With an Irish setting and a trip to France key to the book’s plot, viewers of the Sally Rooney adaptation may be wondering where the cast went to film the series
The new 12-part series is the screen version of Sally Rooney’s 2017 debut novel of the same name – which actually came out the year before Normal People – and stars The Favourite‘s Joe Alwyn and Sex Education and Girls’ Jemima Kirke alongside newcomers Alison Oliver and Sasha Lane.
The book focuses on a tangled “love quartet” of main characters – Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa – who meet in Dublin before taking a crucial trip to a villa in Brittany, northern France, where the plot heats up.
Normal People’s TV outing sparked a search for Italian villas and wild Irish coastal breaks after featuring a Trieste getaway and County Sligo’s windswept beaches.
For Conversations with Friends, producers took the cast on location to Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Med, with some appealing shots of a swanky villa popping up in teaser clips, too.
So where was the TV series filmed? Here’s everything we know.
Just as with Normal People, part of the plot focuses on characters who meet at Dublin’s Trinity College – where author Sally Rooney studied herself. So it’s no surprise that the city and the college feature in the TV show, where Frances is seen studying in Berkeley Library and students cross through Parliament Square, as well as being shown in one of the lecture theatres. Elsewhere in the series, Frances is seen living on Hardwicke Street in the city centre, contrasted with Nick and Melissa’s well-heeled pad in the Monkstown neighbourhood of the Irish capital.
The group of pals also takes a swim while in Ireland, a moment which Jemima Kirke told the BBC was the hardest part of shooting for her. “Getting in the water was a moment for me. I had to recite multiple mantras in my head and have a cheerleading team behind me as I was walking in. I think one of the mantras was, ‘You can do hard things’, and I did it. When I got out, it being over was such a good feeling.”
Intriguing publicity shots of the cast draped around rocky waterfronts and on pebble beaches were released in February, prompting savvy travel fans to wonder if another European country would stand in for Brittany in the TV series. Sure enough, it turns out the TV show had moved the summer holiday action to Croatia – the country’s Hvar island, to be exact. The pretty Adriatic speck is reached by ferry from the coastal cities of Dubrovnik or Split, with tourists flocking each summer for its picturesque red-roofed old town and glam waterfront scene.
To get the full effect, explore its picturesque old town, Stari Grad, with its pretty cream-coloured waterfront and vine-draped houses. Game of Thrones fans will recognise the island’s historic architecture from the show. Video teasers for Conversations with Friends also show a sun-soaked, modern design villa where Frances takes a swim at sunset, so expect a rush on swish Croatian villas this summer.
Lead actor Joe Alwyn – better known as Taylor Swift’s boyfriend and occasional co-songwriter – told the BBC his favourite location was Ballycastle, on Northern Ireland’s County Antrim coast. “One that jumps out was a scene we shot up in Ballycastle, which was quite a long one between Nick and Frances,” said Alwyn.
“Maybe it was one of my favourite scenes because, although it was quite a heavy scene it was very fun to do because we shot in a very nice pub. It was nice being up in Ballycastle and one of the first times we got to not be on set. It was nice to have a new energy, a nice scene in a nice environment… and a nice drink.” Co-star Alison Oliver agreed: “My favourite place to shoot would probably be Ballycastle on the north coast. The landscape there is extraordinary – it was nice to be out in the country.”
Another thing CWF has in common with Game of Thrones is its love of a Belfast-based shoot – some of the city’s buildings and landmarks stand in for bits of Dublin in the new series, as well as appearing regularly in the fantasy epic. Its Queen’s University, historic Lyric Theatre, and independent bookshop No Alibis all feature in the show.
Conversations with Friends airs on 15 May at 10pm on BBC Three.