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Exclusive Interview: Rose Matafeo gushes about her experience with fandom and her latest comedy Starstruck

Production still from Starstruck.
Rose Matafeo plays Jessie in the comedy series Starstruck. Pic credit: HBO Max

Starstruck is the latest romantic comedy to drop on HBO Max. The series plays to every teenager and young adult’s dream; it explores the dreamy tale of a meet-cute between a headstrong millennial and a famous actor. However, it isn’t too cheesy and unrealistic, as lead actor and cowriter Rose Matafeo would say.

As per the official HBO Max description, “Starstruck follows Jessie (Matafeo), a millennial living in East London juggling two dead-end jobs and navigating the awkward morning-after-the-night-before when she discovers the complications of accidentally sleeping with famous film star Tom (Nikesh Patel). What she thought would become an amusing anecdote soon turns into something more, as the couple realizes they can’t keep away from each other.”

This highly addictive series masterfully combines the millennial-coined nihilistic sense of humor with the prime elements of some of the most classic love stories. The show’s first season, which consisted of six episodes, was highly acclaimed and instantly left its viewers and critics wanting more. Luckily, fans don’t have to worry as Starstruck is already slated to return for a second season.

Matafeo shared her excitement with Monsters & Critics in our latest interview. She told us, “I’m so happy that people watched it. I just can’t believe it. It’s been out in the U.K. and New Zealand, but I’m just thrilled that it’s finally on HBO Max. I feel like it’s connecting with some American rom-com fans in a big way.”

Monsters and Critics was able to chat with Matafeo about her personal experience in fan communities and where she found the inspiration for Starstruck. To the surprise of none, Matafeo is just as charming and hilarious as her fans would expect!

Her inspiration behind the series

Monsters & Critics: Where did you look for inspiration as both a writer and one of the main actors of Starstruck?

Rose Matafeo: It was inspired by all of the love stories that I love watching, really. It’s embarrassing to say that you’re obsessed with the medium or genre that you’re working on. But I am. I love films; I love all film and television.

And I’m super inspired by films. I’m super inspired by old classic love stories and rom-coms and I’m inspired by love. Let’s be honest, it’s great. There’s nothing better than having a crush. I’m just a real, sick romantic introvert. And that’s basically what happens when you’re an introverted romantic. You go and write a show about it instead of actually experiencing it.

On being a fan 

Monsters & Critics: Starstruck plays with this classic teenage dream of wanting to have a meet-cute with a super hot actor. Were you involved in fan communities growing up?

Matafeo: I mean, what is fandom? You know, I think all teenagers are part of some sort of fandom. But, certain others are more committed than others. I’ve got a lot of respect for that community, which is probably strange now operating into the world of being in stuff.

It’s so funny because I was a teenager who grew up being a massive fan of comedians and films and actors and musicians and stuff. Now, to grow up and be making the stuff that you see teens and people your age be into, it’s quite funny.

You understand the language of it and you respect it and have love for it. I was a total nerd as a teenager, like embarrassingly so. I’ve said it in lots of other interviews. I had a celebrity height chart. I wrote the heights of celebrities down so I knew how tall they were compared to me.

I went on many forums in the early Internet. I talk about it a lot. I say too much in my show about how I used be obsessed with lots of bands. I’m trying to hide that nerdy past now. I’m trying to create like a new cool image for myself, now that I’m nearly 30. But I think I’m failing miserably.

Monsters & Critics: It’s a little wild because like you, I was also really involved in fandom growing up. And now, it’s so normal to hear fanfiction mentioned in a show. I remember one of your characters makes a joke about it in Starstruck. It’s totally normal now.

Matafeo: It is so normal. I think that’s the age we’re living in as well. Also, it’s the generation that we grew up in, like the Internet was invented, so instead of going to conventions to meet other fans and stuff, you can meet online and you could meet in forums and chat rooms, and all of that stuff. And I think everyone’s inner nerd came out a bit more and we realized that everyone is nerdy about something.

It’s funny because there’s, like, an acceptable nerdy to us. And then there’s a not socially acceptable. There are total football nerds; people who love sports are nerds for sports. But it’s not as “cool” to be like super into obscure 60s television or obsessed with anime and all of that stuff. I think the generation below us is far more accepting of fan communities, and it actually can be quite cool.

On Jessie’s strengths and flaws

While, clearly, we could’ve chatted about fandom all day. We diverted back to digging deep into Starstruck, specifically, the creation of her character Jessie.

Monsters & Critics: Talking more about Starstruck and the casting process. Did you know you wanted to play the character Jessie?

Matafeo: Yes. It really kind of came about as an opportunity for me to write something for myself; from stand-up to developing something for television. A lot of the times when you do stand-up, that’s the next step, if you want it to be.

I definitely wrote it with me in mind, which is always an interesting thing, because it’s like when you’re writing, you’re going, “Oh, I have to actually do the stuff. Oh, I have to kiss this person. Oh, I have to try and be charming. Oh my god, I have to embarrass myself in this way.” So, it’s quite a conflict of interest, I think.

Monsters & Critics: What are some of Jessie’s best and worst qualities?

Matafeo: There is so much crossover with my own best and worst qualities.

Monsters & Critics: Oh no, I’m sorry for asking!

Matafeo: No, no. I think we are quite different in a lot of ways. I think Jessie is far more confident than I am. She is a confident person who speaks her mind a lot and then can put her foot in it a lot. When she gets flustered, she has a tendency to go straight to quite mean and I think I possibly do that.

But she also lives with her emotions, like just right on the edge. She likes herself and she knows herself. There are moments where she’s like, “Oh, the way I’m reacting to this is entirely consistent with my personality.” Like, she knows herself well enough to be like, “Yes, I’m a very flawed person, but these are my flaws, so accept them.”

Watch our full conversation below. 

Check out our other interviews next: Daym Drops from Netflix’s Fresh, Fried and Crispy and Justin Chu Cary from Netflix’s Black Summer.

Starstruck is currently streaming on HBO Max.

Raven is an entertainment and culture writer with bylines in more

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