In February, BBC One enticed audiences with a six-part psychological thriller about Becky Green (Erin Doherty), a Bristol twenty-something whose life turns upside down when she sees her childhood best friend, Chloe (Poppy Gilbert)— who she obsessively follows on social media— dies by suicide.
Despite Chloe’s perfectly curated social media presence and the fact the two haven’t been close in years, Becky knows something is wrong. Propelled by dissatisfaction with her own life and self, Becky assumes an alter-ego, called Sasha, and embeds herself in Chloe’s life and reaps endless benefits of friendship, love and attention. As she gets deeper into figuring out what really happened to Chloe, Becky risks both losing herself and being found out.
Ahead of the show’s Prime Video premiere, writer, creator, director and executive producer (and Sex Education alum) Alice Seabright unpacked Chloe with LA Confidential.
Can you tell us more about the inception of Chloe?
I was interested in exploring the psychology of a character who uses lies to deflect from showing her true self and cover up, but also use personas as a way to access things that she can't in her real life.
What was it like developing a character like Becky/Sasha? She can be hard to watch sometimes, but she keeps you pulled in enough to keep rooting her on.
She's a really challenging character. She crosses ethical boundaries and has quite unjustifiable behavior, but that was just really interesting to me because you get to start from things that we might feel and experience, and then we push it to the extreme.
You get to look at kind of a blown up version of human flaws. That was part of the interest, I think. I was just trying to get under her to have a character who does really unjustifiable things, but get under her skin and try and go along for the ride and understand and who she is.
How pure would you say is Becky’s mission to find out what really happened to Chloe— does part of her really just want to experience a more exciting life?
Because she's going into this with a complicated sense of what her friendship was— I think she really, really loved Chloe and on one level she truly does want to understand what happened to her. Basically, it's an incredibly multifaceted motivation. Hopefully she's got a sense of having really cared about this person and, really, she's grieving her, right? She's trying to make sense of her complicated feelings of grief, which are both the feelings of grief and the death of Chloe, but they also bring up the grief of losing friendship.
And then there's a sort of a desire to understand the gap between who she thought Chloe was and what happened…That's kind of more of a curiosity, but I think it's an emotional curiosity. [Chloe is] someone who's important to her.
She sort of always thought in her mind that being Sasha and living in Chloe’s life is so much better than being Becky, particularly towards the end of episode three and through episode four, she loses touch with initial reasons for going in, which is to try and find out what happened to Chloe’s life. It becomes more about the fact that she has a choice between living as Becky in a pretty miserable life or inventing herself and the environment that she wants to be in. That side of it is pretty questionable. It's not OK, but it will hopefully explain it.
Why is Erin Doherty your ideal Becky/Sasha?
I've seen her work in several things, including The Crown, which is a brilliant performance. But then who she just is as a person is very, very different from the character. The ability to take on quite a different persona from who she is very interesting to me. So we thought of her really early on for that reason. And then when I met with her and read the scripts, she just really connected with the character. She wasn't talking about her externally and judgmentally.
She was just super clear that she connected with aspects of the character and could understand who she was and the core human person behind the behavior. And that was just really, really important in terms of knowing that she'd be able to really portray her in a way that felt truthful and authentic, rather than sort of an external, judgmental portrayal. That was really crucial— the combination of seeing the chameleonic ways that she'd been able to perform other parts and personal connection to the character.
Every step of the way it feels like there’s no way Becky could possibly find out more. But she does, and then the finale offers, partly, a big sigh of relief. Did you always know how the show was going to end?
I had the sense of direction and landing pad of what we were revealing and where we were heading. But lots of things shifted, both in the writing process— the details of how the story unfolds— and then actually where we leave Becky in terms of the final moments. The final moments were not something I knew early on. That was something that took some finding in the writing process.
I knew the true nature of the relationship between Elliot and Chloe… What I didn’t know was to what extent [Becky] would have blown up.
Were there ever obstacles in the writer’s room? Between Becky’s oddness and the deeply hidden truth about Chloe, I can imagine it could be difficult to piece together Becky’s journey.
What's part of the fun of the writing process, but also just because she was getting hurt— you know, she gets in these scrapes and you're like, “Well, how the hell is she going to get out?,” like writing yourself into a corner. And then going, “Well, I don't know how to get out of this. I'm gonna have to come up with a reason.” If it's hard to write yourself out of, it's going to be satisfying for the audience because they will also feel, “How the hell is she going to get out of this?” The intricacies of the house of cards of life— she sold this lie and now she needs to cover up the other one. That was a sudoku puzzle to put together all of the different things, all of the plates she's spinning. That was kind of challenging, but also part of the fun.
Did you know you always wanted to approach this as a thriller?
I never was super overly worried about the sense of the genre. It’s more about the story and how to tell the story. But inevitably, because Becky is lying, because she's afraid to get caught, that's always going to be a really tense thing to watch or to experience. So I think I thought about it more in terms of this is the feeling of the story. It's going to be really tense and that's part of the appeal of watching.
Generally, imposter stories, it’s inevitable that side of it ends up being quite present. Also, at times, it is a drama with her mom. And at times it's kind of got humor in it. I think it's a bit of an odd tone and shifting tone. The tension I think is a huge part of the story just because of how much you're waiting for it to get caught.
Chloe is getting ready to hit Prime Video for U.S. audiences on June 24. What do you hope viewers take away from watching the show?
What I was interested in exploring in the show was the idea of the stories that we tell ourselves, about ourselves and other people and how misleading and sometimes destructive they can be. So Becky has quite a toxic story that she has about who she is and she's a terrible person, but then she also has all this stuff about who Chloe is and they're all, to some extent, projections and narratives. Obviously you can reach the truth and hopefully, throughout the show, she's getting close to finding out everything. But, to me, it's important in life and in general to always question the stories that you're telling yourself. Do you really know what the person that you're judging or this person that you're projecting on to or this person that you're feeling is better or worse than you? Do you really know? Is that the kind of perspective that you have in the portrayal, in the narrative that you're spinning?
And same with the stories that you tell yourself about yourself. Are you stuck in an old story like Becky is? I think the story that she tells herself about what happened with her sister and also what happened with the friendship with Chloe is literally keeping her stuck in some very toxic behaviors. And I think part of the story is about her letting that go.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photography by: Photos by Luke Varley for Amazon Studios