5 Trademarks of a Phoebe Waller-Bridge Script

“You’re allowed to bore your friends and family, but to bore your audience is unforgivable.”
by Britton Perelman on April 1, 2024

There’s never a dull moment in a script written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The Emmy-award-winning writer and creator shot to the top of Hollywood with the success of Fleabag, the dark comedy series based on her one-woman play.

Then, she created Killing Eve, the adaptation of Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle series and served as head writer for the first season of the Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer-led spy thriller. After the wild success of Fleabag’s second season, she was brought in to work on the James Bond script No Time To Die. Waller-Bridge has been developing still-very-secretive projects for Amazon Prime ever since.

Her ability to deliver to audiences quickly made her one of the industry’s most sought-after screenwriters. But it’s her trademark writing style—she deftly combines comedy and drama and creates complex and intriguing characters you feel as if you’ve known forever—that has cemented her as one the best in Hollywood today.

Like any great professional screenwriter, there are trademarks of a script penned by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Here are five ways to tell when you’re reading one of hers.

Read More: Screenwriting Wisdom From Some of Hollywood's Best Female Screenwriters

Unapologetic Female Characters

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s characters don’t apologize. Well, they might say they’re sorry now and then when they have messed something up, but they sure as hell don’t apologize for being who they are.

“I get a rush writing women who don’t care what you think,” Waller-Bridge said in a profile by the Guardian.

The movie and television landscape these days is full of “strong women." An essential component of Waller-Bridge’s portrayal of a strong woman is an unwillingness to apologize for their intelligence, sexuality, and skill. Fleabag, Fleabag's godmother, Eve Polastri, and Villanelle—the women of the Phoebe Waller-Bridge multiverse are 100 percent themselves.

Witty, Sardonic Dialogue

Fleabag is one of those shows where every line of dialogue is brilliantly crafted, but the story or scene pacing is so fast that you don’t notice it at first.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a genius with dialogue—perfectly emulating real speech and infusing it with lines so well-written that there’s no way anyone in real life would think of them.

Read More: 5 Movies Screenwriters Should Watch to Study Dialogue

Intense Female Relationships

Fleabag and Claire. Eve and Villanelle. Fleabag and Boo. Eve and Carolyn. Fleabag and her godmother.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a master at populating her shows with intense female relationships. They hate each other, love each other, can’t stand each other, and can’t stay away from one another.

And we can’t stop watching.

The relationships between the women in Waller-Bridge’s stories feel so real because they’re not simple. They’re multi-faceted, complex, and wrought with tension.

Waller-Bridge knows that the woman who could kill you with her pinky is also the one you can’t stop thinking about, and the one you can’t stand to hug in public is also the same (and only) person you’d run through an airport for.

Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer) standing in front of a flower wall in 'Killing Eve'

Poignant Observations About the Human Experience

“I try to disarm an audience as much as I can with comedy and then punch them in the gut with a drama when they least expect it.”

A great example of this can be seen in Episode Three of Fleabag’s second season. After watching Fleabag’s hilarious escapades during her attempt to help her sister with a corporate awards ceremony, she finds herself drinking with a successful businesswoman. They banter and joke about women’s awards, period films, and canapes before the businesswoman drops this monologue.

“Women are born with pain built in. It’s our physical destiny. Period pain. Sore boobs. Childbirth. We carry it within ourselves throughout our lives. Men don’t. They have to seek it out.”

She continues about menopause and getting older, and the entire speech is funny, honest, and so, very true. And then she says: “There is nothing more exciting than a room full of people.”

Fleabag responds: “Yeah except most people are… shit.”

The businesswoman scoffs and makes Fleabag look her in the eye. Then she delivers this breathtaking blow of a line: “People are all we’ve got.”

Like I said, a script written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge doesn't pass without delivering some form of disarming, poignant observation about the human condition that will leave you unsure whether to cry or laugh, leaving you with a complex mix of deep cynicism and hopefulness.

Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) next to a brick wall in 'Fleabag'

At Least One Scene You Can't Stop Thinking About

Whether it’s the one where Villanelle dumps ice cream on a child or the last moment between Fleabag and Hot Priest, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s repertoire is full of brilliant scenes that stick with you long after the credits have rolled.

This might be because Waller-Bridge abides by the Rule of Three (though not the one you’re thinking of). “I always think there should be at least three things going on in one scene at the same time.”

Take the opening scene of Fleabag’s second season. If it were just any old family dinner, it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable. But it’s the first family dinner since Fleabag’s falling out with her sister, dad, and godmother at the end of the first season. That adds enough tension, but Waller-Bridge doesn’t stop there. Claire is hiding something, godmother is unabashedly flirting with the (much younger and very good-looking) priest, Martin is sober (maybe?), a very needy waitress won’t stop bothering the table, and, per usual, her dad is stumbling over saying a single coherent sentence.

It wouldn’t be a Phoebe Waller-Bridge script without at least one scene that can live rent-free in your head until the end of time.



With her signature snark, fourth wall breaks, snappy dialogue, and moments you can’t forget, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has cemented herself as one of today’s best screenwriters. And you can always tell when a script has been infused with her brilliant wit and delightfully deviant hand.

Read More: 5 Trademarks Of A Phoebe Waller-Bridge Pilot

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