Conversations With Friends: What You Need To Know

Compelling and cool, Conversations with Friends places millennial malaise and an unexpected love affair against the backdrop of summertime Dublin and Croatia

As we count down the days until the TV adaptation of Conversations With Friends bursts onto our screens, PORTER breaks down the essential details of Sally Rooney’s debut novel – from the cast and plot twists to how to watch, plus a few behind-the-scenes anecdotes. By OLIVE WAKEFIELD


The basics…

What: over one hot Dublin summer, university students Bobbi and Frances drift into the orbit of an enigmatic writer, Melissa, and her husband Nick, leading to a messy love quadrangle and some serious soul-searching. The recently dropped trailer teases all the frisson, lingering gazes and awkward silences that you would expect from a Sally Rooney adaptation.

Who: we have newcomer Alison Oliver as the book’s narrator, Frances, and Sasha Lane (American Honey) as her best-friend-slash-ex-girlfriend Bobbi, starring alongside Jemima Kirke (Girls) and Joe Alwyn (The Favourite) as Melissa and Nick.

When: catch it on Hulu in the US and BBC Three in the UK in May.

What not to expect

Normal People part 2. Rooney aficionados will know that Conversations With Friends is a much darker offering than the euphoric first-love feels that Marianne and Connell reawakened in us in her first TV adaptation.

The ultimate love quadrangle (l-r): Bobbi (Sasha Lane), Nick (Joe Alwyn), Frances (Alison Oliver) and Melissa (Jemima Kirke)

But some key creatives are the same

After the phenomenon that Normal People created when it was released back in 2020, director Lenny Abrahamson was the natural choice to bring his magic touch to another Rooney project. “I’d enjoyed working on Normal People so much, it made sense to take this on,” he tells PORTER.

There are two spectacular fashion moments in the show

Both are worn by Melissa (Kirke): the first, when she steps out at a book launch in a sweeping, emerald-green dress, and then a backless LBD for her birthday party. These vintage one-offs are from the cult 70s designer Ossie Clarke and were sourced by costume designer Lorna Mugan on eBay. Kirke, whose mother owned a celebrity-favorite vintage boutique called Geminola in New York in the aughts, had much input into her character’s wardrobe. Mugan tells PORTER: “It was important to Jemima that Melissa was not the stereotypical ‘cool girl’. Melissa wants to be both the center of attention but also authentic; not a fake.”

If you notice some Succession-style one-liners, there’s a reason

Alice Birch, who co-wote this adaptation with Rooney, not only worked on Normal People, but is also the brains behind some of the meme-worthy put-downs in award-winning drama Succession. In between Normal People and Conversations With Friends, Birch has also penned the upcoming series Dead Ringers starring Rachel Weisz, as well as Sebastián Lelio’s new film, The Wonder, with Florence Pugh.

Conversations With Friends nearly hit our screens before Normal People

Conversations With Friends was greenlit as a film before Normal People had even been optioned. But director Abrahamson insists it was right that the productions ended up happening in this order: “Normal People gave us the starting point to unlock Conversations With Friends. Had it been the other way round, it would have made it more difficult to do Conversations With Friends right. We got our heads into Sally’s writing in Normal People and then approached this gnarlier story fully equipped.”

The weather on location in Croatia was unseasonably freezing

When the group heads to Croatia and you see the four friends drinking and crying on-screen, this was only half-acting, costume designer Mugan recalls: “I had to take a boat to Split to buy thermals for the girls to wear under their summer dresses. The crew was all in puffa jackets.”

This is Alison Oliver’s on-screen debut

There must be something in the water at Dublin acting school The Lir Academy. It was here that the casting directors found Oliver for the role of Frances, but it was also the place that Normal People megastar Paul Mescal perfected his steely gaze (he graduated slightly before Oliver). Abrahamson recalls: “There was great excitement that we had found Alison, this new actor with an amazing talent. It’s a lovely moment for a filmmaker. You think, ‘Nobody knows about her yet, and they are about to find out…’”

Grab the tissues – the trailer is here…

Book your annual leave and bring the track pants out of retirement; from May 15 you won’t be leaving the house. Binge all 12 episodes of Conversations with Friends – yes, that is six-solid hours of Sally Rooney – on Hulu and BBC iPlayer in less than a month’s time. The newly-dropped trailer promises all the existential crises, performance poetry and sexual tension you would expect from a Rooney production, starting with Frances musing, “Would it depress you to sleep with someone who loved someone else?”

Phoebe Bridgers provides the theme tune…

Who could be more fitting than the Queen of Sadcore herself, Phoebe Bridgers, to provide the soundtrack to our tears? The former PORTER cover star has written the wistful track Sidelines for the show, which will no doubt be the perfect backdrop to the characters’ emotional rollercoaster.

Watch Conversations with Friends on Hulu and BBC Three on May 15