David Nicholls on the “horribly real” inspiration behind BBC One’s Us

Noble Horvath

Author David Nicholls has spoken about the “horribly real” travel anecdotes that inspired his novel Us and the upcoming BBC One adaptation. The four-part comedy drama focuses on Douglas and Connie (played by Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves respectively), a couple whose marital crisis coincides with their once-in-a-lifetime family tour […]

Author David Nicholls has spoken about the “horribly real” travel anecdotes that inspired his novel Us and the upcoming BBC One adaptation.

The four-part comedy drama focuses on Douglas and Connie (played by Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves respectively), a couple whose marital crisis coincides with their once-in-a-lifetime family tour of Europe.

Speaking during a press Q&A, Nicholls responded to a question about whether he had experienced any travel disasters similar to the ones Douglas experiences – and revealed that two key incidents in the book were based on real-life.

“I suppose I should fess-up to a couple shouldn’t I?” he said. “The jellyfish that’s real, [and] the incident with a bike, which in real life was much much worse than how it is in the novel and in the screenplay. It’s not – everyone has those travel moments where you wanted to be like a traveller, you wanted it to be perfect, but the hotel was a little smelly or the food was awful or something, so there’s nothing specifically autobiographical in Douglas’ domestic dilemma, but a lot of the little irritations and frustrations and embarrassments I’m afraid are horribly real, yeah.”

Us

Us cast members Tom Hollander and Saskia Reeves sat either side of author David Nicholls (centre).
BBC Pictures

The “jellyfish” incident refers to a predicament Douglas faces in the book, when he goes for a plunge in the sea (dressed in speedos) and is attacked and stung by blue jellyfish, forcing him to “punch” his way free. The accident-prone Douglas also manages to knock over an entire row of bicycles in Amsterdam.

Asked directly about his inspiration for the book Us, Nicholls also mentioned his book tour for bestseller One Day, referencing the inevitable highs and lows of travel. 

He said, “I mean the inspiration from the book came from a book tour I did when One Day came out, that I was seeing all these cities for the first time, and loving them – I hadn’t been inter-railing, so I was sort of inter-railing in my forties, and having a wonderful time, and [wanted to] put that feeling on the page, when you’re in a city and you want to see everything and you’ve only got an afternoon, the kind of frenetic quality of travel as well, the joy and also the shabby hotel rooms and the bad restaurants.”

The BBC series was shot on location and follows Douglas, Connie, and their teenage son Albie (Doctor Foster’s Tom Taylor) as they travel around Europe, visiting locations including Paris, Barcelona, and Amsterdam.

Us starts on BBC One this Sunday (20th September) at 9pm with all four episodes being available on BBC iPlayer after it’s aired. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.

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