In the few first minutes of I Hate Suzie, an actress’s life absolutely craters. Suzie Pickles starts at the top of the world, celebrating an offer to play a Disney princess (even though she thought “it was just villains from now on”), and then suddenly discovers that photos of herself having sex with a man who is apparently not her husband have leaked online. Things just continue to spiral further out of control from there — as the season continues, Suzie embarrasses herself at a sci-fi convention, lashes out on her husband and son, has a vicious bout of stress IBS, does lots and lots of hard drugs, and sabotages pretty much every relationship in her life. As the show’s star Billie Piper puts it, “I think I had adrenal fatigue by the end.”
I Hate Suzie, an extremely dark, extremely funny British comedy, hits HBO Max today after premiering on Sky TV in the U.K. earlier this year. Piper created the series with her longtime friend and collaborator, writer Lucy Prebble (of Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Succession). Speaking with Vulture over the phone, Piper talked about how a show they’d originally conceived as about female friendship eventually took the form of an immersive panic attack, her love of musicals, and why they were glad the show didn’t get compromised. “There wasn’t an I Hate Suzie-lite,” as Piper said. “It has to be a hot mess!”
The first few episodes of this show, when Suzie’s phone is hacked, really throw you into this visceral panic she’s experiencing. I’ve read you describe it as trying to be an intentionally “immersive experience.” What did that mean to you?
I felt strongly about it being a very sensory experience, as if it was happening to the viewer. For the first few episodes, we were like these should feel like literal panic attack. So when we were talking to the director, Georgi Banks-Davies, we found the person who had that instinct as well, and wanted to lean into that, even though it’s not always that easy.