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Meet the break-out stars of Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love

As the bestselling memoir hits TV screens, Amy Francombe rounds up the cast of the summer blockbuster about to go stratospheric

BBC / Working Title / Universal International Studios Limited
By
07 Jun 2022

Dolly Alderton’s explosively funny memoir Everything I Know About Love was always going to be an instant hit. In fact, industry bodies were so sure of it that they optioned it to be turned into a television adaption before the book was even published in 2018.

Four years later and the book has scooped a prestigious National Book Award and sold 800,000 copies across 21 countries. Alderton, a former Sunday Times’ dating columnist and host of the beloved High Low podcast, was labelled the “voice of a generation” for her unflinching portrayal of the what it takes to survive your twenties. Award-winning author of Three Women Lisa Taddeo proclaimed: “There is no writer quite like Dolly Alderton working today and very soon the world will know it.” While journalist Elizabeth Day called the debut novel “a stone-cold classic”.

And now, fans will rejoice, the universally acclaimed book is set to bulldoze onto the silver screen as a BBC adaptation on Tuesday night (June 7)

“I never thought the book would be on screen,” Alderton has said. “But when there was interest in it, it made sense because it’s the most vivid period of my life; my twenties, the decade of wilderness and learning.”

Although the book, which is pegged as “Sex and the City for millennials”, will serve as inspiration, the series’ storyline will be slightly different.

The official synopsis reveals: "Maggie and Birdy, besties since school, finally land in London to live it large, when the unexpected happens – dependable Birdy gets a steady boyfriend. A generous, funny, warm-hearted and uplifting Sex & The City for Millennials which covers bad dates and squalid flat-shares, heartaches and humiliations, and, most importantly, unbreakable female friendships."

Directed by China Moo-Young (Intergalactic, Harlots) and Julia Ford, Alderton spent six months pruning her memoir into seven 45 minute episodes. “There are so many layers of getting it right. You do your research, then you redraft the scripts, then you have a million meetings about props and what posters are on the walls of everyone’s bedroom,” the writer recalls about the process of bringing Everything I Know About Love to life.

The “raucous girl gang show” hits screens tomorrow night and promises to explore bad dates, squalid flat-shares, heartaches, humiliations and, most importantly, unbreakable female friendships. Our Evening Standard reviewer says, it’ll make you long for “your chaotic, mould-ridden flatshare days, corner shop rosé hangovers and all.”

These are its break-out stars.

Emma Appleton

Emma Appleton

/ Dave Benett

Role: Maggie, a mischievous, playful 20-something who is based on Alderton

Age: 30

Might recognise from: The Sex Pistols, The Watcher, Traitors, The End of the F***ing World

It’s set to be a meteoric year for Appleton who is also starring as Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of the band’s bassist Sid Vicious, in Danny Boyle’s Pistol.

The model-turned-actress was born and raised in Witney, the Oxfordshire constituency of former Prime Minister David Cameron. She went to a local comprehensive school specialising in the visual and performing arts where she discovered a talent for acting. When she finished, she says, drama school didn’t seem a viable option.

Instead, Appleton was approached by a model agency and moved from the leafy Cotswolds to bustling London aged 19. She modelled for the likes of The Kooples, Victoria Beckham and Daks before leaving the runway in 2015. “I was at the point where it was not fulfilling me creatively, and I wanted more,” she told Elle magazine. “I worked with some wonderful people, but the negative times did taint it for me. I wasn’t very happy; it wasn’t good for my soul. I just wanted to act.”

It didn’t take long for the star to transition from modelling to acting and she bagged a part in short film Dreamlands the following year. Next came BBC Three drama Clique, about a gang of alpha girls at university, and support roles in Grantchester and The End of the F***ing World. A major turning point came with Traitors, the Channel 4 Second World War spy drama, in which she starred opposite TV golden girl Keeley Hawes.

​​Just a week after wrapping up on Pistol, Appleton started filming another lead part in Everything I Know About Love. She headed to Manchester, transforming from Spungen into Maggie, the character based on Alderton, for the seven-part BBC series. “[The casting process] was kind of like finding a boyfriend. It was so like when you meet someone that you like. I remember the first time that I saw Emma in a chemistry test, I just knew it was love. I just knew it had to be,” Alderton reveals.

It seems the admiration is mutual. “What an absolute riot the past 4 months have been,” Appleton wrote on Instagram as filming wrapped. “A huge thank you to the kindest and most talented cast and crew, and @dollyalderton - thank you for being a living genius who writes from the heart and letting us be a part of it.”

Bel Powley

Ian Gavan/Getty

Will play: Birdy, also known as Belinda Benowitz – Maggie’s loving, open hearted childhood best friend

Age: 30

Might recognise from: The Morning Show, Informer, Diary of a Teenage Girl

Bel Powley rose to fame in 2015 as Minnie, the self-assured 15-year-old cartoonist who becomes sexually attracted to her mother’s boyfriend in coming-of-age tale, The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Since then, the west London-born actor, who recently became engaged to fellow actor Douglas Booth, has been carving out a reputation for herself as one of Hollywood’s ones to watch.

It’s no wonder – she comes from acting stock. Powley’s father is Mark Powley, who has starred in pretty much every well-loved British TV show from The Bill to Coronation Street through to Birds of a Feather and Casualty. Her mother is the former dancer turned casting director Janis Jaffa.

But you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that they opened all the doors for her. “I used to do a Saturday drama group called Young Blood Theatre Company with school-friends in west London – nothing to do with my mum and dad,” she told The Telegraph. “A casting director came to pick people out for a new BBC children’s series called MI High. She picked me, I auditioned, and I got the job.”

As for landing the role of a lifetime, the star is understandably excited. “I was a huge, huge fan of [Everything I Know About Love] when it came out and I think a lot of millennial women were. It feels really special. Everything in this show is completely relatable to me.”

Marli Siu

Will play: Nell, the more responsible and practical one in the friendship group

Age: 29

Might recognise from: Alex Rider, Our Ladies, Anna and the Apocalypse

Siu lived in Hong Kong until she was four years old, before moving to and growing up in north-east Scotland. Her mother is Scottish from Edinburgh and her father is Chinese.

“Where I grew up, there also wasn’t a CD shop or a clothes shop so on weekends we would get the train to Inverness to go to a shopping centre,” She said in a 2019 interview with NME. “It’s a privilege that people who live in the city don’t realise – that these things are not easily accessible to everyone.”

The young actress would take the hour long bus into Elgin every week to attend a youth theatre group. Eventually she joined the National Youth Theatre in Edinburgh permanently. After graduating from in 2017, Siu moved London to play Echo for 38 episodes of the CBBC web series Dixi.

It was here where she first started mining experiences to play her character in Everything I Know About Love. “I had a really similar experience where me and my best mate moved to London together and moved into a house in Walthamstow. There was damp all over the place and the shower was broken. Also, there were no windows in some of the bedrooms. But I was so excited to be there and, even if things were bad, I had my best mate and she would leave peanut butter cups outside my room on bad days. It was the experience of not having much else but your best mate. “

Her first major movie role came later that year, when she played Lisa in John McPhail’s zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse and was named as one of Screen International’s 2018 Stars of Tomorrow.

Nonetheless, her role as straight-talking Nell in Everything I Know About Love is set to be a turning point in the actress’s career. “Filming in London was pretty exciting as it was so iconic - a real pinch me moment was shooting on the Southbank with the London Eye behind you.”

Aliyah Odoffin

PA

Will play: Amara, the first one to suggest a party if someone is upset

Might recognise from: Not much... yet

Everyone loves a newcomer. RADA-trained Odoffin will make her screen debut as Amara, one of Maggie and Birdy’s best mates, in tomorrow night’s new series.

“I think she’s a big dreamer and wants to make her dreams a reality so in that aspect, I see a lot of myself,” says Odoffin.

It’s true, having only previously starred in the short film Better Get Better (2020) and Hamlet, NW5 (2021) before landing a role in arguably be the biggest TV show of the summer, Odoffin certainly knows how to dream big.

Speaking of her time on set, Odoffin praised the collaborative nature of the cast and crew. “There was such a feeling of collaboration,” she said in an interview for the official press release, “it was such a joy working with everyone.” It’s a sentiment that Appleton has mirrored in an interview for The Guardian: “Aliyah’s been to RADA and has had training I’ve never had, so I was picking her brain – whereas I’ve worked with cameras and on TV … It just felt really collaborative.”

At the end of filming last December, Odoffin wrote on Instagram: “It was a joy coming into work everyday with you all, I am very blessed. I can’t wait for you all to meet these girls. Tell a friend to tell a friend!” Although the emerging actress may only 759 followers now, that number is set to skyrocket as the show grips the nation.

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