Although HBO Max’s “Starstruck” is an enchanting romantic comedy, Rose Matafeo, its creator, co-writer, and star, didn’t originally intend it to be that way. The comedian, who hails from New Zealand and now lives in London, simply believed that every good film or TV show should contain a love story, romantic or not.
“I really didn’t realize it until [the series] came out and everyone was like, ‘Check out this rom-com,'” Matafeo says, laughing, at a coffee shop in her north London neighborhood. “I was like, ‘I thought it was just a comedy with me in it.’ Every story must have a love story [and] I think it’s just more my preoccupation with it. That’s the subconscious value of writing — it probably seeps in.”
Matafeo wrote the first season with Alice Snedden before the pandemic, but COVID delayed its production so the pair quickly began writing a second series of episodes. When they were finally able to shoot in the fall of 2020, the writers realized they needed to overhaul Season 2. The first season premiered in April 2021 and introduced hapless Londoner Jessie (Matafeo) who has a one-night stand with a man who turns out to be an A-list movie star named Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel).
Like all good rom-coms, there is a rush, and in the first season Jessie had to decide whether to return to New Zealand or stay with Tom in London. Filming this story with the cast on location in London helped Matafeo and Snedden understand where Season 2 should be going.
“Once you start doing the show, the big benefit as a writer is being on the set,” Matafeo reflects. “When you see the form the show is taking – because there are so many variables beyond the script – we [realized] those scripts didn’t fit the world we were making: “We have to rewrite them.” And I’m so glad we did. I like the second series a lot more than what the original scripts were.”
In Season 2, Jessie struggles with being in a real relationship with Tom, who is offered the opportunity to star in a big movie and grapples with tensions in his family. Meanwhile, Jessie’s toxic ex-boyfriend, Ben, lurks in the background. In the spirit of all good romantic comedy, the season ends with a grand romantic gesture, with purposeful genre references in the episodes — including Matafeo making “his Alan Rickman-ed” a verb when Tom gives Jessie a Joni Mitchell CD (a call to “Love Actually”) — but the finale was It is not intended to evoke that memorable lakeside moment from Bridget Jones’s Diary, although it appears so.
“So much of it was coincidence,” says Matafeo. “Everyone says, ‘Oh, what a great reference,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh… yes.’ It’s so funny how you take something out into the world and how it gets taken and absorbed and obsessed with it. In the first [season], the ending came from the fact that originally we wanted to do an airplane thing and we couldn’t afford it. It really came from budgetary constraints, and [that’s where] I think creativity thrives. And with the lake scene, we wanted to do it in the canals and they’re very, very polluted. It was just super difficult to orchestrate. So we were like, ‘What about a lake?’”
While many viewers may assume that Jessie is intended as an avatar for Matafeo himself, the character was written to be just that – a character. Jessie is personable and often hilarious, but she also makes some questionable decisions and generally struggles to make sense of her life. This sense of insecurity and disorder is interesting to Matafeo, who says she’s “very defensive” about Jessie and her decisions.
“I think she’s a really real character. And yes, maybe I would do some of the ways that she screws up, too. Nothing is autobiographical but her take on the scenarios she finds herself in [and] Her reactions to the often aggravated situations she finds herself in are likely influenced by my own reactions to those things. It’s almost like an RPG.”
At this point, Matafeo hasn’t decided whether there will be a third season of Starstruck. She’s recently returned to live stand-up comedy, where she got her start, and is taking some time this summer to reflect on where her career will continue. But the actress is also aware of her love for the series and hopes to find Jessie’s next chapter.
“I’m still trying to research that because I don’t really know. It was so funny to see the reaction at first [season] and everyone’s like, ‘What a perfect ending, no notes. Never continue the story.’ But we did. I’m such a fan of “Before Sunrise,” the trilogy vibe of it [film series]. Even with TV, it’s always hard to know when to stop. For me it really comes down to whether there is a story to tell or not.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-06-07/rose-matafeo-starstruck-season-3 ‘Starstruck’ creator-star Rose Matafeo considers a Season 3