Conversations with Friends: Cast revealed for TV drama of Sally Rooney’s first novel

Coming after the phenomenal success of Normal People, the series is fiercely anticipated

Alison Oliver in The Merchant of Venice

Alison Oliver in The Merchant of Venice

 

The cast has been announced for Element Pictures’ upcoming TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. Coming after the phenomenal success of the same team’s Normal People, which made stars of Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, the series is sure to be fiercely anticipated. 

Alison Oliver, Cork-raised alumna of the Lir Academy, where Mescal also trained, will be taking on the central role of Frances. Sasha Lane, the American actor who broke through so spectacularly in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, plays Frances’s sometime girlfriend Bobbi.

Joe Alwyn, excellent in Element’s The Favourite, and Jemima Kirke, familiar from Girls and Sex Education, play Nick and Melissa.

Alison Oliver, Cork-raised alumna of the Lir Academy takes on the central role of Frances
Alison Oliver, Cork-raised alumna of the Lir Academy takes on the central role of Frances
Sasha Lane plays the character of Bobbi
Sasha Lane plays the character of Bobbi

Like Normal People, Conversations with Friends is produced in cooperation with the BBC and the streaming service Hulu. Lenny Abrahamson, Oscar-nominated for Room, returns to the director’s chair.

Alice Birch, Mark O’Halloran, Meadhbh McHugh and Susan Soon He Stanton are the writers on adaption duties. Catherine Magee is series producer and Jeanie Igo is producer. Filming will take place this year in Dublin, Belfast and overseas locations.

“Obviously expectations are high in the wake of Normal People,” Ed Guiney, executive producer of the series, told The Irish Times. “And although they are cousins and connected by Sally, Lenny and Element, we want to make sure Conversations With Friends is very much its own unique thing and we are so excited to announce this brilliant cast. We’ve been delayed a bit by Covid, but are dying to get into making it.” 

Published in 2017, Rooney’s debut novel follows Frances and Bobbi, romantic and artistic partners at Trinity College Dublin, as they move among the older couple in leafy, middle-class Dublin. Nick and Frances embark on a passionate affair that frays relations between the young woman and her old associate.

“Conversations With Friends both tempts the stereotypes of millennial women’s fiction, and exceeds these,” Gill Moore wrote in her review for this newspaper. “Its characters, couched in contemporary theory and media, call to mind other smart, sensitive literary narrators throughout history, from JD Salinger’s self-conscious outsiders to – as Rooney noted herself – Jane Austen’s Emma.”

Alwyn, Lane and Kirke have all established an identity within the business, but the project offers an enormous opportunity for Oliver. Since the success of Normal People last year, Mescal has received an Emmy nomination, appeared in a Rolling Stones video and replaced Jamie Dornan in an upcoming film version of Carmen. Edgar-Jones is a current Golden Globes nominee.

“I feel so excited to be collaborating with four such superb actors to bring Sally’s brilliant novel to the screen,” Abrahamson said. “Over the last few months it has been a privilege to work alongside Element Pictures and our extraordinary team of writers to get the scripts to a point where we all feel so excited to start shooting.”

Conversations with Friends will arrive on RTÉ, BBC and Hulu in 2022.