Nicole Lecky on BBC Three's Mood: 'Sex workers' stories deserve to be told'

The writer and star of BBC Three's Mood discusses her new drama and some of the real-life inspirations.

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"Mood is super contemporary," says actor, writer and singer-songwriter Nicôle Lecky.

"We're talking about a lot of issues. I'm not doing it in a preachy way but the character of Sasha [played by Nicôle] has panic attacks and we talk about mental health," she says, adding that the show also looks at sofa surfing, family relationships, issues with drugs and sex work.

"I think people are really going to connect with it and relate to it - and that is really important to me."

Mood follows 25-year-old Sasha, a wannabe singer and rapper from London. Sasha has dreams of being a major recording artist, but instead finds herself smoking weed and stalking her ex-boyfriend (played by Jordan Duvigneau) on Instagram.

When she gets kicked out of her family home, Sasha moves in with party girl Carly (played by Lara Peake), who gets her tangled up in a world of social-media influencing and, eventually, sex work.

When she gets kicked out of her family home, Sasha (played by Nicôle Lecky, right) moves in with party girl Carly (played by Lara Peake, left)

Nicôle says she wanted to explore the world of sex work in a nuanced and balanced way in her show.

"It was really important for me to identify both sides of why somebody [might] be working as a sex worker and to unpick the exploitation versus liberation.

"That's a question I've been asking myself across the series when I was writing it and I think people are going to ask themselves those questions when they watch it."

Nicôle says she think there are lots of reasons why someone might turn to sex work, from enjoyment and a decision that it's the right choice for them, to economic reasons and a feeling that they don't have many other resources available to them.

"You just have to look at lockdown and understand that there was a huge rise in sex work and that was online and people were facing a lot of economic difficulty at the time," she says.

US-based livestreaming site Chaturbate reported a 75% rise in the number of sex workers signing up during the first lockdown measures in 2020.

"I think for me it's about going, 'What is the right choice for somebody?' That's what Mood is presenting.

"There is nothing in the series that hasn't been delicately researched or really looked at with nuance and consideration and making sure that we're not showing stereotypes, that we're showing a balanced view of issues people face and that it's coming from somebody who cares about the characters."

Mood also looks at the exploitation of sex workers, including on real-life websites that are used to publicly reveal sex workers' identities.

"I was shown a website where these men essentially find girls on Instagram and they shame them for secretly being escorts and portraying themselves as dancers, models, singers. I saw that and I just felt compelled and I was really shocked by it.

"I wanted to go out and find who they were, it was quite a long process because I was looking up girls on Instagram and Snapchat. I had to really go and sort of dig in and find those people who were actually experiencing that story.

"I feel like their stories deserve to be told and that's why I went off, researched it and wrote it."

'Sasha is messy - I wanted somebody like that on screen'

Nicôle says she can find a lot to empathise with and understand about the character of Sasha.

"I'm ambitious myself, I'm a young woman, I'm also from London and she has this kind of goal, she's got this dream.

"She is so aspirational and I think a lot of people feel that way. I definitely feel that way.

"She doesn't have an entry point into the industry and I also didn't have that."

In one scene of the show, Sasha breaks into song in an unemployment office, which Nicôle says was inspired by her own experience of unemployment as an actor.

"That comes from my own personal experience of going to a dole office, so I've definitely had hardship and I massively empathise with young people who are experiencing that.

"I use my own life experience [as inspiration] but also my friends and the stuff that's in society at the moment."

"She's messy and I wanted to have somebody like that on screen," says Nicôle

As well as looking at some contemporary issues young people deal with today, Nicôle says she was determined to create complex characters in Mood.

"It was really key for me to have a character - a young woman in a drama - that was genuinely angry," she says. "Sasha is quite aggy and not always likeable. She hits her step dad, has a fight with her little sister, she's really not the criteria you see of a leading woman in a TV show.

"She's messy and I wanted to have somebody like that on screen.

"Sasha isn't from a privileged upbringing, she is working class, she is mixed race from London and she has no connections.

"She has to find her own way in the world."

'Mood has a lot of musical genres - we haven't seen that on TV before'

Mood is based on Nicôle's one-woman play, which originally ran at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

For the TV show, she decided to cast actors to play the other roles. "I thought it would probably be quite weird if it was me in disguise playing all the characters," she says.

Another change was the scale of the musical sequences, she says.

"I had the chance to really dig into them even deeper and think about the set and choreographers, whereas when I did it on stage it was me and a microphone. So they've really developed and expanded in the most exciting way."

Sasha has dreams of being a major recording artist, but instead finds herself smoking weed and stalking her ex-boyfriend (played by Jordan Duvigneau, right) on Instagram

Nicôle says she's proud of the show's music - written and performed by her - and she hopes audiences will connect with it.

"Mood, I would say, is really unique because it has these musical sequences and [they're] inherently woven into the storylines, so Sasha does sometimes burst into song but other times it goes into a dream sequence.

"It's a way for Sasha to connect directly with the audience - that's where you really figure out what she's really thinking about the world.

"And [Mood] has a lot of different genres, musically, so I feel like we haven't seen that on television before."

Ultimately, Nicôle is most looking forward to people getting a chance to watch.

"I think my favourite part is going to be when everybody can finally see it."