Wonderland.

DATING AMBER

The breakout stars of the Irish coming-of-age comedy-drama on tackling portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters in small towns, ugly-crying at the script, and Normal People.

Lola Petticrew and Fionn O'Shea for Dating Amber beach together

Photo: India Mullen

Lola Petticrew and Fionn O'Shea for Dating Amber beach together
Photo: India Mullen

Insecurity. Identity. Self-discovery. Peer pressure. Being a teenager is hard enough already without having to also conceal who you truly are – amidst the chaotic environment of school. Introducing Dating Amber, a heartwarming and hilariously acerbic comedy-drama set in rural Kildare in the mid-90s, following Amber (Lola Petticrew) and Eddie (Normal People‘s Fionn O’Shea), two closeted teenagers who are trying to come to terms with their queerness, deciding in the meantime to date each other – to hilarious and heartbreaking effect.

Nuns teaching dusty sex education videos, drag queens dressed as Dolly Parton, and some absolutely tear-inducing cutting comebacks – it’s all part of the charming narrative lovingly crafted by Irish writer and director David Freyne.

We caught up with its breakout stars Petticrew and O’Shea and talked the importance of tackling LGBTQ+ issues in small towns, ugly-crying at the script, and Normal People

Dating Amber stars Fionn O'Shea and Lola Petticrew head to head
Dating Amber stars Fionn O'Shea and Lola Petticrew bicycle

Dating Amber/Amazon Video

Dating Amber stars Fionn O'Shea and Lola Petticrew head to head
Dating Amber/Amazon Video
Dating Amber stars Fionn O'Shea and Lola Petticrew bicycle

Fionn O’Shea

How are you? How’s lockdown for you?
I’m doing really well thank you. Lola and I are isolating together so it’s been a lot less hard for us than it has been for some others. I feel really lucky that Normal People and Dating Amber have both come out during a time that would’ve been otherwise very quiet so I’ve had a focus. It’s hard being away from my family and friends so I can’t wait to see them and give them a big squeeze (whenever we’re allowed).

Congratulations on Dating Amber – the concept is so brilliant. I love the alternative arc on a rom-com – what first attracted you to the script?
From the first few pages I knew it was something I’d love to be a part of and then I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do it. Dave’s script was so funny, joyous and full of heart. I was laughing out loud in parts and ugly-crying in parts. It’s a love story about friendship which I think is really special. I also think it’s extremely important to show queer stories framed with hope, optimism and joy.

Why is it particularly apt that the film’s premise and conversation about sexuality is set in Ireland? In particular the mid-90s?
The film is set in a small town in Ireland in 1995, which is only two years after homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland. For Dave, it’s very autobiographical about his teen years but the film could be set now in any town in Ireland, UK, US or anywhere. I think it’s a universal story that so many people can relate to.

How much did you relate to your character Eddie? What are the biggest similarities and differences?
I really related to Eddie and I think a lot of people watching the film will too. I felt like I understood him immediately and Dave also allowed Lola and I to bring parts of ourselves like our physicality and humour to the characters during the rehearsals which was great and a really collaborative experience.

I love the way the film highlights how important platonic friendships are – and how they can play a massive part in helping you through tough times and sculpting who you are as a person – can you talk a little about this?
Absolutely. Eddie and Amber love each other more than anything and neither of them would’ve been able to become who they are if they hadn’t met one another. One thing that was so lovely about filming Dating Amber was that Dave wanted to find two actors who could act like best friends and ended up with actual best friends in Lola and I which made the whole experience all the more special. I couldn’t imagine making the film with anyone else.

What do you hope people take away from the film?
I’d love if people watch it and feel joyous, warm or hopeful because we’re in such an uncertain and scary time I think everyone could use some hope and a bit of an escape for 92 minutes.

Congratulations on Normal People – has it been mad seeing it blow up while you’ve been in lockdown?
Thank you so much! We were all so blown away by the reaction to the show and it’s really amazing how people have responded to it. We have a big WhatsApp group where everyone posts news and we’re all in constant contact anyway, so although it’s a pity we couldn’t celebrate in person we’re just delighted people love watching it as much as we loved making it.

There’s been quite a lot of backlash surrounding your character Jamie – did you think that was going to happen and how have you been dealing with it?
I expected backlash but I don’t think any of us expected how extreme the level of hate people have is for Jamie. It’s really thrilling though to have an audience feel so strongly about a character whether it’s love or hate. I’m really happy he’s had such an impact and I’ve loved seeing all the tweets and memes about him. I do think the King Joffrey comparisons are a little unfair!

What are you looking for in your next role?
I’m not too sure. I never really know until I read something and think “this”. I’ve been so lucky to be able to work on stories I’m passionate about playing characters who I feel and care really strongly for, and if I could keep doing that I’d be made up.

What’s next for you/what are you excited about?
Hopefully I’ll be back on set in August but I think everything is a bit up in the air at the moment. I’m so excited to see my family and my pals and to do normal things. My sister is a front line worker and I haven’t been able to see her so just little things like going for coffee together like we used to would make me really happy.

Lola Petticrew and Fionn O'Shea for Dating Amber wall black-and-white
Lola Petticrew and Fionn O'Shea for Dating Amber beach close-up

Photo: India Mullen

Lola Petticrew and Fionn O'Shea for Dating Amber wall black-and-white
Photo: India Mullen
Lola Petticrew and Fionn O'Shea for Dating Amber beach close-up

Lola Petticrew

How are you? How’s lockdown for you?
Hello! It’s been grand enough, Fionn and I are isolating together which is very on brand of us. I think just like most people, I just miss my family and friends. Trying to find ways to keep busy and not give in to the anxiety of the situation. Mostly by making Fionn try out my new vegan dishes.

Congratulations on Dating Amber – the concept is so brilliant. I love the alternative arc on a rom-com – what first attracted you to the script?
Thank you! The alternative arc on the rom com was absolutely one of the things that attracted me. It such an interesting way to frame the story. It’s also an absolutely hilarious script, dealing with tough issues surrounding LGBTQ+ people and small towns but still framing that with hope and comedy. I read the script and was like this is so different, so funny and has so much heart I need to be part of this! For queer people especially to have a film that shows you once you find your tribe it gets better, and once you accept who you are for all the beautiful things that make you up, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Why is it particularly apt that the film’s premise and conversation about sexuality is set in Ireland? In particular the mid-90s?
2 years prior to the films setting in 1995 Ireland, it was actually still illegal to be gay. It’s also set to the backdrop if the divorce referendum of 1995 in Ireland. However I think the setting is really an every mans land, it will resonate with anyone who grew up in a small town and felt like they couldn’t be who they truly are. The people who felt a sense of needing to escape in order to be themselves. And it very easily translates to anyone who has that feeling today, especially queer people. So while its very rooted in 1995 in Ireland I think its incredibly universal.

How much did you relate to your character Amber? What are the biggest similarities and differences?
I think it doesn’t come as a shock I like loud opinionated girls. And Amber is very definitely that. I think I have a touch of that myself. She may storm in to Eddie’s life a tad like a wrecking ball, but she’s so extremely gentle and caring. She has a fierce heart. And a real sense of self. I really want to be like Amber Keenan when I grow up. Brave, strong, curious and full of love.

I love the way the film highlights how important platonic friendships are – and how they can play a massive part in helping you through tough times and sculpting who you are as a person – can you talk a little about this?
Watching the film you can see Eddie and Amber fall deeply in love with each other. However unlike most rom coms this is purely as friends. In an odd life imitating art sort of way that happened to Fionn and I during the project. He very quickly became my best friend. Which made what was already such a special project all that more special. I think if anyone really thinks about it, really reflects on the things that helped them become who they are its always friends. The people who unconditionally love every little bit of you and want to help you figure out how to navigate the bizarreness of the world hand in hand and have a laugh along the way. I honestly believe that soulmates most of the time aren’t romantic, they’re friendships. And Eddie and Amber are 100% soul mates.

What do you hope people take away from the film?
I hope people laugh. I honestly do. It would be so awful if people watched the film and didn’t laugh because we think its so funny and had such a fun time making it. So I just really really hope people laugh. And if they didn’t then at least pretend they did and tweet saying they did. I think we all need a laugh right now.

What kind of role are you looking for next?
Anything different and interesting. Its such a hard question because things can surprise you and often you don’t know until it shows up in your inbox. The work is so important to me and I love it so much, I just want to continue to be able to work on things that I care deeply about. I’ve been lucky enough to do that. So if I can keep that up I’ll be very happy.

What’s next for you/what are you excited about?
To be honest at the minute the thing that’s exciting me most is the day I get to go home to my family and hug them and cuddle my dog and have a cup of tea on my mam and dad’s sofa. I can’t wait to have face to face chats with my pals that aren’t through a screen. Really just seeing all the amazing people I love and miss so intensely. Thats the thing at the forefront of my mind at the moment.

Dating Amber is out on Amazon Video now.

DATING AMBER

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