Tuesday 20 August 2019

'I'm not going to force it' - Stefanie Preissner reveals there won't be a third season of Can't Cope, Won't Cope

Stefanie Preissner
Stefanie Preissner
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Stefanie Preissner has revealed that there will not be a third season of her hit comedy TV series Can't Cope, Won't Cope.

The show, which stars Seána Kerslake and Nika McGuigan as two young Irish women negotiating adulthood in Dublin, proved hugely popular from its debut on RTE in 2016 through its highly-anticipated second season which aired in April this year.

Both series are now available to international audiences on Netflix, but writer Stefanie (31) feels it has reached the end of the road as she never planned for it to exist beyond the first season.

"When I started writing season one I was so excited that I had a TV series.  I was like, ‘oh my God, get it made!’," she tells Independent.ie.  "Then it did really well and I was so happy and then I couldn't believe they brought it back for season two and I was like ‘Oh my God, how did JK Rowling know that Harry was a Horcrux in book one?’ 

"When I wrote season one I never anticipated season two or three.  I think you can tell – there are holes in season two. So, I just didn’t have a future envisioned when I wrote season one and I’m not going to force it so there isn’t going to be a third season."

Stefanie admits she was "very green" when she wrote the first series and had never written dialogue before never mind plan a multi-series arc for her characters.

Aisling (Seána Kerslake) and Danielle (Nika McGuigan) in Can't Cope, Won't Cope
Aisling (Seána Kerslake) and Danielle (Nika McGuigan) in Can't Cope, Won't Cope

"So I don’t think it would be fair to make an audience sit through me trying to tie together plots [in a third series].  It’s like building a bungalow and then like adding 15 stories – the foundations aren’t there for that sort of weight."

She says she's as "sorry to see it go" as the fans will undoubtedly be, but says she would be "clutching at straws to expand that story".

The series, which successfully straddles both comedy and drama, was praised for its realistic depiction of young Irish women and tackled issues ranging from alcoholism and binge drinking culture to the housing crisis.

Stefanie says she is "immensely proud" of the series and how it was received.

Friends in need: Seana Kerslake (left) and Nika McGuigan star as onscreen troubled friends in Can't Cope Won't Cope season 2. Photo: RTE
Friends in need: Seana Kerslake (left) and Nika McGuigan star as onscreen troubled friends in Can't Cope Won't Cope season 2. Photo: RTE

"It was such an amazing experience.  It was such a brilliant launch pad for a lot of other TV series, and prompted discussions about women in television, drinking culture in this country, and I think a lot of people got a lot from it.  I certainly did.  And I’m immensely proud of it," she says.

"When I think of it I think of it very warmly.  I’m very grateful to everyone who was involved in it, and for how it was received in this country, what it gave to everyone involved, and to me and my career."

She adds, "It’s so important to have an Irish TV show about two girls sitting on a content page [on Netflix], on the same page as Girls and Catastrophe and Broad City.  It’s brilliant for Irish women."

Read more: Can hope, will hope: Stefanie Preissner on trying to tell the truth about Ireland in 2018

Never one to rest on her laurels, Stefanie is working on two TV series in the US, has a third in development with Channel 4, and is working with Parallel films on finding co-producers for the feature closerthanthis.

She's jetting off to LA this week to meet with Paramount about one show while the second is further along in development with First Look Media in New York.  

Stefanie Preissner
Stefanie Preissner

The latter is about a girl with a circadian rhythm disorder who lives nocturnally.  It kicks off at the point where she's forced to return to living her life during nighttime hours when "her medication is no longer covered by insurance in the States because some fictional president changed the policy".

"So we meet her in the nighttime, which is a representation of all the things that are dangerous for women to do.  She's trying to find a job, date, and have a life while living at night," reveals Stefanie.

Working with US producers has been something of an eye-opener for the talented writer, whose initial one-season approach to Can't Cope Won't Cope was worlds apart from how they do business.

"All the producers are talking about taking that storyline into season two or three even though we haven’t put pen to paper on what the plot is - they’re already projecting for a recurring series," she says.

In the space of just three years Stefanie has graduated from never having written dialogue to writing in two continents for both American and Irish voices.

"When I was on set for season one [of Can't Cope] I didn’t even know what green pages are.  The production team were like, ‘this girl has no idea what she’s doing’ and I didn’t!  But I learned so much.  It was a baptism of fire.  It was brilliant, it was exciting, it was just a gift," she enthuses.

Noirin O’Sulivan with author Stefanie Preissner at the launch her first book, ‘Why Can’t
Everything Just Stay the Same?’ at Nando’s in Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron
Noirin O’Sulivan with author Stefanie Preissner at the launch her first book, ‘Why Can’t Everything Just Stay the Same?’ at Nando’s in Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

The prospect of writing series for an American audience is daunting, she admits, but adds, "I was listening to some woman the other day talking about ‘fake it till you make it and once you’ve made it stop faking it’. 

"There are things I’m no longer green in, things like format and how to write the thing, but I still have loads to learn, like how to write for American voices.  The producers are coming to me and saying, ‘What does it mean that she’s in the queue for coffee?’ and I’m like, ‘In the queue for coffee...’ and they’re like, ‘Do you mean she’s in line?’.  So now I have American writers working with me to polish my script.  They’re like, ‘What is a press?’ ‘It’s like a cupboard’.  It’s weird."

Given Can't Cope Won't Cope was written about Irish people for an Irish audience, but is now available on Netflix, Stefanie says people tweet her "all the time" asking what certain words and phrases mean.

"[They ask] ‘What does this mean?’ and ‘Is it really like that in Dublin?  Do you really have nightclubs like this in Ireland?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, we don’t all live on farms!’  It’s funny," she chuckles.

While these TV projects would be more than enough to fill anyone's slate, Stefanie is also fronting a four-part radio show, Situationships, for RTE Radio 1 (Thursday nights at 10pm) and last week she put the finishing touches to her other baby - her second book, No.  It's a Full Sentence, which follows her hugely successful (and just reprinted) first effort, Why Can't Everything Just Stay the Same?

No. It's a Full Sentence will be published early next year and explores her inability to say 'no' to people in both her career and personal life, something with which many Irish people in particular can probably identify.

"No is the first thing I ever said.  It was my first word.  It was all I said.  I said 'no' to everything then forgot how to say it for 26 years," she says.

"If you had known me when I was 26 you would not have an unmet need.  I'd give you the shirt off my back and if you didn't need a shirt I'd go back to the shop and exchange it for something else and bring that back.  I'd pick you up in the middle of the night, help you with your hangover, help you with your college essay.

"I so much wanted to be a good friend, and a part of that is probably down to being an only child.  You have to be a very good friend if you don't want to be lonely.  Sometimes it means forgoing your own needs and wants and desires for other people."

Being a compulsive 'yes' person made her unhappy.  A moment of realisation came at a particularly awkward moment as she tried to cross the road saddled with three cappuccinos and hampered by shoes that were too big for her.

"I stumbled.  I was wearing like Aer Lingus cabin crew shoes someone had lent me to go to an audition when I didn't even want the role," she says.

"When I was coming back someone had said, 'bring back a cappuccino' and then there was 'me too, me too' so I had three cappuccinos and I was wearing shoes that didn't fit that made me look like an air hostess and I spilled cappuccino all over myself in the middle of the road and I thought, what are you doing?  You don't want any of this.  Why are you in this part of town?  You don't even live here. 

"I had to take myself out of circulation for a while, and it was okay."

Five years later she reckons better at focusing on her own priorities, but she's adamant the book is "absolutely not a self help book"; "Someone who writes a self help book has to have it sorted," she says, "And I don't have it sorted!" 

Read more: Youth in revolt - the stars of Can't Cope, Won't Cope on series return


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