messaging on Instagram about the realities of motherhood before they’d even met. 

‘I’d never met her in my life but we spent a good couple of hours texting back and forth. It made me fall in love a little, which I do so easily. I get so intrigued by people’, she told the Telegraph. 

Alison Oliver

Unlike the rest of the cast, little is known about the show's lead role of Frances, who will be played by emerging talent Alison

Unlike the rest of the cast, little is known about the show’s lead role of Frances, who will be played by emerging talent Alison

Alison will make her debut in the series having graduated from drama school Lir Academy in Dublin, Ireland

Alison will make her debut in the series having graduated from drama school Lir Academy in Dublin, Ireland

Unlike the rest of the cast, little is known about the show’s lead role of Frances, who will be played by emerging talent Alison.

She will make her debut in the series having graduated from drama school Lir Academy in Dublin, Ireland. 

Oliver, who grew up in Cork and went to the same drama school as Normal People star Paul Mescal, revealing this week that he got in touch with her after she landed the role. 

‘I knew Paul a little bit from college and he was so lovely in getting in touch and I think it’s really nice to have that contact across the shows because it is quite a similar thing,’ she told BBC’s The One Show. 

Miss Oliver has also chatted to Daisy Edgar-Jones about the part. ‘We are all part of the Rooneyverse, so there is a camaraderie,’ she told The Sunday Times. ‘They told me to just enjoy it.’ 

Conversations with Friends is Alison’s first television role and previously revealed she was a big Rooney fan prior to landing the role – often reading the author’s works while studying in Dublin. 

How Sally Rooney’s two bestselling novels became BBC dramas – catapulting the cast to worldwide fame  

Like Rooney’s 2018 smash, Conversations With Friends is also set in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. 

The plot follows best friends and ex-girlfriends Bobbi and Frances, who meet mysterious and sexy older couple Melissa and Nick at a poetry night in Dublin.

Bobbi immediately becomes infatuated with Melissa and openly begins a flirtation with the older woman, who appears flattered by the attention. 

Huge hit: Normal People has been the most watched show on BBC Three ever with more than 23 million downloads globally and over 6.75 million devices watching the first episode (Mescal and Edgar-Jones pictured in show still)

Huge hit: Normal People has been the most watched show on BBC Three ever with more than 23 million downloads globally and over 6.75 million devices watching the first episode (Mescal and Edgar-Jones pictured in show still)

Meanwhile Frances and Nick embark on an elicit affair, with the foursome become more and more entangled with one another.

Nick ultimately reveals the affair to his wife, who accepts the relationship having had her own affairs, and Nick begins to date Frances openly within the group.

Eventually Frances rekindles her romantic relationship with both Bobbi and Nick, with the four continuing their elicit attraction to one another despite the complexities.    

The new series comes after the success of Rooney’s 2018 novel Normal People which was adapted into a ratings smash hit TV series last year. 

Intimate: Paul Mescal, 24, shot to fame last year alongside Daisy, 22, in the BBC drama, about two young lovers - gaining particular attention for their intimate, realistic sex scenes

Intimate: Paul Mescal, 24, shot to fame last year alongside Daisy, 22, in the BBC drama, about two young lovers – gaining particular attention for their intimate, realistic sex scenes

It saw show leads Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, who took on Connell and Marianne’s love story, soar to fame after it aired during the first lockdown.   

Normal People has been the most watched show on BBC Three ever with more than 23 million downloads globally and over 6.75 million devices watching the first episode. This makes it the most popular programme on the channel ever. 

The 12-part drama is based on Rooney’s bestselling novel about the turbulent relationship between working-class Connell [Mescal] and well-heeled Marianne [Edgar-Jones], has been praised for its unflinching take on sexuality. 

Talented: Sally first published Conversations With Friends in 2017 and released Normal People in 2018, with the latter winning Costa Book Award and Irish Novel of the Year - to name a few accolades (pictured in January 2020)

Talented: Sally first published Conversations With Friends in 2017 and released Normal People in 2018, with the latter winning Costa Book Award and Irish Novel of the Year – to name a few accolades (pictured in January 2020) 

Author Rooney hit the headlines in October after  she defended rejecting the publisher’s offer to translate her new book – which topped UK and Irish charts since its release in September – saying she backed a cultural boycott of Israel.

However the decision sparked a wave of criticism against the author and screenwriter. 

Some took to social media to label Miss Rooney’s decision as ‘anti-Semitic’, while others questioned why her books were published for an audience in China – which has been accused of human rights abuses over its treatment of Uighur Muslims.

But the author defended her decision – which she said was not to have the book published by an Israeli-based publishing house – and that the Hebrew language rights were ‘still available’. 

 

Justine Mitchell 

Irish actress Justine Mitchell, 48, from Dublin, plays Frances' mother in the new BBC drama, which begins tonight

Irish actress Justine Mitchell, 48, from Dublin, plays Frances’ mother in the new BBC drama, which begins tonight 

Recent roles for the Irish actress include playing Elaine Lynch in Irish thriller drama series Smother (pictured)

Recent roles for the Irish actress include playing Elaine Lynch in Irish thriller drama series Smother (pictured) 

Irish actress Justine Mitchell, 48, from Dublin, plays Frances’ mother in the new BBC drama. 

Her family moved to Hong Kong when she was aged-12, where she was bullied for her Irish accent at school.

When the family returned to Ireland, she studied drama at Trinity College Dublin, where Conversations with Friends is based, before moving to London in 1995.

She began working as an actress, picking up casual jobs between her varying roles.

Her hard work paid off – in 2015 she won the UK Theatre Award for Best Supporting Performance for her role in Somerset Maugham’s For Services Rendered. 

Recent roles include playing Elaine Lynch in Irish thriller drama series Smother and landing a small part in the most recent episode of popular Channel 4 comedy Derry Girls. 

Tommy Tiernan

Comedian Tommy Tiernan  married his long-term girlfriend and manager Yvonne McMahon - who is lead singer of folk band The Raines - in 2009

Comedian Tommy Tiernan  married his long-term girlfriend and manager Yvonne McMahon – who is lead singer of folk band The Raines – in 2009

The comedian is best known for his stand-up routines and performance as Gerry Quinn on hit show Derry Girls (pictured)

The comedian is best known for his stand-up routines and performance as Gerry Quinn on hit show Derry Girls (pictured) 

Playing Frances’ unreliable father is Irish comedian and actor Tommy, who is best known for his stand-up routines and performance as Gerry Quinn on hit show Derry Girls. 

The 52-year-old actor was born in Carndonagh and moved around as a child, living for spells in London and Zambia before moving to County Meath, where he attended St Patrick’s Classical School. 

His classmates included TV presenter Hector Ó hEochagáin and Irish comedian and actor Dylan Moran. 

Later he attended boarding school in Galway and after leaving education pursued a career in comedy – appearing several times on British stand-up shows and late-night shows in the US. 

In the 1999, he bagged a lead role on Channel 4 sitcom Small Potatoes and in 2008 teamed up with Hector Ó hEochagáin to create The Tommy and Hector Show. 

The comedian married his long-term girlfriend and manager Yvonne McMahon – who is lead singer of folk band The Raines – in 2009. 

From 2018, Tiernan has played Gerry on Lisa McGee’s beloved sitcom Derry Girls, following a group of school girls growing up in Northern Ireland during the final years of the Troubles. 

So will YOU be watching?Conversation with Friends splits critics, with one branding the show ‘sleep-inducing’ while another declares it a ‘sensational follow-up’ to Normal People 

Conversations With Friends, a 12-part drama led by director Lenny Abrahamson and co-writer Alice Birch, and based on Rooney’s 2017 novel begins on BBC Three at 10pm this Sunday – but it hasn’t quite sold all of the nation’s TV critics.  

While The Telegraph’s Marianka Swain lavished five stars on the series, which sees former couple Frances and Bobbi end up enjoying a tangled affair with writer Melissa and her boyfriend Nick, The Independent’s Nick Hilton offered a more caustic appraisal, suggesting it was as slow as the late Captain Tom’s charity walking. 

The drama sees millennial couple Nick and Melissa enticed by art student Frances (centre) and her former girlfriend Bobbi

The drama sees millennial couple Nick and Melissa enticed by art student Frances (centre) and her former girlfriend Bobbi

Critics have given it mix reviews with many hailing it a success, and better than 2020's Normal People

Critics have given it mix reviews with many hailing it a success, and better than 2020’s Normal People

Conversations With Friends might yet win over TV audiences but some critics were less than sold on it.  

The Independent’s Nick Hilton wrote: ‘Though it is undoubtedly slow, solipsistic, and self-satisfied, the show has an ambient appeal. It is television designed to be watched out of the corner of your eye while scrolling through Instagram, peering in at strangers on two screens simultaneously.’ 

The Telegraph’s Marianka Swain disagreed, writing: ”The creative band is back together, led by director Lenny Abrahamson and co-writer Alice Birch, and they’ve reprised their winning format: 12 extremely moreish half-hour episodes which sensitively tease out everyone’s fraught feelings via charged silences, cryptic text messages and intimate, authentic sex scenes.’

And The Irish Times’ Ed Power went one step further, describing it as ‘superior’ to Normal People, writing: ‘It feels more substantial than Normal People. Rooney fans will lap it up. For everyone else, the wow factor of a prestige television take on Dublin – albeit empty and lockdown-grim – is sure to bring is own pleasures too.’  

Here, FEMAIL shares a selection of reviews of Conversations With Friends, so you can make up your mind whether it is worth tuning in to watch. 

THE TELEGRAPH

Rating:

Marianka Swain writes: ‘The team behind Normal People reunite to bring another soulful, sexy and complex Sally Rooney creation to life on screen. Can the BBC’s second Sally Rooney adaptation possibly live up to Normal People mania? Well, if there’s any justice, this sensational follow-up should be just as big of a hit – if not bigger. 

Marianka Swain was a fan of show ahead of its release on Sunday on BBC Three (Pictured: Frances and Bobbi)

Marianka Swain was a fan of show ahead of its release on Sunday on BBC Three (Pictured: Frances and Bobbi)

‘Admittedly, it’s not as voraciously carnal as Normal People, but that’s because we’ve moved on from teen lust. Although Conversations with Friends (BBC Three) is actually Rooney’s debut novel, it’s a much more complex and challenging premise. Frances (played by magnetic newcomer Alison Oliver) is a bisexual student at Trinity College Dublin who performs spoken-word poetry with her ex-girlfriend, Bobbi.  

It’s an inventive ticking time bomb of a ménage à quatre, and the fallout is thrilling – and constantly surprising.’

EVENING STANDARD 

Rating:

Phoebe Luckhurst writes: ‘As a novel, Conversations With Friends is extraordinary: intense; cerebral; political; exhilarating; a quiet tour-de-force that coined a genre of acerbic copycats. It experiments with form and text; its characters experiment with unconventional relationships. This adaptation is a watered down version of it.

‘The dialogue is sharp and the universe beautiful, and the whole show is in moments exhilarating, although often a little too pared back. At 12 episodes it is also long and can feel rather baggy.’

METRO

Rating:

Metro's Charlotte Manning said the chemistry was 'all bang on' in the latest adaptation of Rooney's work (Pictured: The character of Melissa)

Metro’s Charlotte Manning said the chemistry was ‘all bang on’ in the latest adaptation of Rooney’s work (Pictured: The character of Melissa)

Charlotte Manning writes: ‘It’s one of a recently revived BBC Three’s biggest hopes of 2022, so it’s no surprise the broadcaster realise just how key Conversations With Friends will be in determining it a success.

‘The main four are all bang on with the chemistry, yet Oliver and Alwyn deliver a particular spark as Frances and Nick, perfectly encapsulating the frustration and deep emotional conflict amid the moral dilemma of starting an affair, with the exact person you really want to be with.’ 

RADIO TIMES 

Rating:

Flora Carr writes: ‘Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel Conversations with Friends opens with the phrase ‘Bobbi and I’, introducing our narrator Frances as one half of a package deal: there is no Frances without Bobbi.

‘Likewise, the new, melancholic TV adaptation from BBC Three and Hulu opens with a shot of the two best friends sitting together, their heads bent over a new poem Frances has penned, as Bobbi reads it aloud.

‘Although the ex-lovers-turned-friends spend most of the series falling for other people, its their mutual love and will-they-won’t-they relationship that provides the cornerstone of the series.

INDEPENDENT

Rating:

Nick Hilton writes: ‘Though it is undoubtedly slow, solipsistic, and self-satisfied, the show has an ambient appeal. It is television designed to be watched out of the corner of your eye while scrolling through Instagram, peering in at strangers on two screens simultaneously.

Nick Hilton suggested: 'It is television designed to be watched out of the corner of your eye' (Pictured: Bobbi, played by Sasha Lane)

Nick Hilton suggested: ‘It is television designed to be watched out of the corner of your eye’ (Pictured: Bobbi, played by Sasha Lane)

‘And if the prospect of watching the lives of a group of rather entitled millennials unravel at a pace closer to Captain Tom than Mo Farah doesn’t excite you, there are plenty of close-ups of beautiful people kissing to keep you distracted.

‘The problem of protraction (or compression) is endemic in the adaptation of novels, but the pacing of Conversations with Friends feels so indulgently languorous, the milieu (whether in Ireland or Croatia) so oppressively repetitive, that the effect is, at best, hypnotic, and, at worst, soporific. 

Conversations with Friends is released on Sunday 15th May 2022, appearing on BBC One, BBC Three and BBC iPlayer for UK viewers. Viewers based in the US can watch the 12-part series on Hulu. 

 

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