On the HBO Max comedy-drama I Hate Suzie, British singer-turned actress Billie Piper plays British singer-turned-actress Suzie Pickles. The Doctor Who star also co-created the show with writer Lucy Prebble, with whom she previously worked on Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Despite her input on the show and the obvious similarities between the actress and her character, Piper insists she is very different from Suzie.
"It’s not autobiographical in the moment-to-moment," she says. "My god, I would be horrified if people thought I was exactly like Suzie Pickles."
You get her point. In the premiere, Suzie discovers that explicit photos featuring herself and a gentleman, who is not her husband have turned up online. With her life falling apart, the character often seems hellbent on actually making matters worse.
"It is like watching a car crash," says Piper. "You can’t believe the life choices she’s making. It’s quite unusual to see a woman making such relentless appalling choices with her life. It’s very funny, but it’s punishing to watch, I think, when you’re witnessing that. And other times you do like her, and yet she’s part of the problem."
The actress did help bring verisimilitude to proceedings, particularly in the premiere, when Suzie learns about the scandal while taking part in a photo shoot at the house she shares with her spouse Cob (Daniel Ings).
"Shoots are very adrenalized — I think everyone on a shoot is in a state of flight or fight," says Piper. "It’s a very unnatural set of circumstances. Weirdly, the stakes always feel so high and you can never really understand why. So, that’s just the experience of a shoot on a normal day. Compounded with all this incriminating photographic evidence, it’s tricky."
Piper admits she and Prebble struggled to sell the show before finding a home at Sky in the UK.
"Yeah, we did the rounds with it," she says. "And, yeah, a lot of people turned it down. A lot of the feedback was, they’d already had their sort of woman-having-a-meltdown quota. [Laughs] It’s all too much. But we found our home in the end and we’re delighted. It was just the right fit for us. Sky were constantly encouraging us to lean into the weirdness of it, which was a massive relief, because I don’t think we would have done it any other way. If people wanted to make it shiny, and all the characters likable and relatable, I just don’t think we would have done it."
I Hate Suzie has been warmly received by critics. In her A grade review, EW's Kristen Baldwin hailed the show as "a bloody brilliant exploration of modern womanhood" which blends "darkly comic whimsy with painfully funny truths."
Piper explains she has been encouraged enough by the reception to think about a second season for Suzie.
"I think we would like to do a second series if we can continue to push it — and we obviously have to come up with the story!" she says. "We have no idea where it would go next and this stage. We’re going to start at least talking about it in January."
Watch the trailer for I Hate Suzie above.