'I told my sister I’d been sectioned... then we both burst out laughing' | Kat Sadler on the origins of her new BBC comedy Such Brave Girls © BBC/Various Artists Limited

'I told my sister I’d been sectioned... then we both burst out laughing'

Kat Sadler on the origins of her new BBC comedy Such Brave Girls

Dysfunctional family sitcom Such Brave Girls launches on BBC Three next week. It is written by Kat Sadler who also stars as Josie, alongside her real-life sibling Lizzie Davidson as her on-screen sister Billie. Here they talk about the show, how it was rooted in their own trauma but is resolutely a comedy, and the ‘’vain, selfish, pathologically desperate for affection’ characters….  

Kat_Sadler in Such Brave Girls


Kat Sadler, who writes and stars as Josie 

What can you tell us about Such Brave Girls?

Such Brave Girls is a family sitcom about three damaged narcissists who are desperate for love. It’s three characters trying to navigate the world armed with nothing but poor judgement skills, and self-esteem that's exclusively tied to people that couldn't care less about them. 

It’s a fictional show exploring trauma and dark subject matters that are deeply personal to myself and my sister which would normally be dealt with in a drama territory, and moving it into a comedy space because that’s how we deal with our issues. But it’s proudly a sitcom.

How would you best describe your character Josie?

Josie is someone who is desperately trying to work out who she is. She’s trying to rebel and express herself whilst being held back by being a spineless, chronic people pleaser. She’s a direct contrast to her sister Billie. 

When you have family trauma, or a parent that leaves, or both, I think you respond in different ways. Josie has turned her anger inwards, towards herself - constantly trying to run away and reinvent who she is. Whereas Billie is just angry at the world. Deep down, they’re both desperate to be loved.

How much of the series is based on your real-life experiences?

All the characters in the show are fictional. The trauma is deeply rooted in reality and I think that’s what gives us the authority to make the jokes that we’re doing. 

The things that Josie faces come from what I’ve seen and experienced and this has given me a warped perspective on the world, and has given me and my sister this very specific sense of humour that comes from our own personal experience. That’s the fun of this show, I’m taking issues that we dealt with in reality and finding the most manipulative cathartic way of dealing with it in the sitcom world.

What was it like working with your sister, Lizzie?

It’s an honour, because she happens to be the funniest person in the world. It’s been the most fun I could possibly have doing this show. Having her with me has been absolute gold dust, because she has such a similar perspective and sense of humour to me because we’ve been through the same things. 

She’s great at backing up any stories from our past that are so bizarre I’m worried I’m remembering them wrong. She elevates everything I do. She’s very much the Del Boy to my Rodney. She knows her character inside-out.

Did you always have Lizzie in mind for the role of Billie?

There was never a day where it wasn’t going to be her. We’ve got such a strong shared language that means that we don't even have to really discuss what we're doing in a scene, we just immediately have each other’s back. Plus she’s not afraid to tell me when she doesn’t like something.

Were there any funny moments from filming?

So many. Simon Bird, our director, really set the tone for that and was always up for a laugh. None of us are serious people. 

We had this game going through filming called Under The Sheet’ where we would hide a crew member under the sheet and we had to guess who it was. People would lose their minds. 

Lizzie’s pep talk to me before I had to do my kissing scene was a highlight. The hardest I’ve laughed is we had to film a clubbing scene where Lizzie improvised this dance routine for two minutes and was almost entirely gesturing towards her crotch which was absolutely mesmerising, and I was trying to keep a straight face which was impossible. Everyone was trying to make each other laugh on set, which meant there was this constant sense of fun and energy.

What’s your most memorable scene?

There's a few. I really love the scene in a toilet cubicle in episode three, where it's all of us screaming at each other. It felt like the lines are really pinging off each other, and everyone was really at the top of their game doing it.  I liked pretending it was like we were in The Thick of It or something. 

It really felt like the electricity was in the air. We got a sad dose of reality though, because me and Liz thought we nailed it in the first few takes and then Simon came in and was like, ‘guys, what are you doing? Step it up.’ Turns out we were doing quite bad acting. 

I think everybody's favourite scene to do collectively was the birthday dinner round the table, because it was just a constant game of competing to see could be the funniest at the table in-between takes, who could be the weirdest, who could annoy each other the most, that was the most fun, I’ve never laughed so hard. Lizzie had to kick my shin under the table.

Was there any improvisation?

Good question! The dance Lizzie did was absolutely improvised and I had to bite my cheeks until they were bleeding to get through that. We improvised in rehearsals to get to know our characters.

 I’m a big fan of actors tweaking lines to fit their voice because I think it always makes everything feel more real, which is very important to me. This cast are all powerhouses in their own right and know their characters so well. It brings me so much joy when they suggest stuff. Paul (who plays Dev) had a line that was something like "I'm just gonna go check on my lasagne.’ Paul said, ‘I don't think Dev would make a lasagne. He’s a perfectionist, he’s always on his iPad. I think he'd make a shakshuka’ and he’s absolutely right. He knows that character inside out, and Dev made a delicious shakshuka.

What inspired you to write the series?

At the start of lockdown, I had this call with my sister. Neither of us had been speaking much, and over the phone I had to tell her I’d been sectioned, and then she told me she ended up in £20,000 worth of debt that she’d been keeping a secret. 

I don’t know how we’d been keeping these big secrets from each other for a really long time. We both just burst out laughing after we’d told each other what had happened, and it made me realise that you do just deal with the most serious things through comedy, and it's always struck me how we can always make each other laugh, even in the darkest times. 

Just that conversation made me feel so much better about everything that had been going on, because it just made it feel like it wasn't this big, scary monster anymore. 

If I can laugh at something, then I can feel bigger than it, and that felt to me like this is terrain I want to deal with in a comedy world, because that's how we talk to each other. And I think hopefully, maybe other people might relate to that, too. It gives us agency over what happened and an element of catharsis. I also feel like I'm quite bored of watching shows that feel very safe at the moment. 

And I think they're really nice, and I enjoy watching them. But I don't feel represented in those, and I also think they might perpetuate this idea that we should be scared of dealing with the darkest stuff in the comedy world. And that's not how I feel about comedy. It's meant to be a powerful tool, making stuff accessible. So that was what inspired me, really.

How did Simon Bird become involved in Such Brave Girls?

Simon wrote me a letter after watching the pilot saying he’d love to direct the series. So I met him and everything he said was absolutely spot on, he completely understood that it was so important to us to hold on to the comedy. He made it clear that it was also very important to him, and that was completely aligned with how I felt about it, which was really exciting. 

I think there's a world in which this got turned into a comedy drama because that's the trend currently with a lot of shows coming out, and I think him and me kind of felt the same way that this is resolutely a sitcom.

It was honestly amazing to work with him because he's a performer, so he knew exactly how to deal with our insecurities. He was always, always prioritising takes and letting us experiment, and he was a really good collaborative person to work with. That was always the priority on set, making sure everybody felt heard, and wanted to collaborate and have a laugh. I think he really encapsulated that.

Do you prefer acting or writing?

I think writing has saved me, it's my favourite thing in the world and I can't imagine not doing it. The minute I got out of hospital, I opened my laptop and started writing again. I take my laptop everywhere with me, I even took it clubbing once. It's something I can't really live without. I find it hard to live in the moment, but with writing I get to live in it afterwards. 

Acting is very fun, like the days we were all on set you are with people and laughing constantly, and that's the best bit. It's a reminder as to why you work so hard to make a script better, so you can enjoy them on set and make people laugh. I forget that bit when I’m writing. 

The combination is weird though. It really struck me on set while we were filming how I could spend two years thinking about lines and dialogue over and over and over again in my head, and then you basically get 20 minutes to act it and it's done. Writing is endless.

What do you want viewers to take away from the series?

That they might see themselves in it in a way, or feel like they're not alone. The world is a scary place and if I can do anything to make things feel more manageable or funny, or take the sting out of bits of life that people might be scared or embarrassed or ashamed to talk about, then I’ve done my job. I think the worst thing you can do is not talk about things, I think it becomes massive and scary, so if I can break down barriers and get people talking about stuff then I’ll be happy. Well, not happy, but close enough.

Billie in Such Brave Girls

 Lizzie Davidson as Billie

What can you tell us about your character?

So she's definitely not me, but she's based on bits of me. Probably my worst traits, which Kat has very much highlighted and heightened for the nation to see. 

Billie definitely loves with all of her heart. But it's almost always aimed at people who don't care about her at all. The ones who actually care about her, she mostly treats like shit. She's brave, she's very bold, but also sometimes she's extremely vulnerable.

 But she would bite your head off if she knew that about her. Most of all, I think she is sexy, and that's what people should take away from this.

Billie has no shame. She says exactly what people are thinking. Well, okay, maybe not exactly. But maybe what they wish they could say or do in certain situations. She was an extremely cathartic character for me to play, and I got to kiss really fit people as you'll see in the series. 

What was it like working with your sister?

It was genuinely incredible. We have such a similar sense of humour and language, I think that's why every scene just feels like me and her having a chat in her flat, it felt so natural and so normal.

 Obviously aside from how brilliant it was we did have a few rows as sisters always do. We had this huge argument one morning, and then we had to film a scene where we're sitting on a bed together and we could not be sitting further apart. We refused to speak to each other in between takes, we were furious at each other. But then moments later, we're back in her trailer in the bathroom, brushing our teeth together, panicking about the kissing scenes we both had coming up.   I think that just sums us up as sisters.  

Aside from her being my sister, working with her as a writer and performer was just such an honour. She’s hilarious and so smart, not street smart she definitely isn’t that, but I've never known someone to be so irritatingly good at everything she does. I didn't know she was that talented, and it’s really pissed me off actually.

Any memorable moments from filming?

Night shoots are the most memorable thing that sticks out for me…. having chicken tikka masala in the woods at 4am, it was bizarre. We all lost our mind in the woods as no one could remember their lines. 

Simon, our director, had a really good game to keep us going.  He would write lots of compliments and the odd insult on pieces of paper and put them in his jacket pocket and we could pull one out after a successful take, so as you can imagine, those notes lasted all night.  So those tough shoots and moments became the most hilarious times that I’ll always remember.

This is your first TV acting role, how did you find the filming process?

It was honestly crazy., I genuinely went to bed every night thinking this cannot be real, like this can't be my life.  I felt really safe and really looked after. The whole process just felt like us all just trying to make each other laugh and be as odd as humanly possible. 

They all really took the pressure off and made it feel just like fun and just feel like the best job in the world. The whole cast became like a family. They were all so supportive of me, especially in tough moments.  

Your sister wrote the series, would you like to get into writing yourself?

I feel like writing is such a specific talent.  I saw my sister for three years sitting in a dark, dark room and tip tap her fingers, I don't know how she has that concentration.  

I loved it when me and her were doing scenes together but to sit down and write something as incredible as she has done, I just don't think I could do that.  

I did have a few ideas, one time we were driving back from set with two of the producers and I thought, okay, now is my time, I'm gonna tell this about this new, amazing idea I've got for a show. And then they proceeded to tell me that that idea had already been made.  

So I don't have any new or original ideas clearly. 

Did you have any input into the script?

In the early stages of the script me and Kat spent a lot of time going through stories together and just trying to make each other laugh. Kat loves details, so she would sit with me and we’d talk about a situation that happened and she would quiz me on every specific detail about it and I think that's what makes the series and her writing so incredible because she really does nail down specifics which makes it feel so real. 

How would you best describe Such Brave Girls?

I think it's a dark sitcom about an extremely dysfunctional family who are in desperate need for approval, but really they are in desperate need of therapy. 

At times it’s not an easy watch, but definitely a must watch…I hope!

• Such Brave Girls will be available from Wednesday November 22 at 10pm on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer.

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Published: 17 Nov 2023

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