Drugs, lies, bullying: TV show Flack paints 'accurate' picture of celebrity PR, says its star

A new TV comedy drama set in the world of celebrity PR that features drug taking, bullying and frequent lying presents an "accurate and warts and all" version of the sector, according to its protagonist.

Stars (left to right): Melody (Rebecca Benson), Caroline (Sophie Okonedo), Robyn (Anna Paquin) and Eve (Lydia Wilson)
Stars (left to right): Melody (Rebecca Benson), Caroline (Sophie Okonedo), Robyn (Anna Paquin) and Eve (Lydia Wilson)

Called Flack, the UKTV show debuts on W on Thursday (21 February) and stars Anna Paquin of True Blood and X-Men as Robyn, an American celebrity PR working in London.

PRWeek attended a screening of the first episode, which focuses on Robyn’s relationship with her sister Ruth (played by Genevieve Angelson) and introduces viewers to her life at celebrity PR agency Mills Paulson, which is led by "tyrannical yet impressive" boss Caroline (Sophie Okonedo).

Robyn is shown taking drugs at the hotel room of a client, sleeping with another client, and lying to the media.

Speaking on a panel after the screening, Paquin described Robyn as "a wonderfully human person who is an absolute fuck up in her own life but for all of the reasons that she’s a disaster makes her fantastic at her job".

The 36 year-old, whose acting breakthrough was as a child in 1993’s romantic drama film The Piano, revealed she has had the same PR person since she was 12.

She added: "The world of PR is very fascinating and interesting, as far as how it spins what has been put out into the world into what you want to be seen in the world. And sometimes that includes twisting things that are unfortunately not so flattering. But from what I have found in my case [it has been about] shedding light on things where someone has tried to make some kind of bullshit story up."

Asked if she could do Robyn’s job herself, Paquin replied: "Yeah".

She was also asked whether Flack glamourises this particular side of PR.

"I think it just portrays an accurate and warts-and-all version of a work environment that has all manner of ups and downs," Paquin said. "I don’t think it’s good, I don’t think it’s bad; I just think it’s realistic."

Other elements of Robyn's life are introduced in the first episode, including her relationship with her boyfriend Sam, a nurse, played by Arinze Kene. It also focuses on her and her sister's grief at losing their mother one year previously.

Another prominent character is Eve, a PR executive at Robyn’s agency, who in the first episode is depicted behaving badly towards the agency’s unpaid intern, Melody (Rebecca Benson).

Lydia Wilson, who plays Eve, said she spent a day in an unnamed PR agency to get a better understanding of the industry. "I was knackered by like 10.30am – I arrived at 10am," Wilson recalled.

"It’s exhausting, high octane. They work so hard. If I was tired by 10.30am it gave me a huge respect for people who are doing this nine to five, and then out of hours stuff. It was really eye-opening."

Asked if the world of PR is as dark as the series makes out, Wilson replied: "It can be".

Flack's creator is Oliver Lansley, who was also behind the BBC sitcom Whites. The show is from production companies Hat Trick and CASM Films.

Are you planning to watch Flack on Thursday? PRWeek would like to hear your reaction. Please either tweet @PRweekUKnews or email PRWeek deputy editor John Harrington.

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