"Female friendships are just so valuable": One on One with Nicola Coughlan and Lydia West

nicola coughlan and lydia west
One on One with Nicola Coughlan and Lydia WestHearst Owned

"I remember when my agent called me at the start of last year and said, 'Channel 4 have just commissioned this – will you be a part of it?' And, don't you get that feeling, when you just know?" For the latest in our video series One on One, Lydia West is recalling the moment she first heard about new TV show, Big Mood – which was, incidentally, the same moment she decided that she "could be, no, wanted to be" cast in the series.

"When something's good, there's a certain weird... not electricity, but something like that," agrees Nicola Coughlan, West's Big Mood co-star, best known for her turns in Derry Girls and Bridgerton. "When we did the first read-through, it was instantly easy, and I think that's the mark of a really good script: the work has been done for you."

Big Mood, which is out now on Channel 4, charts the decade-long friendship of Maggie (Coughlan) and Eddie (West), which they navigate against a backdrop of Maggie's bipolar disorder. The show is written by Camilla Whitehill (with whom Coughlan previously created the comedy podcast, Whistle Through The Shamrocks) and is sensitive, whip-smart and, frequently, belly-achingly funny.

"I've known Camilla for 15 years," says Coughlan. "In this industry, it doesn’t always work out when it comes to doing the projects you want to do, but this was a priority… The show is so incredibly funny and so incredibly sad." She's referring to the heart-warming, but often co-dependent relationship between Maggie and Eddie: a forever friendship, but one that's not always in its participators' best interests.

"The show has taught me that female friendships are just so valuable," says West, who made a name for herself in the equally impactful It's A Sin. "I value my female friendships more than any romantic relationship I’ve ever had, because they can just come and go – but my female friendships, I’ve learned that they’re stable and forever. Big Mood shows the true romance between Eddie and Maggie. It's a romance that they can’t get from their romantic partners, and I feel the same in my life. Sometimes you can grow apart, but still have so much love for each other – and that's healthy, too."

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Coughlan and West in Big MoodChannel 4

West and Coughlan have developed a real-life friendship that has no doubt made their on-screen relationship even more believable. "We met at the BAFTAs," recalls Coughlan, laughing. "There’s a point when the ceremony ends and everyone is starving, losing-their-minds hungry. You leave, and there’s a mass of people leaving the auditorium, who all want to get to dinner. We met on the way, and you were just like sunshine."

The pair made a concerted effort to foster a friendly atmosphere on set, too. "We're both very committed to the non-toxic environment because I truly believe good work doesn’t happen in an area that’s not supportive," says Coughlan. "We wanted everyone to come and feel welcome – and the Whatsapp group is still popping off, which is always a good sign!" West wholeheartedly agrees. At one point, the cast had a "gratitude circle going round, for us to all say one thing we're grateful to each other for, and what we like about each other," she says. "We'd honestly just met, and it was so nice."

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Lydia West: "My female friendships, I’ve learned that they’re stable and forever"Iona Wolff

Now that filming has wrapped and the show is out, West and Coughlan are looking forward to its reception (which, so far, has been glowing). "I’m excited for people to experience it," says Coughlan. "I think they’re going to expect one thing and it’ll be that, but a lot more. It’s also going to give people an insight into bipolar disorder that I certainly didn’t have before."

"I find it really hard as an actor to see myself in stuff – the first couple of times I watch [something], I’m critical. But the first time I watched Big Mood, I was like, this is a great show." We're prepared to bet audiences will think exactly the same.

'Big Mood' is out now on Channel 4.

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