Fashion

The Flatshare’s Jessica Brown Findlay on playing Tiff in the adaptation of Beth O’Leary’s novel, portraying ‘coercive control’ and the romance of Post-Its

In The Flatshare, a television adaptation of Beth O’Leary’s bestselling novel of the same title, Tiff, a lovable, recently-heartbroken millennial, finds an elusive, affordable room of one’s own in London’s notoriously-difficult housing market, but it comes with a catch: she tag-teams in the flat’s one bed with night shift health worker, Leon, whom she has never met. It’s a tantalising premise, and one that Jessica Brown Findlay – best known as Downton Abbey’s Lady Sybil Crawley – more than does justice to. 

Arriving to speak to me on Zoom, it’s clear that Jessica has adopted Tiff’s trademark wardrobe of bright-coloured, patterned clothing. For our interview, the then-eight-months-pregnant actor wears a turquoise peasant tunic with a diamond pattern on the collar. She’s speaking to me from a bedroom, though presumably one she shares with her actor husband Ziggy Heath rather than a complicated swapping arrangement. 

While she’s doing publicity for The Flatshare, Jessica was speaking to me during a period of well-earned rest before giving birth – since filming wrapped in late May 2022. She has since announced the arrival of her and Ziggy’s twin baby boys on 5 November, which she announced earlier this month on Instagram – the birth following a gruelling four rounds of IVF which she spoke openly about on International Women’s Day this year. 

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Hello Jessica! You’re giving me absolute Tiff energy today in your bright turquoise top.  

I know. It’s actually really ‘her’! That’s so funny. 

That settles it: you’re the perfect person to play Tiff, both on-screen and off! What was your favourite part of portraying your character? 

I enjoyed playing someone who comes in hard nosed. It’s not that she’s cold… she clearly has a lot of vibrancy, but at the point you are meeting her in a moment of chaos in her life. It’s that feeling of when you think everything is working out, but it’s actually falling apart. I enjoyed that side of Tiff because it resonated with myself and girlfriends of mine when we were talking about that kind of storyline. Generationally, it feels like the first generation where you’ll make a phone call to a parent and they’re like, “Oh my God, are you engaged?” But it’s like, “No, I’ve actually moved out… on my own. And I’m starting again.” There’s an exhaustion and insecurity to that, but also a freedom as well. 

Tiff and Leon have a very unusual flat-share arrangement. Did you think there was almost a comment there on the UK housing market – specifically in London, where The Flatshare is set – and how ridiculous it’s all got?