The Untold Truth Of Fleabag

Fleabag racked up a whopping 11 Emmy nominations for its second season, ultimately taking home the awards for outstanding writing for a comedy series, outstanding directing for a comedy series, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, and — the big one — outstanding comedy series. In a word, you might say that Fleabag is, well, outstanding. 

Based off a one-woman show of the same name, Fleabag is the brainchild of writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Since finding mass appeal with Fleabag, Waller-Bridge has appeared in Solo: A Star Wars Story, written and produced the hit series Killing Eve, co-written a James Bond installment, and signed on to produce the HBO series Run. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though another season of Fleabag is in the cards. "This just feels like the most beautiful, beautiful way to say goodbye to it. It does feel nice to go out on a high," Waller-Bridge said backstage at the 2019 Emmys (via the Los Angeles Times). She added, "You can't get higher than this."

Luckily, both seasons of Fleabag are available to stream on Amazon for your binging pleasure. Here's the untold truth of the show that has everyone talking. 

Fleabag started as a ten-minute stand-up set

Rome wasn't built in a day — and neither was the Emmy award-winning series Fleabag. While most fans of the show likely know the television program was inspired by Phoebe Waller-Bridge's one-woman show of the same name, you might be surprised to hear that, in its earliest form, Fleabag was a ten-minute comedic monologue.

As Waller-Bridge explained to the Los Angeles Times, Fleabag originated as a favor to a friend, Deborah Frances-White, who needed to fill an empty ten-minute slot at a comedy show. "She had been trying to get me to do stand-up for ages," Waller-Bridge told the publication, joking that Frances-White "tricked" her into performing by describing the comedy show as "storytelling with comedians" and assuring her she'd be sitting down.

While her monologue was far from a traditional stand-up set, the audience was floored by her performance. At the insistence of her friends, Waller-Bridge expanded the piece into a full-length play. "Before I knew it, we had a venue at Edinburgh's Fringe Festival," Waller-Bridge told the Los Angeles Times. She added, "It was the best kind of bullying from my friends ever."

Fleabag's Boo was inspired by Phoebe Waller-Bridge's own best friend

While packed with plenty of jokes, the overarching theme of Fleabag's first season is no laughing matter. When viewers meet the protagonist, she's in the throes of grief, having recently lost both her beloved mother and her best friend, Boo. Fleabag's audience gets to know Boo via flashbacks throughout the first season, which showcase the special bond between the two women, as well as the events leading to Boo's untimely, tragic death.

As Phoebe Waller-Bridge explained to NPR, Boo was inspired by her real-life best friend (and creative collaborator), Vicky Jones. "When I found [Jones] and we found our friendship, I just suddenly felt so much more invincible in the world," the writer-actress told NPR in a 2016 interview. She revealed that Fleabag's plot was inspired by her "biggest fear," which was somehow losing this person who made her feel so strong. "[That] informed a lot of [Fleabag]," Waller-Bridge shared. She added, "Just seeing things that I loved in my life and imagining if I wasn't lucky enough to have them."

In a 2019 interview with Deadline, Waller-Bridge described Boo as "a love letter" to Jones.

What's with Fleabag's name?

Fleabag is a story told purely through the perspective of its main protagonist, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Wherever she goes, the audience follows — no scene in the series exists without her presence. However, despite her essentialness to the plot, the quick-witted London gal is never addressed by name. 

According to a 2017 Vanity Fair profile, Waller-Bridge initially couldn't think of a name that suited the character, leading to her namelessness. Soon, however, the writer-actress fell in love with the idea of keeping her name a secret. "I liked the idea of withholding some of that mystery," Waller-Bridge told the publication. While she doesn't have a proper name, Fleabag's main character is referred to by fans (and Waller-Bridge) as, well, Fleabag. As Waller-Bridge explained to the Los Angeles Times, the title/nickname was taken directly from her own childhood nickname. "It was my family nickname as far back as I can remember," the star revealed.

Luckily, Waller-Bridge's nickname fell perfectly in line with the character she'd created. She explained to Vanity Fair, "That word, 'fleabag,' that felt right, because there's a messy connotation to it."

The TV show Fleabag doesn't include everything from the play

Fleabag's first season closely followed the story arc of the one-woman show from which it spawned. However, as Phoebe Waller-Bridge has since revealed, there was one particular scene from Fleabag's stage play that network executives wouldn't allow to be shown on the television series. 

As noted by Vice, the original script for Fleabag included a scene in which Fleabag kills Hilary, Boo's beloved pet guinea pig, as the animal is a painful reminder of her dead best friend — and Hilary's "relentless chattering" has become unbearable for Fleabag. "When they commissioned the pilot, the one thing they said was, 'You can do anything you want, but you can't kill the guinea pig,'" Waller-Bridge recalled to the New Statesman. The writer-actress added, "They just said, 'We just don't think that you strangling a guinea pig to death...'"

If the scene sounds dark, that's because it is. According to Waller-Bridge, disarming an audience is something that's "fascinated [her] for ages." The star told the New Statesman, "I'm obsessed with that line between crying and laughing. I'm always feeling that temptation to twist the knife."

There was never supposed to be a second season of Fleabag

Unlike Season 2, which garnered a total of 11 Emmy nominations, the first season of Fleabag didn't receive recognition from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Still, the series was a breakout hit with critics. In a 2016 review, The New York Times observed that Fleabag "[didn't] quite feel like anything else on television." Reviewing the first season, GQ UK wrote, "It's dirty, it's sexy, it's disgusting, it's hilarious — and it's about being a girl. As in, a real girl. Scared? You should be."

While Season 1 was a critical darling, Phoebe Waller-Bridge initially had no plans of bringing Fleabag back for a second season. After all, the first season had closely followed the arc of her one-woman show, and wrapped nicely with a somewhat happy ending for the main character. As Waller-Bridge explained to the Los Angeles Times, she decided to start working on a second season when Fleabag director Harry Bradbeer posed the question, "Is there anything left for her to learn?"

For Waller-Bridge, the answer was a resounding yes. 

Phoebe Waller Bridge has a "fantasy" for Fleabag Season 3

Despite her massive sweep at the 2019 Emmys, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has no plans of bringing Fleabag back for a third season. Considering the final episode of the series ended with Fleabag waving goodbye to her audience as she walked away into the night, the writer-actress seems pretty set in her decision.

That said, Waller-Bridge is careful to never say never. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter if anything could convince her to delve back into Fleabag's life, she replied, "I feel like it's done, but I do have a fantasy of bringing her back when I'm, like, 45 or 50." Discussing the incredible journey Fleabag experienced throughout the course of the series, the star added, "She started as someone who sort of hated herself and ended up as someone believing that she could love again and forgive herself. I have to respect that arc and let her go and live for a bit."

Fleabag has some famous fans

With multiple Emmy wins, heaping amounts of critical acclaim, and no shortage of praise from the general public, Fleabag is a bona fide hit. And, if you fancy yourself a Fleabag fan, you'll be happy to know you're in good (and famous) company.

According to The Irish News, multiple celebrities were in the audience to watch Phoebe Waller-Bridge in an August 2019 performance of Fleabag at London's Wyndham's Theatre. As the publication reported, Waller-Bridge's "virtuoso monologue" was met with uproarious applause from the audience, including a standing ovation from Oscar winner Rami Malek.

In September 2019, a Fleabag audience member snagged photos of pop queen Taylor Swift at another one of Waller-Bridge's Wyndham's Theatre performances. As it turns out, Swift is a total fan girl for Waller-Bridge, as evidenced by her excitement over appearing on the same Saturday Night Live episode as the Fleabag creator. "Ever since I saw Fleabag, I've been all 'I can't wait to see this woman host [SNL]," Swift tweeted in August 2019. She added, "It's happening now + I get to be there too = I am in shambles."

Olivia Colman "begged" to be in Fleabag

Actress Olivia Colman — who won an Oscar in 2019 for her portrayal of Queen Anne in the 2018 film The Favourite — stars in Fleabag as the protagonist's delightfully unnerving, passive aggressive godmother, who enters into a romantic relationship with Fleabag's father shortly after her mother's death. However, as fans of Colman and Phoebe Waller-Bridge may know, Fleabag wasn't the first show in which they appeared together. The two actresses also worked alongside one another on Season 2 of the British crime drama Broadchurch, which premiered in 2015 after a successful first season. 

Apparently, Colman is quite a fan of Waller-Bridge, telling Entertainment Weekly she thinks the Fleabag creator is "extraordinary." So, when she heard her co-star was developing a television series based on her hit one-woman show, the Oscar winner naturally wanted to be involved. Colman revealed to Entertainment Weekly, "I think I begged Phoebe to be in it, when she was writing the first [season]." Adding that Waller-Bridge asked for her input while creating the deliciously evil godmother character, Colman continued, "I always wanted to play the baddie, and she's written a really good one."

Fans went wild for that jumpsuit from Fleabag Season 2

While the entirety of Fleabag's second season was praised by critics and audiences alike, the most talked-about, critically acclaimed episode was the Season 2 premiere, aptly titled "Episode 1." AV Club called the second season premiere — which centered around an incredibly awkward family dinner — a "godsend," describing it as "an early frontrunner for best episode of the season, if not the series." IndieWire called the episode "a cinematic comedy masterpiece." However, setting aside the comedic talents of Waller-Bridge and Fleabag's ensemble cast, the real star of the show (or, rather, the show's Season 2 premiere) was a jumpsuit. 

In "Episode 1," Fleabag wears a sleeveless black jumpsuit with a halter neck, keyhole cutout, and open back. According to The Guardian, once it was reported by Stylist that the jumpsuit could be purchased for £38 (about $47 USD) from the online retailer Silk Fred, it completely sold out in just one day. Luckily, as reported by The Guardian, the London label behind the famous jumpsuit, Love, "quickly put another 500 jumpsuits into production."

Perhaps Twitter summed up the phenomenon best: "The Fleabag jumpsuit is a movement."

Fleabag "is a show about the glory of being a woman"

During a comedic monologue at the 2019 Emmys, Ben Stiller referred to Fleabag as "a comedy about a sex addict." Fans were quick to shut down Stiller's choice of words, which some viewers perceived as reductive. One Fleabag fan tweeted, "The disrespect from Ben Stiller, Fleabag is much more than that."

While Phoebe Waller-Bridge didn't publicly acknowledge Stiller's description, it's safe to say the writer-actress doesn't agree with his summarization. In a 2017 interview with The Cut, Waller-Bridge and her best friend/collaborator, Vicky Jones, discussed the focus on Fleabag's sex life, despite the show's lack of nudity or gratuitous sex scenes. As Waller-Bridge tells it, dubbing Fleabag a show about sex is nothing more than "a way of simplifying a whole conversation by putting one blanket over it."

Waller-Bridge told The Cut that she started to fear Fleabag was just a "show about sadness" while writing its darker, deeper parts. However, according to the star, Jones was quick to remind her that Fleabag is "a show about the glory of being a woman." She added, "And in the glory of being a woman, the darker bits are involved."

Fleabag's "Hot Priest" was written specifically for Andrew Scott

A major star of Fleabag's second season was Andrew Scott, who portrayed the priest with whom Fleabag falls head-over-heels in love. Like Phoebe Waller-Bridge's character, her love interest is never given a proper name. Instead, he's known only as "The Priest," or, as some fans affectionately call him, "Hot Priest."

As Waller-Bridge revealed at the Television Critics Association in January 2019 (via Vanity Fair), she crafted the priest character specifically for Scott, whom she befriended while working alongside the actor on the play Roaring Trade a decade earlier. "It couldn't have been anyone else," the writer-actress said. She continued, "He's just a magical human being. He can't do anything other than be really complex and truthful in a character — so I knew that the moment I gave this character to him in my imagination, he became real."

According to Scott, the onscreen chemistry he shared with Waller-Bridge came naturally. "I certainly found it extremely easy to play, loving Phoebe, because I love her as a person," the actor told Vanity Fair.

Fleabag and Claire are best friends in real life

One of the most interesting dynamics in Fleabag is the one Fleabag shares with her tightly wound sister, Claire, who couldn't be more Fleabag's opposite if she tried. Despite their differences, however, the two sisters do truly love one another — much like the actresses who play them, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Sian Clifford. 

According to a 2019 Grazia Daily profile of Clifford, she and Waller-Bridge met while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. As Clifford explained, the students made a sort of "silent commitment" to one another to "help each other out" while navigating their respective careers. Waller-Bridge kept her word, insisting that Clifford play the role of Claire for the television adaptation of her one-woman show. "I'm only here now because my friend fought a very hard battle to get me an audition," Clifford told Grazia Daily

In a 2019 BUILD Series interview, Clifford said, "I don't know that I'll ever have the kind of creative freedom that I have with [Waller-Bridge], just because of the way we ... just trust each other so much." She added, "There's so much room for failure without embarrassment."

Fleabag's second season almost had a very different ending

The final episode of Fleabag's second season was a sucker punch of emotion, largely due to the relationship between Fleabag and the Priest. Throughout the season, viewers watched as the two characters quickly fell for one another despite their fundamental differences. As a priest, Andrew Scott's character's life was dedicated to his faith, meaning a healthy, fulfilling romance with Fleabag was out of the question. Still, it seemed as though the Priest would abandon his former life for Fleabag — that is, until the final moments of the Season 2 finale. 

The season ended with (spoiler alert!) Fleabag and the Priest confessing their love for one another at a bus stop before saying goodbye for good. However, as Phoebe Waller-Bridge revealed on the How To Fail podcast (via Esquire), the Priest was never supposed to tell Fleabag that he loved her, too — but Scott was insistent. "Andrew came [to set] and he was like 'I'm saying it,'" Waller-Bridge revealed. She added, "I actually think the clincher of the whole thing is that he says it. [Scott] was so right, and we have him to thank for that."