Billie Piper is the star of I Hate Suzie, a new Sky original drama about that moment in someone’s life when the mask slips. Suzie Pickles (Piper) has her life upended when her phone is hacked and pictures of her emerge in an extremely compromising position. The series shows her gradual unravelling as the event ricochets around every area of her life. Episode by episode we follow her through the stages of shock, denial, fear, shame, bargaining, guilt, anger and acceptance (also each of the episode titles) as Suzie and her best friend and manager Naomi (Leila Farzad of Twenty Twelve) try to hold her life, career and marriage together.
In ‘Shock’, we meet Suzie for the first time. A successful actress, she has come a long way from her days as a teen pop star, living in an idyllic home in the country with her small son and her handsome husband (despite the similarities, Piper claims the series isn’t autobiographical). Despite her success, she seems down-to-earth and utterly normal: she tucks into own-brand cereal for breakfast, frantically cleans up before her cleaner arrives and has decorated her home in a shabby-chic style – with a slight emphasis on shabby.
In the series’ first scene, she’s smoking and swearing, swanning around her grounds in a silk dressing gown, communicating with her deaf son through sign language. She has good news for him – she’s just landed a huge film role. But when she tries to pop a bottle of fizz back in the kitchen, her husband Cob (Daniel Ings of The Crown and Lovesick) appears annoyed and unsupportive. The next thing we know, a pile of makeup artists, photographers and two huge wolfhounds crowd in for an at-home photo shoot – which is when Suzie sees the news: sexual photos have been hacked from her phone and are about to be published for the world to see.
With the unflappable Naomi working on damage limitation, Suzie braces for impact – doing her best to swallow down the feeling that her perfect life is well and truly in tatters. As the dust settles, Suzie and Naomi develop a plan to deny the hell out of it. But when attending a sci-fi convention for her appearance in popular series Quo Vadis, they realise their plan to deny everything may have made things worse.
This isn’t the first time Lucy Prebble and Piper have worked together – the first time was on racy drama Secret Diary of a Call Girl in 2007. Since then, Prebble has made her name in theatre with successful plays such as Enron at the Royal Court, The Effect at the National Theatre and last year’s hit A Very Expensive Poison at the Old Vic. She’s also gone on to work as a screenwriter for the phenomenally successful HBO show Succession. And anyone who’s seen Piper on stage will know what an incredible actor she is – her 2016 performance of Yerma at the Young Vic remains one of the most astonishing we’ve ever seen. Together as co-writers and producers, they’ve produced something that feels both timely and relatable.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, both recent BBC hits focusing on strong but unconventional 30-something women. In an interview with the Radio Times last week, Prebble was quick to point out that I Hate Suzie would not have been made five years ago, and that Waller-Bridge and Coel have both paved the way for non-traditional storytelling when it comes to central female characters. Swearing, casual drug use and scenes set on the toilet – these are now all commonplace plotlines and help to show the protagonists as real women with complex inner lives and modern problems. It comes as no surprise that Piper plays the flawed Suzie flawlessly, deftly showing her characters many roles – as an actress, mother, wife, friend and client – with believability and humour. If you’re in need of a fresh drama that both charms and challenges, I Hate Suzie is it.
I Hate Suzie starts on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on 27th August. All eight episodes will be available to stream on Now TV from the same date.