Nicola Coughlan’s Big Mood: ‘I literally got to roll out of bed and be like: I’m here, I’m ready!’

We chat to Derry Girls and Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan about her new Channel 4 TV series Big Mood, a dark comedy about friendship, entering your 30s, and bipolar disorder

Nicola Coughlan as Maggie in Big Mood
Maggie (Nicola Coughlan). PICTURE: Matt Crockett / Channel 4. (Matt Crockett / Channel 4)

NEW comedy series Big Mood centres on a pivotal period for London-based best friends Maggie (Nicola Coughlan) and Eddie (Lydia West).

Having survived all the challenges of their 20s side by side, from career woes and boy trouble to questionable life choices and wild fashion moments, now their 30s are looming and life’s getting more serious.

With their respective careers as a playwright (Maggie) and pub landlord (Eddie) reaching rocky territory and Maggie’s bipolar disorder making an unwelcome return, they’re being forced to take a long, hard look at their co-dependent friendship and whether it really serves them.

The future’s at their doorstep, and with their friendship under threat by big life decisions and the complexities of dealing with a serious mental illness, questions are being raised about whether their friendship can survive in its current state.

There are hilarious lines, a cringeworthy Love Actually-themed 30th birthday party (including a cameo from real life Love Actually star, Joanna Page), the re-appearance of handsome exes at the worst moments, and even a steamy run-in with an old school teacher, but Big Mood has also got a lot of heart.

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Darkly funny, emotional and relatable, the series – written by Coughlan’s long-time friend Camilla Whitehill – paints a refreshingly honest picture of female friendship and mental illness across six episodes, all of which are available to watch on demand via the Channel 4 app and website.

To celebrate the show’s launch, we quizzed Co Galway-born actor Coughlan (37) about why she loves this series, her experience of filming the London-set comedy alongside Bridgerton, and portraying female friendship and bipolar disorder in a realistic manner.

Eddie (Lydia West) and Maggie (Nicola Coughlan) in Big Mood
Eddie (Lydia West) and Maggie (Nicola Coughlan). (Matt Crockett / Channel 4)

What can you tell us about your friendship with Big Mood writer Camilla Whitehill?

I mean, I’ve known this witch for 15 years! We met at drama school, and we just made each other laugh so much. She was training to be an actor – she’s a very good actor, but she refuses to do it, it’s rude.

She decided to sack in acting, and then I went to see her first short play. It was just so f***ing funny and sharp, and I was like: ‘Oh, she’s gonna be a famous writer’.

It was kind of amazing that through our 20s we still persisted, because all signs are pointing to: I don’t really think that these careers are gonna happen for you, girls.

And I always wanted us to work together.

What appealed to you about Big Mood - and is any of the series based on your relationship with Camilla?

The script was just brilliant, and it’s so her voice. It feels fresh, authentic.

From people I’ve shown it to, they were like: I feel like it’s going to teach people a lot about mental illness and stuff. And I’m like, yeah, but ultimately what she wanted to do was write a really funny comedy.

And also, it’s the way we talk to one another. It’s not based on us by the way, I feel I have to tell people that!

Nicola Coughlan as Maggie in Big Mood
Maggie (Nicola Coughlan) (Matt Crockett / Channel 4)

As you say, Big Mood includes a really honest portrayal of bipolar disorder and depression, but is still very much a comedy at heart. Was that a hard balance to get right while you were making the series?

It was such a balancing act. Camilla had done it perfectly in the script. It was knowing that she’s this very depressed person, but still having her be funny, and still having her humour about her, and knowing that when people are depressed or going through stuff, it doesn’t get rid of their personality.

The show is also not afraid to depict the less than glamorous reality of Maggie’s depressive episodes, which reduce her to a hermit for days on end. Was that refreshing, given how lightly depression can be dealt with on TV?

Yes. People in TV shows who are like, ‘I’m so depressed’, and they have a perfect blow dry. I’m like, ‘no, if I’m gonna look s***, I’m gonna look s***!’

I really hate vanity on screen. You can go to an event and you can dress up and do whatever, but on screen you need to, I think, get rid of all of that and just play the character as they’re meant to be played - just allowing it to be ugly and messy and all of those things.

Eddie (Lydia West) and Maggie (Nicola Coughlan) in Big Mood
Eddie (Lydia West) and Maggie (Nicola Coughlan). (Matt Crockett / Channel 4)

Friendship is a major theme in the series. Viewers will see how Maggie and Eddie always have each other’s backs, but that their relationship can also be a bit problematic at times. What do you make of their friendship?

I’ve heard this in the past, people have said to me: You can’t put everything on one other person. It doesn’t matter whether that’s your husband, or your best friend, or your sister. You have to spread the load out. And I think theirs is a perfect example of a friendship where they don’t do that.

Like: all my eggs are in your basket and then if anything goes wrong, the basket gets dropped and all the eggs get broken. You can’t do that.

It’s too much. They love each other. But it’s too co-dependent.

Maggie (Nicola Coughlan) and Eddie (Lydia West) in Big Mood
Maggie (Nicola Coughlan) and Eddie (Lydia West) (Matt Crockett / Channel 4)

Big Mood is set in London, specifically Dalston in Hackney. What was it like actually filming it there?

Amazing, because for three weeks of this I was actually still filming Bridgerton. That’s really far away in west London - I live in Hackney.

So I literally got to roll out of bed, and sometimes not wear any hair and make-up, which I do slightly regret having seen that screener! I went: Oh, it is really ugly and bad.

I would just rock up to set and be like: I’m here, I’m ready! (laughs)

Big Mood airs every Thursday at 10pm on Channel 4. Watch all six episodes now via channel4.com and the Channel 4 app.