Sex, lies and true love in modern Scotland feature in BBC Three’s seductive new relationship drama Lip Service, which follows the lives of a group of twenty-something lesbians.
Starring Laura Fraser, Ruta Gedmintas and Fiona Button, Lip Service is a compelling and sexy six-part series filmed on location in Glasgow, written by Harriet Braun (Mistresses, Attachments) and produced by Kudos Film And Television through BBC Scotland.
Cat (Laura Fraser) is a self-assured architect, unnerved by the return of her former lover, Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas), a talented but emotionally reckless photographer who arrives back in Glasgow unannounced, bringing havoc in her wake.
Fiona Button plays struggling actress Tess, Cat’s best friend and flatmate, who has an uncanny knack of falling for the wrong sorts of women.
Here, writer and creator Harriet explains her inspirations and motivations behind Lip Service.
“The idea initially came about because I was approached by Derek Wax at Kudos (executive producer of Lip Service) who wanted to work on an original project with me. I’d seen Queer As Folk and Go Fish years ago and thought I’d love to do something like that.
“Then The L Word came along, but I figured there was definitely room for another lesbian drama. In my view, lesbians are under-represented on British television – so I thought it was high time we had a series in the UK. And anyway, The L Word was set in California and the weather was much better – it’ll rain a lot more in Lip Service!
“The BBC were extremely receptive to the idea of Lip Service. We didn’t meet any resistance at all – in fact, quite the opposite.
“I wanted to create believable, multi-faceted characters that people can really identify with and also to mix comedy and drama. I wanted it to feel very real and often our most embarrassing moments can end up being very funny in retrospect. There’s also a mystery element to Lip Service that keeps you guessing.
“It was very important to me to that the lesbian characters in this story feel authentic to a lesbian audience. But I don’t think anyone could attempt to portray every member of a community in a drama – if they tried, they’d fail.
“Lip Service follows characters at a pivotal point in their lives – they’re either in their late-twenties or early-thirties. It’s a time when people are often frustrated about where they are in life and wonder if they’ll ever be the person they want to be. Or they’re aware they’ve made mistakes and don’t want to make the same mistakes again. You start to take stock and realise life isn’t a dress rehearsal.
“As a writer, I’m always most interested in what’s going on under the surface. So, it’s also about secrets. I think most of the characters, in one way or another, are hiding their emotions or fears and desires and it’s about the consequences of playing emotional games or not being honest with yourself or others.
“At the heart of this drama are a group of friends and their lives and loves. The relationship between Frankie and Cat is complicated and a catalyst for drama in the series.
“I think, in some ways, Cat and Frankie are two sides of the same coin. They seem very different because Frankie is irreverent, impulsive and boundary-less, whereas Cat’s fairly uptight, a control freak and responsible. But I think, underneath all of that, they are both quite troubled and insecure and are drawn to that in each other. They would also like a bit of what the other one has – Cat would like to be more impulsive and Frankie would like to be more responsible.
“And, of course, the back story is that they were teenage friends who fell for each other. Frankie was Cat’s first love and then they got into a relationship in their twenties, but never got a chance to see it through because Frankie got cold feet and ran off to America. So, for Cat, it’s unfinished business – it’s someone that you loved and can’t let go of and have never really been able to forget.
“At the point Frankie returns, Cat’s trying to move on and then her ex-lover arrives home and it just brings everything back up to the surface again.”
“I can certainly relate to the great love Frankie and Cat have. I was interested in exploring the terrain of people who have been friends and looking at what happens when it turns into love – those situations can be very complicated and drawn out. And I think you see it again and again, people who repeatedly go back to the same person, people who can’t leave an ex alone – even if they are not particularly good for each other.
“Glasgow’s a fantastic city and I loved filming there – although we were outside working on location a lot and I didn’t think it was possible for feet to be that cold!
“I remember once we were filming on the roof terrace of an office block. It was meant to be a mild evening where two characters had gone up there to have a romantic moment. But, when we actually filmed the scene, there was a blizzard so, for continuity’s sake, the crew had to stand over the actors with umbrellas to keep the snow off them, while they were shivering away in light autumn clothing!
“If you’re a fan of character-led drama with a lot of comedy and suspense, then you should have fun watching Lip Service.
“You don’t need to be part of a particular ‘group’ to understand the emotions portrayed, be it heartbreak or fear of failure or love. After all, I really enjoyed Six Feet Under and I’m not an undertaker!”
Derek Wax, award-winning executive producer (Sex Traffic, Occupation), Kudos Film & Television, adds: “So many of the best dramas derive in some way from a writer’s personal passion and experience – as a producer, I’m interested in finding and exploring worlds that haven’t been portrayed before. Harriet wanted to write about characters grounded in a reality which we rarely see on television, to portray an under-represented group and culture.
“In Lip Service, Harriet has created a funny and emotionally-layered relationship drama. She has the ability to combine tragedy and comedy from moment to moment so that one minute you’re laughing and the next you’re deeply affected, as the characters are being torn apart by the emotional pressures of their lives. They are very real, warm and human, but Lip Service doesn’t shy away from exploring the darker side of human relationships.
“Also, what we have created is a drama that is not issue-driven. The characters don’t live in a bubble, it’s about the everyday reality of being gay and being young and it avoids clichés.
“The cultural climate is more accepting towards a drama like Lip Service. It’s hard to think of this series being made 10 or 20 years ago, but lesbian culture is much more visible and confident now. It feels like the time is right for it.”
Matthew Read, executive producer, BBC Scotland, adds: “Lip Service is a truthful, funny and engaging drama which shows an alternative side of Glasgow that’s seen rarely on our screens. Harriet Braun has created a brilliant set of characters that have been brought to life by an incredibly charismatic cast. BBC Scotland are extremely excited to have been involved in the production alongside Kudos Film and Television.”