Hollywood is attempting to evolve beyond its predominantly white, male-driven history, and with this much-needed push for diversity has come more female-driven narratives. There are many people to thank for this, but a name that tops the list is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The 34-year-old actor, writer and producer has racked up an impressive number of Emmy nominations this year, a good place to start when evaluating how her work is changing the game for women.
Waller-Bridge is the creator of the Amazon Studios series “Fleabag,” which earned 11 Emmy nominations this year, including Outstanding Comedy Series. Also among its nominations are two exclusively for Waller-Bridge—Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. “Fleabag” has come a long way from its roots as a one-woman stage play that gained notoriety at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a breeding ground for new talent.
With her title character, Waller-Bridge has created an incredibly complex female that bucks stereotypes and clichés. In a Vanity Fair interview, she emphasized her intentionality in choosing what Fleabag’s internal trauma would be. She wanted to avoid plot points commonly used for female characters and opted instead for the death of a best friend to catalyze Fleabag’s downward spiral. The show’s fresh take is not limited to its leading female character, though. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Waller-Bridge cited the season two character Priest and how he’s deliberately objectified in a way that female characters have traditionally been objectified.
Turning the tables in “Fleabag” is just one example of Waller-Bridge shaking up a historically male-driven industry. She’s also the creator of “Killing Eve,” a show whose second season notched up its own bevy of Emmy nominations this year. The show breathes fresh air into the sometimes-stale spy-thriller genre. Driven by two female leads, “Killing Eve” takes down antiquated, sexist narratives and includes some fun traditional role reversals along the way.
Considering the success she’s having in TV, it may come as no surprise that theatrical film producers are clamoring to get Waller-Bridge on their teams as well. She was recently brought on as a writer for the upcoming James Bond film, “No Time to Die”—the 25th entry in the series. In Bond history, she is only the second woman to earn a writer’s credit, and it will be interesting to see how her contributions shape the last foray of Daniel Craig as 007.
Whether or not Waller-Bridge takes home Emmy statuettes for “Fleabag” or “Killing Eve” this year, the shows’ impact in changing the TV landscape for women has already made her a winner. And while fans of her work may or may not have enjoyed previous Bond films, they will surely look forward to seeing what mark she leaves on the latest installment. Given her current celebrity, acclaim and pop-cultural influence, though, it’s important to note that this industry game-changer hasn’t lost sight of one of her core values. When asked in a Vogue interview what she would like to be remembered for, Waller-Bridge simply responded, “Making people laugh.”