Eve Hewson on Bad Sisters’ Becka Garvey: Funny, sad, slutty and really, like, drunk”

The five best non-lead TV actors of 2022 #5: The youngest sibling in Sharon Horgan’s firecracker ensemble dramedy had us crushing in all the right ways.

When Eve Hewson received the script for the role that changed her life – and made our 2022 a riot – she was instantly smitten. Her family, less so.

I was gung ho for Becka,” she says of the youngest Garvey girl in Bad Sisters, Sharon Horgan’s pitch-black, Ireland-set, Apple TV+ dramedy. I read it… then I made my [audition] tape and I showed it to my brother. He was like [supremely unimpressed sibling sneer]: What the fuck, it’s just you…’” The crowd gathered in the open-air back room of Foxy John’s, a combined bar and (oh yes) hardware store, laugh uproariously.

It’s Sunday afternoon in Dingle, County Kerry. In the small, pub-studded town on Ireland’s southwest coast, the annual Other Voices festival of music and culture is nearing its conclusion, and Hewson is taking part in an in conversation” event before a live audience. A couple of nights ago her other brother, Elijah, took to the stage over the road with Inhaler, the fast-rising indie-rock band of which he’s the frontman.

Now, even if mum and dad couldn’t make it to see two of their four children smash it at the festival – Bono and Ali Hewson are currently in Washington DC, where U2 are receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Kennedy Centre – it’s the turn of Eli’s older sister to perform. Sitting alongside her childhood friend, the musician Sorcha Richardson (another Other Voices headliner), Eve Hewson is reflecting on a year in which Bad Sisters became a critical smash and a word-of-mouth sensation.

Even given the impeccable pedigree of writer-actor-producer Horgan (Pulling, Catastrophe, Motherland), the show (adapted from Belgian series Clan) punched way above its weight. Arguably, and admittedly reductively, a show about a group of largely middle-aged sisters plotting to bump off the odious, abusive husband (“The Prick”) of their beaten-down sibling didn’t scream must-watch for FACE readers.

But with a great ensemble cast, a never-less-than-on-fire script and pin-prick (not to mention Prick-pinning) plotting, Bad Sisters was grimly, grinningly compelling for every thrilling minute of its 10-episode run.

And while it very much is an ensemble, we’re Team Becka all the way. The junior wing of the parentless, five-strong Garvey gang, she’s the raucous, random, wayward one. Or, as Hewson puts it, she’s many things – really funny and also really sad and really slutty and really, like, drunk. And then a baby as well, which was weird. So it just felt like it was a really well-rounded human being.”

The 31-year-old Dubliner has been acting most of her adult life, making her debut as a wide-eyed young nurse in two series of The Knick (2014/​5), Steven Soderbergh’s little-seen but no-less-brilliant HBO hospital drama set in early 20th century New York.

She and Richardson did have a pre-teen band, Ten Past Two, named after the time they got out of primary school. We had one big hit: She Only Wants You For Your Money,” says Hewson, laughing, of a song the pair wrote when they were 10 (and which they perform for the packed Foxy John’s audience).

But whatever the strength of her musical genes, she realised she was better suited to film’n’telly than rock’n’roll – although, in her next film, she does both. Hewson has just finished the Dublin shoot of Flora and Son, a musical directed by John Carney (Once, Sing Street) in which she sings, plays guitar and acts alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Becka, though, is the role of her young lifetime and Horgan, for her part, describes Hewson to me as a wonder. I love and adore her.” All concerned are understandably psyched that Bad Sisters has been renewed. Although when Hewson and I talk one-to-one after her all-singing, all-jokes afternoon at Other Voices, she admits that I didn’t think any of us thought there would be a season two.

But I remember the producers kept saying, oh, you sisters together, the chemistry, the chemistry…’ And when we’re shooting it, we obviously all got along and had a laugh together. But you don’t know when something really translates to screen. Then when I went to see it, I was like: Oh, I get why they’re banging out about a second season – with these characters, you just want to see them do stuff.’”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, or risk spoiling what is already our favourite show of 2024. Let’s celebrate Becka: 2022’s messiest, stressiest, bestest little sister.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, Eve! How did you get the part in Bad Sisters?

I got sent the script this time two years ago, the day before Christmas. And I was like: Aw, man, I don’t want to make a tape during Christmas!” Also what had happened was, during 2020, I had another job that I was supposed to do for HBO. And because of the pandemic it got pushed and pushed and pushed, and then it fell apart. So I spent the entire year with no job and shitting myself. Then this came in at the last hour. And I was like: Oh shit, I’m already drunk and it’s Christmas Eve!” But I read it and it was so brilliant and I had to put myself on a tape really quickly. Then after the Christmas holidays, I did a chemistry read with Sharon over Zoom. I found out that I got it probably a week later. And then I had to wait another six months to shoot.

What was it that your brother John recognised about you in Becka?

The two scenes I had to audition for were the meet-cute bike scene with [Daryl McCormack’s character] Matt. I guess she is a little bit of an eejit, and I definitely can be quite clumsy and all over the shop. Then the second was at the bar, the Sandwich Boy scene. That is definitely word-for-word me in a bar! The banter and the cheekiness and trying to get someone to buy me a drink just for the sake of seeing if I could do it: that is me in a nutshell.

What number on the call sheet were you?

Five. Am I happy with that? I love five! I was number five on The Knick. Number five is a good number for me. It’s a different set of responsibilities being number one. I’ve been number one and that’s a lot of fun too. But it’s a different ballgame. I was number three on Behind Her Eyes [Netflix’s high-concept, slightly bonkers drama that was a huge global hit during the pandemic]. But I was one on The Luminaries [the prestige 2020 BBC historical drama adapted from Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel]. I was one on this great film called Paper Year, a romantic comedy that I did a few years ago. I was number one on Flora and Son. Number one is more about sort of setting the tone on set and being a leader. Whereas when I was playing Becka I got to be the cheeky one at the back!

Who in the ensemble were you most excited to work with?

Sharon, definitely. I was excited to get to know her as a human being as well. I learned soooo much from her. Just how much she can get done in a day is absolutely insane. Her productivity level is so high that I was thinking: I need to start whipping my computer out in between takes and getting some work done, instead of just sitting here gossiping with the girls.”

Aside from Becka, who’s your favourite other character on the show?

[Mother of The Prick] Minna. She has great one-liners like: I need to piss like a Russian race-horse.” Also, Nina Norén, who plays Minna, is pretty much the most exciting, lovely lady in the world. And who doesn’t want to be like Minna when they’re old? She just doesn’t give a fuck.

I’m sure there’s stiff competition for this, but what was the funniest thing that happened on set?

If you ask any of the girls, everyone would say The Flan. In the first block of filming we had to do a full week of the Christmas dinner scene and then the Easter scene. So, a lot of dinner table stuff, which is really repetitive. We all thought that this was going to be the bitch of the whole shoot. And it ended up being the week where we all really bonded and we all had such a laugh together.

But there’s one scene in the Easter dinner where I bring in the flan. We were all improv-ing and making each other laugh. Then God bless this poor props guy – he came in with a flan and dropped it! We were so delirious and out of our minds that we just could not stop laughing. Then it just became this gag about the flan – the day was flantastic, stuff like that. Luckily they had a spare, but we didn’t know that at the time, so we thought everything had gone to shit. It was just one of those days where I was like: Oh, I love this.”

Again, stiff competition: which plot point did you enjoy the most?

When they all don’t know who’s killed him, no one knows what the fuck happened, and there’s that manic-ness where they’re all fighting with each other. The audience can’t figure it out and the girls can’t figure it out. That was kind of genius.

Why do you think Bad Sisters was such a hit this year?

First of all, Sharon’s a hit in general, and anything she touches turns to gold. I really believe that I’m a genius for just hopping onboard the Sharon Horgan train and riding her coattails to the top. It’s the best decision I ever made in my life.

And I think it’s because there’s such a sense of joy in our show. There’s a lot of love, and a lot of fun madness. But also, it’s rooted in something that actually connects with people: the course of this abusive relationship at the core of it. I think family dynamics are just endlessly fascinating.

We love all the dark stuff that’s on TV. But everyone’s so stressed out after the last couple years, and now the world has turned to shit, so we need more fun. I think people felt it was a relief to be able to really enjoy wanting to kill this guy. That shit just caught on like wildfire. Because we needed it, you know?

How has the response changed your life, personally and professionally?

Personally, it’s made me feel a little bit more accepting of myself, maybe. Because people really connected to Becka. And everything else in my career, most parts that you’d audition for, are the opposite of Becka. I really liked that she was the antithesis to any sort of Hollywood stereotype. She marches to the beat of her own drum. That makes me feel really confident that my tastes and the things that I love can be loved by so many.

Professionally, it’s just been shockingly good! I’ve gotten a lot of responses from people who had never seen me act before. A lot of times, you might have a hit in something but only a certain kind of offer comes in afterwards. Now I’ve gotten [offers from] some great big hit TV shows, and they’ve all been very, very different characters. People are starting to feel: Oh, we could throw her in anything and just see what happens.”

Does Sharon Horgan have Main Character Syndrome in real life?

Ha ha, not at all! She’s the least egotistical human being on the planet. She’s truly passionate about what she does, and that seeps out of her in every way. She’s like a crazy scientist in the most wonderful capacity.

What do you think is next for Becka?

I hope she has a lesbian era. I really feel that’s in her wheelhouse. And I would like to see her be even more wild. Because I think the Minna thing is going to haunt her. My instinct is that she’s not going to get over that one quick. She’s going to have to hit rock bottom before it gets any better.

I would also love to do one episode where the Garvey girls go to Majorca and just have a stupid Irish holiday – the five of them running around in their bikinis and shit, causing havoc. And I would love to see Becka on her 30th birthday. That will be tragic and funny.

I can’t bully Sharon into [writing these scenes], but we can subliminally tell her all of my fantasies.

How are you going to celebrate your amazing year?

Sleep a little bit! Things are going great. My whole family are in a good spot at the moment, so we’re just excited to relax and hang out with each other and have some mulled wine and eat some sandwiches.

Apart from Flora and Son, what’s next for you in 2023? Is your good mate Brad Pitt’s Formula 1 movie a go?

Well, I have been given a wink, not a contract. So I’m going off of the wink, and I will murder someone if the wink doesn’t become anything more legal. I really, really, really hope so, because I’m absolutely obsessed with Formula 1, and I know that they need to have female characters in their Formula 1 story. Because there are loads of fantastic women in Formula 1, like the Red Bull strategist Hannah Schmitz. So I’m campaigning to make sure that there’s some female engineers in there that I can slot myself into.

We know what Becka’s favourite drink is – lots of shots, clearly – but what’s yours?

That’s my favourite, too! No, tequila on the rocks with lime. I just like it straight. Am I sipping that or necking it? It depends on the hour, ha ha! I could do many of those in the evening. I’ve been known to do tequila on the rocks with lime, with a tequila shot on the side. You don’t want to wait too long queueing up at the bar. You might as well just get it done when you get there.

Bad Sisters is streaming on Apple TV+. Not got it yet? Be more Eve: People have said to me, now I have to sign up for Apple!’ I’m like, yeah, you do, they’ve got good shit on there!’”

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