The complicated dynamics and relationships of Conversations With Friends are exactly what drew Jemima Kirke to the role of Melissa. Ahead of the May 15 premiere of Hulu's new adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel, Kirke and her co-star, Sasha Lane, opened up to PopCulture.com about taking Rooney's novel off the page and onto the screen.
Conversations With Friends follows the life of 21-year-old college student Frances (Alison Oliver) as she navigates her complicated relationships with her ex-girlfriend, now best friend Bobbi (Lane), and Melissa (Kirke), an older writer who takes an interest in the pair during a spoken word poetry reading in Dublin. While Frances begins a secret affair with Melissa's husband Nick (Joe Alwyn), a handsome but reserved actor, Melissa and Bobbi begin their own flirtation, and things only grow more complicated from there.
"It's hard to say what my initial impression [of the novel] was because I was reading with intent," Kirke said of reading Rooney's source material for the first time. "I was reading with the intention of really understanding Melissa, so I wasn't a clean slate, so to speak." Knowing she would be portraying Melissa on-screen, Kirke said she quickly noticed the writer was "a much more nuanced character than most of the other scripts I get sent," adding, "So, in that sense, it was a very appealing role for me."
Lane had a similar feeling when examining her role as Bobbi for the first time. "My initial thought, I think, was just, 'Oh, this is a person who is going to be easily misunderstood.' Which [that] even voices how Frances sees her, how the world sees her, versus who she truly is."
Finding their dynamic as Melissa and Bobbi was based in part on their relationship as Kirke and Lane. "We had a lot of moments – since we are more peripheral characters – and at times, quite literally ... there were many moments where Bobbi and Melissa are in the background of the scenes," Kirke told PopCulture. "And we are supposed to be having a conversation which you cannot necessarily hear or will be [added in post-production] later, so we could talk about anything we wanted. In those moments, we took the opportunity to just talk as Jemima and Sasha." Conversations With Friends premieres May 15 on Hulu/BBC.