Actress and writer Emma Sidi (aka everyone’s favourite funny girl) returns in season 2 of the critically acclaimed BBC comedy, Starstruck.
When actress Emma Sidi met fellow actress and writer Rose Matafeo, it’s highly likely that she didn’t foresee herself playing the best friend in something Matafeo would eventually write and create. In turn, this creative friendship has been brought their witty dialogue and charismatic chemistry only seen by the four walls of their flat in London to TV screens across the globe. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t spent many nights watching & rewatching the show like yours truly, the basic premise of Starstruck is a screwball comedy about a 20-something in London, working a plethora of jobs, and, after finding herself in a man’s bed after a one night on New Year’s Day, she learns he’s actually a famous movie star.
Emma Sidi plays Kate opposite Rose’s Jessie. Kate, much like her real life counterpart, is Jessie’s best friend and roommate, typically the one that would be described as “extra” and “over the top,” but she always is the first to remind Jessie of her worth while also reminding her not to forget that she is literally dating a celebrity. Like with all of Sidi’s work—from the BAFTA-nominated comedy Pls Like to the myriad of solo shows she’s performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, Soho Theatre and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival—she embraces every job & character with passion and preparation. This is all to say: be careful on the tube in London, she might be listening to your phone calls and drafting a character based on you as you read this.
1883 Magazine’s Kelsey Barnes sits down with Emma Sidi to chat about Starstruck, living in (and moving out of) the shared flat with show creator & writer Rose Matafeo, her love of comedy, and more.
According to your IMDB, your first acting credit was in a short called The Pickle back in 2011. When you look back, can you see your growth as a writer and actress since then?
I was so young! That’s one of those things you almost forget about. God, I can’t believe it even made it to IMDB! The first credit on my IMDb is from when I was on my year abroad in Paris, so I was 20. It was a real gap year sort of moment. In my university degree, I did French and Spanish and in Paris, it was the 48 Hour Film Festival. These French guys that I met through this improv group I was doing in Paris asked me to be part of their film. I knew I wanted to be an actor or writer or something to do with the industry later down the line, so I just agreed to do it!
I think for anyone who wants to get into this industry, the actual reality of it is crazy. When they made me do a scene more than once, I was like, “What do you mean?I have to do it again?” [Laughs] I haven’t seen it for over a decade and I kinda hope it’s not existing out there somewhere, but at the same time, I’m not ashamed of those moments. When you’re young, you take it upon yourself to build your experience.
You mention studying French and Spanish at Cambridge, so at what point did you want to pursue comedy and acting as a career?
I was okay at my degree, but I wasn’t that good, you know? I had other stuff on my mind. The comedy society at Cambridge is renowned and that was what I was really focused on. There are these shows every fortnight and you’re generating new material. So many people leave Cambridge and become comedians and I think that’s the biggest privilege of the whole thing because you see that career as a legitimate career. I think most people would laugh and say good luck if I told them my plan was to become a comedian. But when you have so many people older than you doing it, it does make you feel that you can as well. It was exciting to have people around me that understood that desire.
After university I did the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and that was the way most people get ‘noticed’ but it’s different now with the internet and Tik Tok, but that was the most surefire way to write your own material, get up on stage, and experience what it’s like.
I haven’t seen any of your comedy work, unfortunately, because I’m over here in Toronto which is such a shame!
My boyfriend was just there! He loved it. He brought over these little maple biscuits filled with buttercream and they are shaped like a maple leaf! I love them. I thought they were gonna be novelty biscuits and I swear they were the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not just saying that.
[Laughs] I’ll have to send you a care package!
Your comedy shows are typically you playing many different characters — from a woman desperate to be a TV presenter to a Love Island contestant. It feels like you write them with a lot of care and empathy. How do you approach writing these characters—are they inspired by people you’ve met, a culmination of things you’ve read or watched, or something else?
That’s a really good question. I think as an actor and a writer, I’m inspired by everyone. When I go on the underground, if I see anyone talking, I like to either turn my headphones off or secretly take them out because I cannot stand to not overhear whatever weird thing they’re going to be saying out of context. I just love people watching so much and if someone’s on their phone on the bus, I’ve got to hear a conversation. Like, What is going on there? I really love it.
When some people complain about somebody talking really loudly on an airplane or bus or whatever it is, it so rarely bothers me because people are so interesting! Everyone is always going through something and often you can tell from their face that they are talking about a moment of injustice in their lives. I just love people and I love hearing for free on the street! There are all these different perspectives in the world and I love it.
Let’s chat about Starstruck — I became obsessed with it last year. I know you and Rose are flatmates in real life, so I want to know how she approached you with playing Kate?
That’s such a good question. I barely remember now. We lived together in Edinburgh that year when we did the festival and it was the year she won the Edinburgh Fringe award and a BBC pilot for Starstruck. We always talked about it so much as a project that I kind of didn’t even realize it was happening. I’d just check in every now and then as she wrote it, like “Oh, how’s that going“ and talking through scenes. We were on holiday in Croatia together when she was doing most of the writing for it and was really dressed and I was just making her coffees and sangrias in the evening. That was my part. [Laughs] Eventually, when they said they were going to film the pilot, she said she’d like me to audition for the part.
I love that, but gosh how stressful!
We did have to audition together and that was extremely stressful. We were living together, getting on the tube together, and going to the audition together. She went into one door and I went into a different one.
Very fancy seeing you here vibes.
Exactly. But you know, I’ve said this before, I do think it should be that way. I mean, I am saying that because I managed to get the part and I feel so grateful and relieved for that because it would have been awkward at the dinner table that evening…
Imagine if Rose had a cast party at your flat and like you were just like, “Hey, nice to meet you! You all could’ve been my castmates.”
I haven’t even thought of something like that! Oh my gosh. Thank God we were filming in lockdown! [Laughs] It makes my past life cringe, imagining that scene as a possibility. I’d have to be very noble and accept it.
I love that you both work together in different capacities. I read that an LA exec told you to, essentially, leave your friends in London behind to ‘make it’ in Hollywood and if you would’ve done that, there would’ve been no Starstruck for you!
Good point. I’ve never really thought about that but it’s so true. I think particularly amongst us in comedy, I do feel that there is so much solidarity. You understand that we all want the same thing which is to create funny material. It’s quite as sweet as it is silly. It’s almost like the more you support your friends, the more it comes back to you, whether its doing gigs with them or getting to watch the hilarious thing that they’ve made. I do think it’s definitely bad advice to step over your friends, specifically comedy.
I was reading that story and I couldn’t believe someone just straight up said that.
God, I know. I was so young, too. I feel lucky to my past self for ignoring that advice because you’re so impressionable at that age. It was one of the first meetings I had ever had at that point.
It sounds like an eye-opening experience… It makes you wonder that, if you didn’t know any better, if it was even an industry you wanted to be in!
I think I told my parents and they thought it would be like that! They said, “Oh, well, it doesn’t surprise me. You read about it all the time!” [Laughs] Luckily, the British comedy scene has been very different to that.
One of my favourite Kate scenes was actually in the first episode of this season where she brings up ‘Saturn Returning’ which causes Jessie to spiral a bit.
Yeah, that came from me. I’m slightly older than Rose so my Saturn Returns was first and I was going on about it all of the time. That scene is too true to life, it’s embarrassing.
I love that you guys are having these conversations and then Rose writes it into the script.
It’s so funny because Rose is the one who writes it and I read it through. It’s a funny script anyway, but it makes me laugh so much. I love seeing what she’s pulled from our daily lives.
What is a moment that stands out for you from season 1 or 2?
The argument between Minnie Driver, Tom’s agent, and Rose’s character. They are at that party and it’s such different people colliding. It’s one of my favourite comedy scenes of all time. When I saw that I was amazed at the acting going on, both Minnie and Rose were incredible in that scene. But, at the same time, it was quite stressful to watch. I feel so lucky to even share an episode that has that scene. In terms of I love the finale, when we’re in the boats and we all we, you know, not to be to cringe about it, but when we all get together again. We all get on so well and it really was just so much fun like being a part of that emotional climax because it’s actually kind of hanging out with your friends and boats.
It looked so fun to film.
It was! No one is a diva, but when you’re stuck in boats, you literally can’t be one. There’s a real togetherness there. It was a very real scene as well when she’s walking towards Tom and we’re trying to call her back and then push her forwards. It genuinely felt like it happened in real life and didn’t mimic a sitcom!
I know we already mentioned the lack of rom coms currently, but I love that there’s little nods to romcoms in Starstruck, like Love, Actually with the Joni Mitchell CD and Bridget Jones with a sweater. It’s very me.
[Laughs] Yes! He Alan Rickman’d me! It’s great.
A hard question: if you could pick any romcom to star in, what would it be?
This is hard! I think we have to go with Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping. I love her performance in that movie. Everything she does is just so good, so magical. I know she’s won Oscars but she’s still underrated to me. I love what she wears and we don’t have so much of that. She wears really big baggy jumpers, textured knits and messy ponytails and crappy jeans. She’s just so beautiful, but messy as well.
Yeah, everyone needs to look done up now.
I am genuinely sad about this. I think especially in feature films, we’ve lost a lot of that sort of 90s and 80s feel. The Nora Ephron feel, her films have the really baggy jumper stuff that is so true to real life and how we dress. It’s the female experience, you always look like crap! Laughs] It’s lovely and it’s beautiful. I feel like you see a lot of stuff where you can guess where stuff is from, like Zara and Urban Outfitters. I just want to see a big baggy knit!
Lastly, if you could manifest something for yourself this year, what would it be?
Okay, so this isn’t very interesting, but I actually just moved out from living with Rose over the last few weeks!
Oh my gosh, how are you guys doing? That must be a lot with the release of Starstruck!
We’re all good, thank you! [Laughs] I’ve moved in with my long-term boyfriend, just the two of us, and I have a house that needs so much decoration. I’ve never ever decorated in my life, I have no idea. I literally have never painted a wall before and I’m so embarrassed by that. If I could manifest a gorgeous house, but also manifest learning DIY home stuff, that’s what I’d manifest.
Manifest a beautiful space, like you’re in your own Architectural Digest feature.
Now it’s time to try and attempt it myself on my shoestring budget! It’s a skill I lack. In addition to that, more comedy. It’s a really, really fun job and I’m just so lucky to do it.
Season 2 of Starstruck is out now.
Interview Kelsey Barnes
Photography The Other Richard
Hair and Makeup Charlotte Yeoman