What to Watch

What to Watch With Sweetbitter Star Ella Purnell

What hit show did she discover by doing Sweetbitter interviews? And will Tess and Simone ever get along?

by | July 31, 2019 | Comments

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 12: Ella Purnell attends the "Sweetbitter" Season Two NY premiere on June 12, 2019 at The Roxy Cinema in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for STARZ)

(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for STARZ)

Ella Purnell splashed on the scene with a standout role in Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and has since appeared, with Bill Nighy and Matthew Goode, in the critically acclaimed Ordeal By Innocence, which was Certified Fresh at 94% on the Tomatometer and U.S. audiences saw on Amazon. She also played teen Maleficent in the 2014 live-action Disney film that starred Angelina Jolie as the titular Sleeping Beauty villain.

The actress is all grown up now and starring as Tess, a 22-year-old who tackles the competitive New York City restaurant scene, in Starz drama Sweetbitter. At the end of the first season, Tess got her coveted job in Howard’s (Paul Sparks) restaurant, which was only the beginning of the drama for Purnell’s character.

In the season 2 premiere, Howard takes his staff to a farm to see where the food they prepare comes. It seems to affect Tess deeply, and she starts calling some of the chefs out on their cavalier attitude toward their ingredients. There also might be a bright spot in her relationship with Simone (Caitlin FitzGerald) — but how long can it last?

When Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Purnell, she told us of her love for Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s work and what’s in store for her character in season 2.


Killing Eve Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Eve (Sandra Oh) (BBC America)

(Photo by BBC America)

I don’t generally watch that much live TV because I’m always in different time zones and traveling around so much. I can tell you which TV shows I watch every single night religiously when I binge-watch them.

My first one has to be Killing Eve, because it’s incredible. I’m obsessed with it. I’m obsessed with Jodie Comer. I’m obsessed with Sandra Oh. I’m really fascinated by shows with female leads, written by females. I know season 1 was Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I don’t think she did the second season, but I still really like the second season. I’ll be intrigued to see where they go after this. I actually first heard about Killing Eve when I was doing press for Sweetbitter because everybody kept comparing Tess and Simone to Villanelle and Eve. That’s how I got into it and they are pretty similar. I love the way that relationship is built.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag season 2 (Credit: Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)

(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)

Fleabag. I love it. It’s too short though. I need more than six episodes, because it’s so addictive. I think I binge-watched the whole first season in one night. It’s so brilliant. The humor is amazing, and it’s interesting once you know that Phoebe is involved in both [Fleabag and Killing Eve]. You can absolutely recognize her writing style and the way she brings characters to life. It’s super unique and so smart. She’s brilliant.

There is a show that I can’t stop watching. It’s called Easy. I think that show’s been on for a while, but it just hit Netflix, so I’ve only just kind of discovered it. It’s set in Chicago, and each episode is like an anthology series. It starts off as an anthology series, but I think halfway through season 1 you get to meet the characters from episode one again later. Then by season 2 and season 3, you’re following the same four or five story lines except for then they add new story lines every other episode. Each one is different, but it kind of all centers around relationships, friendships, marriages, couples, all sexualities, all genders. It’s so interesting, all ages. Evan Jonigkeit, who plays Will in Sweetbitter, is on Easy. I was watching the show and I was like, Oh, that’s Evan. And I texted him, “I love your show.” I think it’s all mostly improv and the guys that do it are just like friends who get together and make this thing. It’s such a cool concept, I love it.

My last one is Black Mirror. I am always obsessed with Black Mirror. I will watch it. I watched it last night. I rewatch episodes, and every time I rewatch an episode, I learn something new. I’m obsessed with Black Mirror.

And Mrs. Maisel — I have to say that.

That’s my top five.


Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep (Credit: Jennifer Clasen/HBO)

(Photo by Jennifer Clasen/HBO)

Oh, I haven’t seen Big Little Lies yet. I loved the first season and I love Meryl Streep, so I would say Big Little Lies season 2. The Crown season 3 and 4, I think, have finished filming already. Maybe they haven’t finished yet, but … Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham-Carter are two of my top five favorite actresses, so I cannot wait to watch that. Really excited for that one.

Sweetbitter season 2 (Starz)

(Photo by Starz)

Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Is visiting the farm a game changer for Tess?

Ella Purnell: Definitely. I think it’s pretty symbolic of them switching it up. It’s a way of Howard switching things up in the restaurant industry, making everyone aware that sh–’s about to change. But for Tess, it’s also like, Hey, don’t think that just because you’ve got the job that you’re done. That happening wakes her up, I think, from any idea of complacency. Also her reaction to it surprises herself; her curiosity and interest in it reminds her not to underestimate herself and it reminds her that there’s so much stuff she hasn’t seen, so much stuff she hasn’t experienced.

It seems to change her attitude in the kitchen. Will that continue?

Oh, definitely. Absolutely, yeah. In part, it’s having a better understanding and appreciation for dining as a whole experience, but also the intensity behind it. I think it’s a good reminder to Tessa, like it’s a job. This is kind of each man for himself out there, and I think that becomes apparent in the last scene of the season with a scene between Tess and Howard. She does something really ballsy, really ballsy. And it’s really interesting. I’m really interested to see what people make of that last scene. It’s dramatic.

Sweetbitter keyart season 2 (Starz)

(Photo by Starz)

Does Tess and Simone’s relationship become more harmonious?

Yeah, I would say so. Well, no, actually. For like a brief second. Episode two they have an incredible bonding experience. You find out a bit more about Tess’s backstory and Tess’s mother and perhaps get an inkling as to why she’s so attracted to Simone, what their relationship is about. I don’t really know. It’s painful. I’m really interested in the relationship. I’m really interested in female relationships in general. I think she’s just as in love with Simone as she is with Jake, so she’s hypersensitive to any changed or nuances in their relationship. I think it’s really painful for Tess.

Does Tess’ journey in the restaurant industry have any parallels to yours as an actor?

Definitely. I always think it’s so funny how art imitates life in a weird way. Definitely last year was so funny because it was my first time in New York. It was my first time doing TV. So everything she was doing, everything she was experiencing, I was experiencing too for the first time. I’d never worked in this industry, and I was thrown into this new industry. What I mean by that is movies and TV, American television is totally different from anything I’ve ever done, so I was thrown into this thing that I was trying to figure out and keep up with and look like I knew what I was doing in the same way that Tess is. And then the gratification it gives you when you seize life for all its worth is incredible. I moved to New York after we finished filming, and I feel like it’s changed my life, not in a cheesy corny way, but genuinely changed the course of my life.

Sweetbitter new episodes air Sundays on Starz.

Tag Cloud

Anna Paquin revenge USA reboot BET Awards Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt scorecard Creative Arts Emmys Crunchyroll The Purge venice LGBTQ dramedy Disney Plus Disney streaming service Ovation AMC south america Writers Guild of America Premiere Dates dragons TCA Lucasfilm superman TV renewals space Winter TV PlayStation 2020 ABC Syfy TCA Awards CMT joker Trophy Talk CNN halloween WGN Character Guide Shondaland biography dark Awards Hallmark golden globes Winners Music franchise Set visit 2016 Star Trek canceled Chernobyl FX on Hulu 2021 Amazon Studios Amazon 2017 teaser Walt Disney Pictures Lionsgate Peacock Holidays documentaries stoner USA Network HBO Go Marvel Television Action serial killer Britbox scary movies Teen Broadway kaiju psycho reviews tv talk Marathons Spike Disney Channel anime SundanceTV king kong spanish language The CW 2019 jamie lee curtis Awards Tour Musical Legendary BBC PaleyFest Tumblr Pop TV sports DirecTV Video Games Fantasy hollywood rt archives 4/20 Captain marvel Emmy Nominations fast and furious Brie Larson toy story monster movies 2015 children's TV theme song directors adaptation Lifetime Emmys Christmas Trivia Toys ABC Signature DC Comics docudrama Mudbound spanish RT History Apple TV+ Superheroe National Geographic telelvision festival Western HBO Max VH1 kong CW Seed Nickelodeon First Reviews all-time Opinion Disney medical drama Trailer Family deadpool The Walking Dead Pirates aliens Masterpiece Podcast Starz American Society of Cinematographers A&E 21st Century Fox DC streaming service Infographic GoT YouTube Premium Epix quibi 007 a nightmare on elm street remakes Turner james bond werewolf facebook Marvel technology Comic Book godzilla Box Office Endgame boxoffice SDCC composers game of thrones cults politics hispanic rom-coms Sundance TIFF archives cars Animation disaster Election cancelled TV shows halloween tv Thanksgiving psychological thriller Amazon Prime Rock Schedule police drama period drama 71st Emmy Awards news Comedy Central Musicals 72 Emmy Awards CBS japanese laika foreign blaxploitation spy thriller X-Men Avengers mission: impossible Countdown kids Turner Classic Movies Country Pixar GLAAD Best and Worst women renewed TV shows TLC Heroines cats Dark Horse Comics Shudder Spring TV casting Comedy dceu romantic comedy trailers VICE Vudu cancelled TV series Martial Arts RT21 Nominations OneApp Pop child's play award winner The Arrangement TCM Adult Swim Paramount Plus streaming PBS Biopics MSNBC TV Land what to watch Film Festival comics miniseries Marvel Studios ViacomCBS Sundance TV classics crime Alien Ghostbusters comedies video comic animated NYCC TV Interview sequels First Look adventure 99% Fall TV justice league Showtime Mystery Sneak Peek Food Network popular Paramount worst movies DGA DC Universe Super Bowl blockbusters travel cooking Crackle cancelled ABC Family Exclusive Video transformers El Rey criterion Amazon Prime Video stop motion doctor who Mary Poppins Returns critics unscripted comic books Black Mirror Reality BAFTA Tarantino Spectrum Originals italian black free movies breaking bad cancelled television Binge Guide political drama sag awards cops thriller indie toronto series 24 frames batman SXSW singing competition Quiz natural history stand-up comedy Polls and Games Baby Yoda harry potter football docuseries TNT Netflix crossover Funimation Summer television See It Skip It Holiday parents Warner Bros. Hulu sitcom spinoff BBC America australia emmy awards zombies christmas movies Cosplay crime thriller finale Bravo blockbuster YA nature Valentine's Day versus Acorn TV Reality Competition Fox News Tubi CBS All Access TruTV hidden camera Freeform Women's History Month die hard elevated horror Hallmark Christmas movies Horror YouTube Red Rocky Nat Geo cinemax GIFs Apple TV Plus Television Academy talk show Song of Ice and Fire movies ghosts Certified Fresh jurassic park E! Arrowverse Ellie Kemper The Walt Disney Company Sundance Now mutant Disney+ Disney Plus binge APB social media zombie IFC Films TCA 2017 best true crime Sony Pictures E3 zero dark thirty Extras Oscars Cartoon Network strong female leads Sci-Fi ITV pirates of the caribbean Mary poppins Universal dc slashers richard e. Grant indiana jones comiccon Superheroes game show nbcuniversal french NBC nfl green book universal monsters IFC 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards LGBT Rocketman Hear Us Out FX based on movie canceled TV shows superhero video on demand HBO Stephen King Year in Review History independent VOD screenings Drama discovery Academy Awards Discovery Channel 20th Century Fox golden globe awards 2018 MTV war documentary historical drama Red Carpet Calendar book romance Tomatazos Paramount Network Cannes mockumentary Logo YouTube Travel Channel Fox Searchlight 45 Columbia Pictures diversity Kids & Family BBC One vampires A24 Film WarnerMedia anthology latino Mindy Kaling robots MCU sequel concert supernatural ID films ratings obituary prank twilight Mary Tyler Moore Apple spider-man Watching Series chucky festivals TV One Pride Month dogs OWN Lifetime Christmas movies President The Academy Television Critics Association razzies worst hist The Witch ESPN screen actors guild Black History Month boxing TBS Pet Sematary BET TCA Winter 2020 FOX movie Esquire San Diego Comic-Con Classic Film rotten movies we love name the review Comics on TV spain Star Wars fresh Photos Rom-Com Grammys rotten asian-american crime drama science fiction Elton John cartoon witnail FXX Chilling Adventures of Sabrina satire Netflix Christmas movies New York Comic Con