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Wellbeing

This Way Up creator and star Aisling Bea talks sibling relationships and maintaining boundaries

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As the second series of This Way Up hits our screen, it’s creator and star Aisling Bea talks sibling relationships, maintaining boundaries and the value of mini-friendships.

“If series one was trying to make a comedy about loneliness, then series two is about communication and when we miss each other. How you can miss words trying to say the same thing and get each other wrong, whether it’s phones or Zooms or anything.”

Aisling Bea is describing series two of her tender-hearted and witty comedy This Way Up. But she could just as easily be talking about the past 15 months of life on planet Earth. (Somewhat ironically, despite the fact we’re shooting her, I’m chatting to her over Zoom as the NHS app has confined me to my flat for 10 long days.)

The show won Bea a Breakthrough Bafta in 2020 for its portrayal of Aine, an English teacher trying to rebuild her life after a breakdown – rather than focusing on the journey to falling apart. It is quietly powerful in how it combines light and shade, joy and grief, and lingers on the small moments of the everyday, as life always does. “The most difficult thing to do is not write your hero as an anti-hero, but as a dickhead,” muses Bea. She’s almost horizontal on her sofa as we chat, two cuddly monkeys nesting on the cushion behind her. “These are the two monkeys who sit on my back all day long,” she laughs.

Aine is helped, and sometimes unintentionally held back, by her sister Shona, played by Sharon Horgan, and the pair have innate chemistry: the way they chide, mock and care for each other reminds me of the unspoken language and nuanced relationship I have with my own sister.

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