Joe discusses the upcoming series Conversations with Friends in the May 2022 issue of Elle UK. Read the full interview below:


CONVERSATIONS WITH… Joe Alwyn

The British actor is here to steal our hearts in the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s book. Katie O’Malley meets the man giving Paul Mescal a run for his money

IF ANYTHING SUMS UP THE ABSURDITY of trying to find new ways to work during the pandemic, it might be the way that Joe Alwyn met his Conversations with Friends co-star, Alison Oliver. “A few months before shooting, Lenny [Abrahamson, the director] wanted us to meet with him, so we ended up both staying in an empty hotel during lockdown,” he says. “It felt like The Shining.” But it’s thanks, perhaps, to Northern Ireland’s lockdown restrictions that Alwyn and his co-stars (Oliver, Jemima Kirke and Sasha Lane) were able to form the tight-knit bond needed to depict the intense relationships of their characters in the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends. “We all hung out loads,” he says, recalling hikes along the Giant’s Causeway and spending time at Abrahamson’s home.
The 12-part series, out this month, is an exploration of the complex, intertwining love stories between four unlikely individuals – two university students (Frances and Bobbi) and a married couple (Melissa and Nick). “It was a no-brainer,” London-born Alwyn says of the opportunity to pay Nick — a pained, quiet actor who navigates an affair with timid Frances while still in love with self-assured Melissa.
“He’s gone through a bit of a storm and is in a place of recovery. He’s numb to the world.” Today, the 31-year-old couldn’t be more different from the meek on-screen character. Speaking to me via Zoom from his home in North London, he’s warm and self-effacing. Addressing the discomfort of the students in the ‘adult’ settings of the story, Alwyn says he can relate to the characters’ gawkiness. “It’s definitely a familiar feeling — that sense of being out of your depth.”
It took just five days after sending in his audition tapes for Alwyn to learn that he’d landed the role. “I was so excited, I went to my parents’ house for drinks,” he says. The son of a psychotherapist and a documentary filmmaker, Alwyn developed a passion for acting at an early age. “I was Snowy the dog in The Adventures of Tintin,” he laughs, recalling his roles in school plays. Despite since starring in award-winning films such as Boy Erased and The Favourite, he admits he has not been immune to “struggle” in his career.
“It’s such a weird job. It’s full of so much confusion, rejections and ups and downs.” One of the downs is undoubtedly the public’s interest in his own life (Alwyn has been dating Taylor Swift since 2016). He still finds it hard to understand why sharing, rather than protecting, one’s private life is the expectation. “It’s not really [because I] want to be guarded, it’s more a response to something else,” he shrugs. “We live in a culture that is increasingly intrusive. The more you give — and frankly, even if you don’t give it — something will be taken.”
The success of the BBC’s Normal People — which swept the board at 2020s BAFTAs and Golden Globes — has set high expectations for Conversations, especially with the stories’ shared sensibilities. “But at the same time, it’s very different,” Alwyn says, noting that above all, he wants the new series to provoke debate. “[Rooney] never ties things up neatly at the end, which is one of the reasons I love [her books].”
While he’s yet to meet Rooney — he sent her a “fan message” after being cast — the actor has long appreciated her work. “She’s such a perceptive writer,” he says. In a similar vein to Normal People’s Connell and Marianne, played by Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones respectively, Alwyn says there’s a lot said in the unsaid between Nick and Frances.
“That’s very much part of Sally’s books,” he notes. “[They] really struggle with self-expression, and Nick finds it deeply irritating — he wishes he knew how to communicate better.” It looks like this series will make as many waves as its predecessor, but with upcoming roles in The Stars at Noon opposite Margaret Qualley, and Lena Dunham’s new film, Catherine, Called Birdy, it’s Alwyn who is set to make the biggest splash of all. Conversations With Friends is out in May

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that description makes me feel like it's centered on joe's character more than the others

possibly! I’m curious how Lashay Anderson’s character will figure into it. My guess is she’s a student that has a crush on Paul? Maybe it will be balanced between the three main characters…

Those look like film lenses. Primarily for shooting on film cameras. Wonder what joe is shooting, maybe it's for the short.

could be an older photo from Stars at Noon, or maybe AND

Joe’s fascination with affairs is interesting because this is what the third project he has played a character that is about cheating. CFW, Stars At Noon and now this. I guess we can say he likes period pieces, book based films and affairs projects?

lol perhaps he's interested in the moral ambiguity and the questions it raises. During CWF press, that was something he talked about quite a lot, if it’s possible to love more than one person, different kinds of love etc.

makes me think about his interest in playing bad guys and not… [more]

Joe Alwyn Via Instagram Stories January 29 2023

Joe Alwyn via instagram stories | January 29, 2023

Joe Alwyn Via Instagram Stories January 29 2023

Joe Alwyn via instagram stories | January 29, 2023

Pick Your Favourite Photoshoot For Cwf Promo

Pick your favourite photoshoot for CWF promo '

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Elle

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Arena HOMME+

Elle

GQ Hype

The Guardian Saturday

Vanity Fair

Vulture

WWD

Where did you get the still for a very short tfilm?

it’s linked in the post… it’s from here http://film-directory.britishcouncil.org/a-very-short-film-about-longing

Yay! The short film really exists - I was starting to think I'd imagined it lol. Wonder what's going on in that photo. He's looking very dapper in it, not at all like the harried and downtrodden teacher I was expecting to see. Maybe that's from a date scene or something?

haha! my guess is he’s with the character Lena, played by Natalia Kostrzewa, based on this full synopsis: “A Very Short Film About Longing is a film about a love triangle between individuals who can never be together but want for love nonetheless. Lena’s affair with high school teacher Paul… [more]

I hope it debuts at some film festival!

same!! that would be awesome

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pick your favourite of Joe’s movies 🎥'

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

The Sense of an Ending

Operation Finale

Boy Erased

Mary Queen of Scots

The Favourite

Harriet

The Souvenir: Part II

Catherine Called Birdy

Stars at Noon

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