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

dramedy sequel new york National Geographic Masterpiece slasher FX Chernobyl Awards Tour golden globes nbcuniversal cooking indie best IFC Films Box Office 2019 classics legend anthology trailers godzilla hispanic heritage month technology Spectrum Originals Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Toys thriller WarnerMedia supernatural Legendary game of thrones streaming cancelled TV series wonder woman Brie Larson critic resources venice franchise CBS NBA Awards BBC America VH1 Disney+ Disney Plus hist E! criterion USA History HBO Pop 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards screenings Esquire YA disaster adenture mission: impossible Hallmark Comedy Martial Arts Rock MCU Valentine's Day foreign rom-coms comedies Tokyo Olympics king kong Ghostbusters Action posters Broadway fast and furious festivals 72 Emmy Awards 2015 Food Network Reality facebook dexter TCA Awards worst movies Disney HBO Go rt archives Disney Plus Pixar rotten worst Mudbound romance stand-up comedy Warner Bros. docudrama Certified Fresh video on demand ratings Paramount Plus Nat Geo social media political drama transformers Trophy Talk Comics on TV psychological thriller Alien young adult X-Men all-time free movies justice league SundanceTV 99% The Walking Dead Calendar green book Logo christmas movies Anna Paquin RT21 spain kaiju Sundance The Academy sports revenge toronto Mary poppins 45 harry potter Netflix Christmas movies YouTube Red laika twilight archives 90s Oscars Chilling Adventures of Sabrina popular Rocketman Tumblr Women's History Month OWN reviews dogs Extras movies series CMT Elton John japan Election breaking bad prank Columbia Pictures BBC kids TV movies PaleyFest Acorn TV children's TV Mary Tyler Moore CBS All Access Nickelodeon heist movie spy thriller scene in color period drama boxing anime japanese Tarantino Marvel Film See It Skip It Star Trek deadpool Discovery Channel indiana jones 71st Emmy Awards halloween Television Critics Association Interview remakes Tomatazos HBO Max spider-man DirecTV basketball spanish Apple festival Winners rt labs Heroines Cosplay Marvel Studios aliens comiccon TV ESPN Teen streaming movies australia Mindy Kaling blockbuster Emmy Nominations BET Awards game show Wes Anderson Vudu marvel cinematic universe talk show 2021 Turner Classic Movies nature TV One DC Universe monster movies south america teaser films Watching Series finale American Society of Cinematographers jamie lee curtis rt labs critics edition 2017 space video Baby Yoda toy story dc 4/20 ABC halloween tv telelvision unscripted television Sneak Peek concert Year in Review olympics Black History Month Stephen King mockumentary LGBTQ composers zero dark thirty FX on Hulu Arrowverse canceled TV shows Comic Book TLC women robots Turner CNN Christmas TCM El Rey MTV President Spike cats Showtime A&E YouTube Premium Kids & Family Amazon Western book MSNBC chucky Cartoon Network Tubi WGN TCA 2017 Premiere Dates comic book movie TV Land Family Writers Guild of America Musicals USA Network Character Guide 24 frames comic books Horror DC Comics Infographic DC streaming service lord of the rings psycho cancelled television scary movies Video Games Black Mirror Disney streaming service Biopics king arthur Mystery saw Trivia Holidays YouTube BET a nightmare on elm street Shondaland universal monsters scorecard cults Netflix screen actors guild The CW Superheroes Holiday tv talk Paramount Network mcc Hulu adventure strong female leads news Walt Disney Pictures dragons Film Festival Disney Channel versus action-comedy RT History NYCC IFC batman Sony Pictures marvel comics Opinion Country serial killer documentary Star Wars Marathons royal family ABC Signature Mary Poppins Returns 20th Century Fox Reality Competition biopic Amazon Prime Video hidden camera jurassic park spinoff french elevated horror ID SDCC independent emmy awards italian crime satire cops werewolf police drama canceled Television Academy Classic Film Lifetime Universal E3 aapi international ViacomCBS 007 true crime obituary live action witnail Pride Month Thanksgiving dceu Countdown Nominations feel good PlayStation james bond Hear Us Out ghosts TNT Adult Swim know your critic Bravo cars discovery sitcom war Dark Horse Comics spanish language Exclusive Video natural history 1990s Photos nfl A24 Marvel Television vampires Travel Channel Amazon Studios cancelled Avengers TCA new zealand blockbusters Comic-Con@Home 2021 kong comic The Arrangement parents Emmys award winner politics Superheroe cinemax FXX slashers stoner Grammys Pirates San Diego Comic-Con adaptation ITV Lionsgate gangster Syfy ABC Family AMC directors Image Comics OneApp Pet Sematary Music Creative Arts Emmys movie BAFTA 93rd Oscars Ellie Kemper GIFs Ovation Amazon Prime Pacific Islander Rom-Com Endgame book adaptation First Reviews sag awards pirates of the caribbean football Fantasy 21st Century Fox Quiz fresh Sundance TV blaxploitation joker TruTV high school The Purge Spring TV Podcast Fall TV Pop TV comic book movies crime drama superhero Crackle New York Comic Con latino Peacock science fiction Rocky theme song new star wars movies die hard suspense Sci-Fi critics stop motion 2018 Animation CW Seed sequels what to watch Musical travel 2020 Polls and Games Freeform SXSW Schedule animated Funimation GLAAD name the review golden globe awards historical drama Starz hollywood Best and Worst quibi Epix crossover Fox Searchlight VICE Cannes Britbox First Look based on movie documentaries doctor who superman Fox News TBS miniseries mutant asian-american Set visit Drama diversity VOD Summer Shudder target rotten movies we love Crunchyroll 73rd Emmy Awards zombies reboot The Walt Disney Company binge Super Bowl TIFF biography comics hispanic PBS zombie TV renewals Lifetime Christmas movies dark medical drama romantic comedy razzies BBC One casting debate The Witch black Captain marvel Sundance Now crime thriller cartoon APB Paramount boxoffice richard e. Grant Hallmark Christmas movies FOX Winter TV Red Carpet renewed TV shows TCA Winter 2020 child's play singing competition Trailer DGA Lucasfilm GoT Academy Awards LGBT Binge Guide docuseries NBC cancelled TV shows Apple TV+ Song of Ice and Fire Apple TV Plus 2016 Comedy Central