Conversations With Friends centers on Frances, a 21-year-old English major in Dublin, and her tenuous bond with former-girlfriend, now-best-friend Bobbi. One night out, they meet Melissa, an accomplished author in her 30s. Before long they’re thrust into an intricate study of intermingling couples—Bobbi bonding fiercely with Melissa, while Frances and Melissa’s husband, well-known actor Nick (Joe Alwyn), navigate their own heated sexual connection. Frances is our eyes and ears through boozy dinner parties, a spontaneous Croatia getaway, and a budding secret affair. “You have these various permutations within that quartet of relationships and power dynamics and attraction,” says Abrahamson. “But all of it revolves around Frances.”
The series is largely faithful to its source material, though it increasingly establishes itself independently in both plot and mood. One immediate point of departure: Bobbi is a Black American here, slowly picking up Irish phrases as she’s spent a few years away from home in New York. “Lenny and I had a lot of conversations about where she’s from, how much where she came from is spoken about,” Sasha Lane tells me. “We wanted to keep Bobbi even further from the rest of them. Letting her have an American accent kept her a bit more singled out.” Adds Abrahamson: “We saw brilliant people, but there was just something about Sasha. There are few people who capture that quality that Bobbi is described as having in the novel—this kind of extraordinariness, this impact.” He says that his team was also “keen to represent the diversity in modern Ireland.”
Unlike Normal People, Conversations is populated with well-known actors, from Lane (American Honey, Loki) to Kirke (Girls) and Alwyn (The Favourite, producer on his partner Taylor Swift’s Folklore). Each brings a certain charismatic familiarity to their roles. But in keeping with the theme of trying to build off Normal People’s success, casting a “name” for the lead character didn’t interest producers. Instead, they made another discovery.