Creator Sarah Kendall on 1980s inspiration for dark comedy Frayed

What was it about this 
story that made you 
want to write it?

Sarah Kendall as Sammy in Frayed. Picture: PA Photo/©Sky UK Limited/Colin Hutton
Sarah Kendall as Sammy in Frayed. Picture: PA Photo/©Sky UK Limited/Colin Hutton
Sarah Kendall as Sammy in Frayed. Picture: PA Photo/©Sky UK Limited/Colin Hutton

I loved the idea of writing a character [in Simone] who thought that she had lied her way into this position of power, and then all the lies explode – kind of in one day. I just love the idea of someone landing in such a hot fire and seeing how they cope. To go from that amount of wealth and privilege, to having nothing and having to confront all the lies that she has built her life on. It was really rich for plot lines, rich for comedy, and makes you want to know what she’d been running from and why she became such a liar.

You filmed in London and Newcastle, Australia, where both you and your character, Simone, hail from. Was it good to be back?

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We just had an amazing cast and crew. What was weird for me was to be filming a show set in the world of my childhood, and to be filming that show in the town that I grew up in. That was a surreal experience. I got a real kick out of that.

Tell me more about Simone’s attitude towards everything that happens to her. Could you relate to her in any way?

I don’t think I’m like Simone at all but what I like about her is she’s a survivor. No matter what happens to her, she’s constantly busting it, she’s constantly trying to figure out ‘How am I going to deal with this mess?’ Even if it’s the worst idea possible, she just goes for it, and that’s a really fun character to write, because there’s no inertia with Simone. Even when she’s lying and deceiving people and pretending to be something she isn’t, she’s desperately trying to get herself out of some kind of fix.

Was there much comedic improvisation when filming?

The physical stuff, certainly with my brother. He and I became increasingly physical, the more we got to know each other off set. We started to play up that sibling thing of physical violence. We became comfortable enough with each other that I could flick him in the nuts, or he would shove me into a bush as we were walking. But we had one particular punch-up that ended with me throwing a bicycle at him. The director ran on set going ‘CUT, CUT, CUT!’ because we’d gone too far, but we were in hysterics.

You’ve got a great cast 
on board, including Diane Morgan and Robert Webb. How did they become involved?

They were people I’ve worked with in the past who I just think are brilliant and funny. I hadn’t written with them in mind, it was just, ‘Oh my God, imagine if we got Diane Morgan? Oh my God, can you imagine if we got Robert Webb?’ Once I’d written the show and then thought about casting, it was a sort of pie in the sky idea that we’d approach them. So then when they said yes, I was just so happy to have them involved.

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Frayed is described as a dark comedy. How does the show marry the two genres together?

That’s all in the writing and having the confidence to play a serious scene and let it be serious, and let it be authentic. If you’re not forcing the funny and you’re not forcing the darker stuff, if it feels organic and real, then I think it’s fine because that’s what life is like. Life isn’t a genre. You get happiness and sadness alongside each other all the time.

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The series is set in the late 1980s. How does it embody the era?

For me, the key thing about it being the ’80s is that it’s the last pre-internet era. The internet is really as big as electricity being discovered. It’s as big as the car being invented. This is a civilisation before the digital age and that meant so many things – no mobile phones, no social media. People could disappear without a trace; people could move to the other side of the world and reinvent themselves. You didn’t know where people were every hour of the day, you couldn’t contact people when you wanted to. It’s a world that has disappeared and it creates that sort of pressure-cooker feel.

What’s the main message you want to get across, 
having penned the series?

In the ’80s, the way most people in Britain were seeing Australia was through the lens of Home And Away and Neighbours. There was this sun-drenched, happy landscape of these healthy, happy Australians, either by the coast or living in suburbia. I wanted to do a show that was a filthy companion piece to that. You’ve still got lots of sunshine and that healthy outdoor living, but the place is a bit of a s***hole.

Frayed premieres on Sky One and NOW TV tomorrow