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Phoebe Waller-Bridge consulted a real-life priest to create that iconic Fleabag character

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Lauren Geall
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Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott as Fleabag and the Hot Priest.

Speaking on a new episode of BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour, Phoebe Waller-Bridge revealed what happened when she asked a real-life priest all about celibacy as part of her research for Fleabag.

It’s been a few weeks since we last spoke about Fleabag, and honestly it’s been way too long.

The last season of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s standout comedy series may have graced our screens all the way back in May last year, but we’re still as obsessed as ever. Whether we’re obsessing over those M&S G&T tins or laughing at Fleabag’s classic fourth-wall breaks, the show has always been in a world of its own – and it’s probably why we’re still so hungry for any Fleabag-related chat we can get our hands on.

One of the hottest topics of conversation when it comes to Waller-Bridge’s series is, of course, the one-and-only Hot Priest. Andrew Scott’s iconic character – who serves as Fleabag’s love interest throughout the second season – quickly became the star of the show’s second season for his awkward hilarity and that “kneel” comment.

And while the show’s exploration of religion isn’t strictly orthodox, it turns out Waller-Bridge did consult a real-life priest when it came to creating Scott’s character. 

Speaking on a new episode of BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour, Waller-Bridge explained how she battled with the idea of having a priest character in the first place – and revealed what happened when she sought the advice of a real-life priest.

“I resisted the idea for a while, especially because there’s been so many priests in comedy,” Waller-Bridge told the show’s host Jenni Murray. “It’s almost a crowded market of iconic priests… I didn’t want to fall into the traps of making him a comedy priest. And then I thought, but what if Andrew Scott played him?”

With the Andrew Scott idea renewing her faith (pardon the pun) in a priest character, Waller-Bridge says she sat down to talk with a real-life priest called Father William all about the topic of celibacy – and adopted the character of Fleabag for some question inspiration.

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“Well, he was very kind with his approach… he had a lot of humour about it,” she said of her conversation with the priest. “I tried to talk to other priests about it but obviously it’s a sensitive subject. I tried to come into it sensitively. But I wanted to ask all the questions I believed Fleabag would ask the priest.”

She continued: “[He] just had this roaring laugh and open heart and believed that if someone has a question you must answer it honestly,” she laughed. “He said that it was a great gift for him but something he struggled with every day. It was part of his faith.”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott in Fleabag.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott in Fleabag.

This isn’t the first time Waller-Bridge has spoken about the process of creating Scott’s character – and why the internet fell head-over-heels in love with him. In the opening monologue for her Saturday Night Live (SNL) guest host in October 2019, Waller-Bridge said her and Scott had come to a conclusion as to why Fleabag’s love interest stole the show.

“I call the character Priest in the script, but everyone started calling him Hot Priest,” she said. “Obviously Andrew is hot, but this Priest character caused such a horn storm.

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“Andrew and I were trying to figure out what it was about him that was driving women so mental. And we boiled it down and realised, it was because he was doing this one thing. Listening. Really, really listening. Try it guys.”

We don’t know about you, but we’re off to binge-watch seasons one and two of Fleabag all over again.

You can listen to the full episode of Waller-Bridge’s Woman’s Hour appearance here.

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Images: BBC

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Lauren Geall

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