“This Way Up” creator/star Aisling Bea makes no bones about deconstructing romcom tropes in her six-episode comedy series.
“In Season 1, what I didn’t want to do was to have it look like the cause of Aine’s problems was a man,” the Irish-born comedian/actress told The Post about her on-screen alter ego — who, in the series premiere, was discharged from a sanitarium after an emotional breakdown.
“I quite considered not making it a romcom…I wanted to look at relationships, and the romance of the show is the two sisters, and no one else,” she said, referring to Aine’s older sister Shona, played by Sharon Horgan. “Our relationship is the bedrock of the whole series.”
Fans of “This Way Up,” back Friday (July 9) for Season 2 on Hulu, know how much Aine (pronounced “Anya”) and Shona rely on each other through thick and thin (it was Shona who checked Aine out of her “spa” stay).
That’s even more apparent in Season 2, which picks up right after the Season 1 finale. Aine, still sharing a flat with the sexually prolific Bradley (Kadiff Kirwan), is now dating Richard (Tobias Menzies), who hired her last season to tutor his son, Etienne (who he barely knows — the result of a brief fling). Etienne has now returned home to France.
Shona, meanwhile, is engaged to longtime love Vish (Aasif Mandvi) but is having second thoughts after her secret romance with her business partner, Charlotte (Indira Varma) — who’s none-too-pleased at this turn of events.
Hey, it’s complicated. But, then again, life is complicated.
“Going into Season 2 I could have a bit more fun with the romantic relationships, but I also didn’t want to do the show a gender disservice by having everyone together in the season premiere,” Bea said of the main players. “One thing I wanted to explore was the idea that, what if we actually saw the relationships in famous romcoms play out? What would all of our favorite romcoms, with people running through airports, look like when these people are in a daily relationship? How do they get along or communicate over the phone? What happens if it doesn’t work out and you break up with each other?
“What’s sometimes sold to us as romance is actually toxic chaos,” she said. “And within that, maybe there’s another version of relationships you might not actually see that’s safer and more secure. I wanted to make sure that the relationship between Shona and Vish, for example, wasn’t clear-cut. Should she definitely be with Charlotte? Has she made a terrible mistake?
“We don’t know yet.”
The on-screen chemistry between Bea and Horgan is palpable, almost like they’re sisters in real life. It’s part-and-parcel of their long friendship and creative collaborations.
“I first met [Sharon] when I was auditioning to play her sister in [the 2012 British sitcom] ‘Dead Boss,’” Bea said, “and then we started writing a film that never went anywhere and [we] wrote a series that never got picked up. Last year we wrote a pilot for HBO Max that they passed on.
“I’m trying to make something of our chemistry because it feels like a waste otherwise,” she said. “I suppose the proof is in the pudding. We found more intricacies [in Aine and Shona] in Season 2…than the first season, which might’ve been a bit of me and Sharon but a lot more about myself and my sister and my best friends, those kinds of things.”
Whatever she goes through this season, rest assured that Aine remains her predictably unpredictable self.
“She’s funny and funny in [the show],” Bea said. “She’s funny for evermore, whether she’s well or unwell…and she’s kind and loving and quick, but that quickness can also be reactive and her kindness can be overly controlling and trying to do too much, which is annoying.
“Her funniness can lift people up but can be used to tear them down,” she said. “Mental health issues are part of her story but not who she is. I hope people who connect with the show feel that they can watch it and go, ‘Oh, that’s something I’m going through but it’s not the sum of my parts.’”