Work

Phoebe Waller-Bridge reluctantly wrote the original 'Fleabag' sketch as a favor for a friend

Share
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, winner of Best Performance By An Actress In a Television Series - Musical or Comedy, poses in the press room during the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Daniele Venturelli | WireImage

Before she took home two Golden Globes, swept the Emmy awards and became a $20 million Amazon deal-maker, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was just trying to be a good friend and ended up "tricked" into writing a 10-minute sketch for a comedy show.

She told the Los Angeles Times in a 2017 interview that she came up with the original idea of "Fleabag" to help out her friend Deborah Frances-White, who needed to fill a 10-minute slot at a comedy show. But she was reluctant to do so at first.

"She had been trying to get me to do stand-up for ages, and I was like, 'No no no,'" Waller-Bridge said of her friend's request. "And she tricked me with this one. She said it was storytelling with comedians and it was sitting down."

The piece, which Waller-Bridge wrote in a few days, was a success, thanks in part to the writer's ability to include her own trickery in her storytelling.

"So I ran with the stand-up thing, and the first 9½ minutes was basically the character delivering joke after joke about how bleak her life was," Waller-Bridge explained. "I really wanted that idea of an emotional twist at the end of something that seems so relentlessly funny, because I don't think people can be relentlessly funny unless they're hiding some kind of pain."

Seeing the audience's reaction to the performance, Waller-Bridge says her best friend and DryWrite Theatre Company co-founder, Vicky Jones, along with their producer, Francesca Moody, insisted the sketch become a full-length play. Before they knew it, they had a venue at Edinburgh's Fringe Festival, where it ran for a month and won a Fringe First award. "I didn't really have a choice," Waller-Bridge said. "It was the best kind of bullying from my friends ever."

"Fleabag" would go on to be developed as a TV show aired on BBC and picked up by Amazon to stream to U.S. audiences. Since then, the entertainer's portfolio has expanded to include working on "Broadchurch" and "Crashing," and creating, writing and executive producing the award-winning spy thriller "Killing Eve." She made her mark on the big screen, appearing in "Solo: A Star Wars Story," and was brought on by Daniel Craig himself to rewrite the script for the next James Bond movie. Next up: She's executive producing HBO's upcoming comedy series "Run."

"This is the biggest thing, by far, that's ever happened to me," she told the LA Times back in 2017. "And it's amazing that it's come from 'Fleabag.'"

Waller-Bridge took home two trophies from the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards for best actress in a TV series and best TV series overall, both in the "comedy or musical" category. The people she thanked in her acceptance speech included former president Barack Obama, who recently included "Fleabag's" second season as one of his favorite TV shows of 2019.

The multi-hyphenate also won three Emmy awards in September for best comedy writing, acting and overall series for "Fleabag." Just a few days later, Amazon announced a $20 million a year deal with Waller-Bridge, through which she'll create and produce new TV content the streaming platform.

"I'm insanely excited to be continuing my relationship with Amazon,' Waller-Bridge said in a statement. 'Working with the team on 'Fleabag' was the creative partnership dreams are made of. It really feels like home. I can't wait to get going!'

Waller-Bridge has been using the awards season circuit to shut down speculation as to whether she'll revisit "Fleabag" in the future.

"I haven't changed my mind about season 3," Waller-Bridge told reporters in the press room after the 2020 Golden Globes, according to People. "It feels more like the right decision, the further we go along this journey. I don't know, it's like a peaceful goodbye."

"It feels like we keep saying goodbye to it on these stages, but it felt like the right thing to do," she added.

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Don't miss: Jennifer Lopez reacts to 'Hustlers' Oscar buzz: 'You work hard your whole life, and you wonder if anybody notices'

VIDEO2:1202:12
Janelle Monáe's money mindset comes from her working-class parents