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‘A real adult? Oh my god no!’ Stars of new millennials comedy Big Mood talk milk and mental health
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‘A real adult? Oh my god no!’ Stars of new millennials comedy Big Mood talk milk and mental health


Nicola Coughlan accidentally spilled soda on her laptop during a Zoom call. The actress, known for her roles in “Derry Girls” and “Bridgerton,” shared that she was using a tray to eat dinner while watching TV and accidentally spilled the soda on her computer. She quickly wiped it off while wearing a black hoodie and reassured everyone that it was okay. Another participant in the chat was Lydia West, who recently gained recognition for her performances in “It’s a Sin” and “Years and Years.” She had turned off her camera to pump breast milk as she recently had a baby.

This is an enjoyable and relatable debut of the duo, who will soon be seen in Big Mood, a six-episode comedy on Channel 4 about two close friends, Maggie and Eddie, in their thirties living in London’s Dalston neighborhood. Coughlan portrays Maggie, who has bipolar disorder, and one of the first things you’ll notice about Big Mood is that it tackles mental health in a humorous way. Camilla Whitehill wrote and created the show, which is geared towards and features millennials, so if you fall into that age range, some of the situations may hit close to home.

During the initial episode, the protagonist and companion enthusiastically sing to Avril Lavigne’s song “Nobody’s Home” in the vehicle before arriving at Maggie’s previous school. She is scheduled to give a talk to the students (while also hooking up with her former history teacher). “I was under the impression that your generation didn’t smoke,” the teacher remarks as they both share a cigarette. “Actually, that’s the generation after us. We do smoke, but we avoid consuming cow’s milk.”

Anarchic … Coughlan in Derry Girls.

“I am not confident enough to see the image in full screen.”

I lack the assurance to view the image in its entirety.

Afterwards, they unexpectedly encounter a former classmate who has become a parent to three children. Maggie is shocked, calling the 30-year-old a “young bride,” while Eddie remarks, “Certain women use their 20s to have children, while others use them to experiment with ketamine. Both options are acceptable.”

There was no question that Coughlan would star in the project. She and Whitehill have been best friends since drama school. Although Whitehill has written numerous plays, this is her first TV series – and she had to have Coughlan. “I always knew she was hilarious, sharp and witty,” says Coughlan, “but that doesn’t always translate. Here, it really did. It’s not like I auditioned – or was ever asked. Thankfully, the script was brilliant.”

West was drawn to the relatable and painfully accurate depiction of thirtysomething city-dwellers in the show. She personally knows the characters and can relate to their experiences in London, finding it both funny and serious, yet also meaningful.

The debut of Big Mood marks the return of an authentic and comical portrayal of modern millennial experiences. When Girls, created by Lena Dunham, premiered in 2012, it set the standard for creating intelligent and entertaining television about a generation in their twenties navigating adulthood. The show’s main character, Hannah Horvath, captures the tendency of millennials to make ordinary life events seem more dramatic and trivial. In 2016, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag added a frank, raunchy and unforgettable comedic perspective that defined the era. Four years later, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You also sheds light on millennial life but from a Black British viewpoint, with a mix of hard-hitting and humorous elements.

Breakout star … West with Olly Alexander in It’s a Sin.

Imagination bar

Subsequently, television targeted towards millennials, a demographic now typically in their 30s, disappeared from sight. Instead, shows exploring the younger generation, known as Gen Z – such as Atypical, Heartstopper, Sex Education, and Euphoria – came into the spotlight. For a period of time, it seemed as though no one wanted to watch characters on TV who could recall the events of 9/11. However, Big Mood offers a refreshing perspective on British individuals in their thirties that does not feel outdated or reliant on stereotypes of how people of that age should look and behave.

“Coughlan, who was raised in a small town near Galway, now resides in London, close to the location where Big Mood was shot. She reflects, “My friends back home are settled down with traditional careers and children, while my friends in London embody the vibe of Big Mood. Your 30s offers a range of lifestyle options. However, what was deemed endearing in your 20s may not hold the same charm now. It’s a time to truly understand yourself, as others may not be as forgiving as before.”

According to West and Coughlan, at the start of the pandemic, millennials were considered to be “youngish” at 30 and 37 years old. However, after four years had passed, they were expected to own homes and have children even though they couldn’t afford it. Many of them are still struggling, living in rented apartments and working in underfunded creative industries. Coughlan, who plays Maggie on Big Mood, can relate to her character’s struggles as a playwright. Just before she turned 30 and landed her role on Derry Girls, she was living with her parents and working a part-time job at an optician’s office. She reflects, “I felt like I had failed and was a loser. Things just weren’t working out for me. It was a really tough time.”

I inquire with West, who was raised in London and currently resides there, if becoming a parent gives her a sense of being more mature, like the societal expectation of being a “proper adult” once you reach 30 years old. She responds with laughter, saying, “Oh my goodness, no. Absolutely not. I look at my child and think, ‘You may be a baby, but I still feel like one too.'” She takes a pause before adding, “Life events can prompt a greater sense of responsibility and shift your perspective. That’s definitely been true for me since becoming a parent. But I still have a lot of growing up to do. I still find fart jokes funny.”

Dark places … Nicola Coughlan and Lydia West.

Display the image in full screen view.

While the start of Big Mood is comical, it gradually takes a darker turn as Maggie experiences a mental health crisis that puts her friendships and career in jeopardy. It is a difficult and distressing journey, as we are not often exposed to the raw, messy reality of struggling with mental health issues such as manic episodes, job struggles, and difficulty being there for others while dealing with our own struggles. Although the 2010s saw a rise in popularization of wellness and discussions about therapy, there is still a lack of understanding and acceptance for mental health issues that are not easily digestible. What happens when our mental turmoil is not widely acknowledged or simple to address? What happens when it is unappealing, unsettling, and ongoing?

“It’s quite challenging,” expresses Coughlan, as playing the role of Maggie proved to be a learning experience. “It prompts us to ask ourselves, ‘Are we truly willing to show generosity towards others? How well do we truly comprehend?'” She delves into the idea of the story of “it’s acceptable to not be in a good place and it’s beneficial to communicate – but how do we handle it when it becomes more complicated than that?”

West acknowledges that mental illness may be depicted as attractive on television, but in actuality, it is a bleak and dreadful experience. It is not often portrayed in its true form, which can be challenging for those with a loved one experiencing a mental health crisis. Our society still has much progress to make in comprehending bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and the effects of antipsychotic drugs.

The underlying darkness in Big Mood is reminiscent of other popular millennial comedies. Shows like Girls, Fleabag, and I May Destroy You have explored themes such as OCD, grief, racism, and rape. Similarly, the humor in Big Mood is not separate from the serious moments, but rather intertwined with them. In one scene, the character Maggie attempts to appeal to her agent using colloquial language often used on social media. She sarcastically rolls her eyes while saying, “Heyyy girlie, I’ve just been dealing with some ‘mental health stuff’.” This moment is both humorous and somber, highlighting the intertwined nature of comedy and darkness.

According to Coughlan, Camilla constantly insists that the film is a comedy. However, she is willing to explore dark themes in order to fully convey the story.

Channel 4’s Big Mood will premiere on March 28th and will be available for streaming on Stan in Australia.

For assistance with mental health support, individuals in the UK can contact Mind at 0300 123 3393 or Childline at 0800 1111. In the US, Mental Health America can be reached at 988 for calls or texts, or through online chat at 988lifeline.org. Other resources for support in Australia include Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636, Lifeline at 13 11 14, and MensLine at 1300 789 978.

Source: theguardian.com