Conversations with Friends is indeed a bit messy.
Frances and Nick begin having an affair, while Bobbi is, herself, drawn to Melissa—it’s not a romantic connection per se, but rather Melissa’s glamour and sophistication that Bobbi finds alluring. Feelings between Bobbi and Frances linger and the introduction of two new players into their too-tight social circle tests their bond.
In my all too humble opinion, Frances and Bobbi’s relationship is the true beating heart of this 12-part mini-series that simmers with tension. Female friendships are often left unexplored or relegated to clichés. Does Conversations with Friends tread new ground here? Perhaps not. But, Sasha Lane and Alison Oliver bring Bobbi and Frances to life beautifully and freely inhabit the gray spaces that exist in love and young adulthood. They are worthy of a “Conversation” all their own.
Read more from Sasha Lane below:
Awards Daily: Sasha, I wanted to start with this complex female friendship and relationship at the center of the story, with you and Allison. There’s obviously some romantic past, and also maybe some attraction and residual feelings; but it’s also this sort of deep friendship and love that exists between these two young women? How did you see that aspect?
Sasha Lane: Basically everything you just said. It’s complex. I think, personally, that female friendships are a lot more intimate and intense than any other friendships, or even relationships, you know? Because they kind of similarly go through the same things you do. I think we naturally are just a little bit more intimate with each other, even if it’s not intimate in the sense of touchy-feely and all that. It is this deep bond. And so when you’re dealing with romantic feelings as well, and lack of transparency, and the evolution of the friendship, it gets complicated, but there’s like a fierce loyalty to them, I think. And, especially being young adults, you are not going to be the same people that you were when you first met, hopefully. You constantly evolve, and the relationship evolves, and new outside factors and people start to intermingle with your relationships. And I think it just makes for a big old group of messiness; it’s just messy.
AD: And I’ve been asking all of your co-stars this, and I’ve been getting really interesting responses. Did you find that in working on Conversations with Friends, and within that “messiness” you were allowed to have some introspection and reexamine your own worldview in terms of the relationships in your life? And what have you learned as Bobbi has also changed over the course of the show?
SL: Definitely. I feel like I always maybe learn a little bit of something, or take a little bit of perspective from someone else when I’m playing a character. Because it’s not your mind, and then it becomes your mind and your own thinking because you’re constantly dealing with this character and her thoughts and feelings. You know, I’ve always been a person that viewed love as a very open-ended question and statement, and I always viewed it to be messy in itself—and I think there’s a beauty to that. But I also think when you’re dealing with young adults, who have the ability to create chaos in their own lives and still learn from it, and move on, it’s different compared to a married couple, with adults who have jobs and careers, and have other talks of family, and success and all these things. Now, who’s to say that Melissa doesn’t view the same thing as Bobbi, and I think that’s why they connect with each other—but Melissa’s also in a different place of her life than Bobbi is. And Nick is in a different space than Frances is because he has a lot more to lose and to risk—more so than just a broken heart. And so, I think it made me think a lot about placements in life, and how you could still maybe have the same kind of viewpoint and stance on something, but your circumstances do shift them a bit. And you start to understand maybe someone else’s view a little bit more, or you tweak things more. And then you’re deciding, how many conversations you want to have with your partner over this, just to get this one idea set? But actually, you love that one person, you want to just be in a relationship. Doesn’t mean that your viewpoint of love is different. It’s just your circumstances.
AD: You and I both have roots in Houston. What was it like to inhabit a character that is physically and mentally a world away from where you came from?
SL: We were mostly in Belfast, and I learned a lot about The Troubles and stuff, and I’ve been to places like Ukraine and Bulgaria. I’m such a homebody, when I do explore and I do go out, I’m going to go to a local pub, I’m going to drink what you drink; I’m going to get into that. And so personally, I felt right at home in Belfast. Weirdly enough. But that’s just because it’s not like I really was going out or anything. It wasn’t much of a shock, I guess, for me. If you would’ve asked me seven years ago when I’ve never been anywhere but Texas, definitely would’ve been a shock. But now that I personally have ventured out into the world more, and gotten to know different people in different places and stuff, it didn’t really have like a weird shock for me. You can bring your kids to the bars though, that’s amazing.
AD: [Laughs]. I didn’t know that. And how did you find calibrating your performance, in relation to where Bobbi starts and where she ends up? Because there’s so much growth, and you’re considering all the dynamics of the relationships as they shift. How did you incorporate that into your performance, in the beats and character development?
SL: I mean, it’s a lot to keep up with, especially [because] there’s so many changes, so many little small big things that happen. And also we’re not filming in order, and that’s confusing as well, and that can be a challenge. And so I started kind of going through my scripts and going, ‘Okay, this is before things start getting bad with her dad; this is when it’s getting worse…Bobbi and Frances are good right now; Bobbi and Frances just met Nick.’ You know, you have to start going by little details and little big, small moments, that are actually affecting the character, and the way they think, and the way they interact, and all that. And so, it’s just nice to be able to kind of put it out in front of you, so when you go into a scene, you can just look back and go, ‘I know exactly where they are. I know what happened before this, what’s happening right now.’ So that’ll help me be able to say like, ‘Okay, she will look at her a little bit more. She’s maybe not going to be as willing to help Frances.’
AD: And how did you approach those subtleties that you were mentioning? Because a lot of it is internal and a lot of it is just based on body language or looks… So how did you approach that, in terms of your performance and getting into character?
SL: I always just think less is more. I always think the things that are not spoken – that weight of that space and that time – have a really big hold. And so it’s always been one of my favorite things to do. And so I just dissected it just like I would the words that Bobby uses, the conversation she’s having; I did the same for the moments in between. When you work with someone like Lenny, every detail to him is so important. You’re going back and forth on what Bobbi is thinking, and [asking yourself,] ‘Why is she thinking this? And why is she here?’, you start to have different ways of viewing each moment. Then by take 18, you have all 17 of those takes’ worth of thoughts and portrayals of one small moment, [so] now when you see it on screen, you have all the layers behind you on it. I think that that to me is the beauty of the unspoken as well as the beauty of how Lenny works as a director.
AD: Sasha, I’ve been lucky enough to speak to the Conversations quartet. You’ve all spoken a lot about the time that you spent together. How did that aid in your process, and were there little things that you discovered as you guys were working together that might have gotten added in there later?
SL: I think we just formed, all of us, really good bonds and friendships. And also, there was a safety among us. So it gave us the ability to ask questions to each other if we needed, like ‘How do you feel about this scene? How do you feel about my response to you? Do you think she really would respond that way?’ Or, there were times, [for example], where Jemima might react a certain way to what Bobbi says, and she doesn’t agree with what Bobbi is saying, as Jemima. And then I personally can come in and say, ‘Well, don’t you think that if in this setting it would be funny because…Why am I at this dinner in the first place?’ You know, it gave us the opportunity to be able to have those discussions openly and freely because we did form a bond and we all did care about the project so much, and we all hung out with each other.
Conversations with Friends is available via Hulu. Read more interviews with the cast of “Conversations” here.