'Starstruck' Is the Perfect Rom Com for Our Time (2024)

In March of 2021, during the second winter of the COVID pandemic, a perfect little show appeared on HBO Max. Starstruck followed Jessie, a twenty-something movie theater usher who drunkenly meets Tom (a charming Nikesh Patel) in a London nightclub on New Year’s Eve. When she wakes up next to him the following day, she discovers he’s a bonafide international movie star.

The first season's six 22-minute episodes aired at a time when the thought of meeting a romantic partner in real life seemed like an unfathomable dream. Creator and star Rose Matafeo—a stand-up comedian with roles in TV shows in New Zealand and Australia—had crafted a story that mixed relatability, messiness, and just the right dose of sheer fantasy, giving viewers reason to hope. Season two, written by Matafeo and co-creator Alice Snedden, picks up in the exact moment where season one left off, shifting focus from Will they or won’t they? to They did—now what?

BAZAAR.com sat down with Matafeo and Patel to discuss the making of season two, the joys of fake fighting with one another, and why they think the show has struck such a chord with audiences around the world. Viewers might be in a different headspace this season with the world reopening, but it shouldn't matter: Starstruck still strikes a chord the second time around.

It was so funny how people started discovering the show when it happened. A friend at HBO Max said, "I have a show for you. I'll get you episodes." And then slowly my friends were coming to me saying, "Have you heard? Have you watched?"

Rose Matafeo: I love the phone tree. It's lovely.

Nikesh Patel: Who's the scariest or who's the most "wow" person that you've met who's seen the show?

RM: Samin Nosrat—you know, the chef who does Salt Fat Acid Heat. She sent me texts of herself basically doing PR for the show with her group of friends. That was really sweet. And Sam Neill commented that he loved the show. My own dad, I think, hasn't even finished the second series. Sam Neil has probably finished watching my show before my own dad!

Why do you think it has struck such a chord?

RM: The making of this show has been so serendipitous. It got shut down for Covid in March, meaning that the dates were changed, which was how, eventually, me and Nikesh got to meet. Had it been made at the [original] time, it wouldn't have been us two. And then it came out during the second winter lockdown in the UK, so everyone was [inside] watching this romantic comedy with people touching and kissing and flirting in night clubs. I think that was what struck a chord. Humans are hardwired to crave love and romance.

NP: I think there's so much good TV, but so much of it is either miserable or asking you to root for fundamentally flawed or terrible people. I love those shows, but it's quite nice occasionally to watch two idiots dancing around each other and shouting, "Come on guys. Just smooch!"

RM: I love watching things for endorphins. It sounds so simple and uncool, but you're like, "I'm just a basic bitch who wants to be happy for 22 minutes."

NP: It is also pretty damn cool, man! [The show is] clever and it's fun, but it also makes you feel good at the end of it, rather than going "Ugh, let me gird my loins and have another three days away from this.” So many people have no restraint when it comes to [bingeing]. Rose and I are doing our best, saying, "Don't forget. It's out on BBC every Monday." And everyone is in the replies going, "Yeah, I watched it all in one sitting."

RM: I had to stop watching Game of Thrones because by the end of the first series, things are just not looking good for this family. I can't deal with that. Throw them a bone! So that's very much my taste when it comes to television, which perhaps influenced the show.

'Starstruck' Is the Perfect Rom Com for Our Time (1)

Nikesh Patel and Rose Matafeo in "Starstruck" Season 2.

Rose, do you feel any pressure after the success of the first one to deliver an equally standout second season?

RM: [Sarcastically] No, it's very, very casual, very easy, and such a breeze, really. As an anxious person, I just really enjoy the entire process.

It was petrifying! I mean, I've never written a second sort of part of a story. I come from a comedy background where you just write a show and move on to the next thing. I was so nervous. We also had written a whole second season and then we rewrote it because we just realized it wasn't right. We were shooting the first season and we both realized, "Oh yeah. No, we can't do those scripts." So it was a real slog to do that.

NP: What was it about? Sorry, I've never read those, actually.

RM: You've never read those, and you're never going to read them. We wrote them without knowing you were cast. That changed the whole dynamic. We didn't have all your family stuff in it. It was a lot more to do with Tom's career. And then we realized that wasn't the stuff about the first season that I was interested in, and I don't think it's the stuff that was striking a chord with audiences—the logistics of being a movie star. People watch it for the emotions of falling in love with someone.

Do these roles that you play, of Tom and Jessie, allow either of you to explore or tap into a part of yourself that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

NP: My girlfriend watched our argument in series two. And she kind of just looked at me and laughed, and said "Oh really, you get paid to do this? Because this is you."

RM: Did that stress her out?

NP: I think it equal parts stressed her out, and she found it very entertaining.

RM: It's the same thing with sex scenes. It's good to sort of find a style, or a noise that isn't actually your sex noise, in the same way that you should really find an argument style that is not your actual one, because it's too telling of your personality.

NP: I missed that class at drama school.

RM: Oh, I did as well. I didn't go to drama school, so everything you see is what you get. I love Jessie so much. She's not exactly like me, but I defend her choices to the end. She's got a good heart. I think we share certain quirks and flaws, potentially. Cynicism about relationships.

NP: I've been asked a few times, what are some of the most fun scenes to do? And I mean, all of them, but I've really enjoyed the argument scenes. I think it's kind of reductive to call them arguments because they've got everything. It starts out kind of playful and silly, and then it's just really fun. I hope this doesn’t sound twisted. It's just really fun to play-argue with you, Rose. You've very good at it.

RM: I find it most difficult, honestly, to play being in love. That feels so much more vulnerable and weird.

'Starstruck' Is the Perfect Rom Com for Our Time (2)

As you wrap season two, is there anything about Tom or Jessie that stays with you? Something that you miss, or something that you'll bring into your real life with you?

RM: I'll take the world—the whole world that [Jessie] lives in, and the friendship group. The first series is almost like a chocolate box version of London; it's such a warm world.

NP: It’s such a delicate balance though: a chocolate box, but still somewhere that feels really relatable.

RM: It’s filmed and based around Northeast London, where I live, and it's picking out the specific romantic elements of London that you wouldn't necessarily see in other shows set there. But I'm kind of biased because I love the characters because they're all my mates.I'm like, "God, this cast is bloody good.”

Rose, do you know how this all ends?

RM: Both of these series ended in spots where it could be the end of the story, and it's a satisfying end. There’s basically a film in a series, and it's completely self-contained. That's really very odd for TV, but I like that about it. If there are opportunities to dip back into that world that warrant it, [it will still be there.] It's almost like fan-fiction about this universe that exists and each series is a story from that world. So I don't really know, but I think we'll dip into what those crazy cats are getting up to at some point, if we ever make another one.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

'Starstruck' Is the Perfect Rom Com for Our Time (3)

Andrea Cuttler

Entertainment Director

Andrea Cuttler is the Entertainment Director of Harper’s BAZAAR , where she oversees all things film, television, and celebrity. When she’s not watching her DVD of Indian Summerfor the 27th time, you can likely find her at one of the same three restaurants in the West Village.

'Starstruck' Is the Perfect Rom Com for Our Time (2024)


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