‘Trying’ brings laughs and tears with its relatable story

Rafe Spall and Esther Smith in 'Trying.'
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There are plenty of shows out there that take the time to cover tough stories and deep subject matters—obstacles in life are part of its journey. Take trying for years to have a baby and then subsequently deciding to adopt only to find that the adopting process is certainly no cake walk either. In Apple TV+’s first British series, ‘Trying,’ the characters are going through just that, but something ‘Trying’ has on top of it’s exacting storyline is a comedic flair that makes the series both moving and hilarious.

‘Trying’ follows Nikki (Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall) who take audiences on their journey to adopt a baby. With a colorful group of friends and their own bit of eclectic idiosyncrasies however, their story makes you laugh more than cry—but of course there is a bit of both mixed in there.

Both Smith and Spall took the time to chat with Metro to discuss more about ‘Trying,’ dive into why they wanted to sign on and talk more about why finding comedy in even the most disastrous situations makes us all human.

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What was the initial appeal for both of you to sign on for ‘Trying?’

Rafe: I thought it was very funny, and it does that very deft and difficult thing to achieve which is being both familiar and original at the same time. It has universal and identifiable themes, but the writer, Andy Worton, has a very original voice and writes characters in a fresh way. Esther and I also auditioned together, and the chemistry was instantly tangible. So that was like, yeah I definitely want to work with this gal, and I’m very pleased that I did.

Esther: For me, [it was] the subject matter not being a story that I think is told often. It was also being in the company of these two people. It’s essentially about two people trying to figure themselves out and trying to figure out what they want out of life and how they’re going to get what they want despite having these obstacles put in their way and how they deal with it. I just really enjoyed spending time with them.

The chemistry, like you mentioned, is very palpable with you two right off the bat—was this the first time you had worked together?

Rafe: It was—the first time Esther and I properly met was when we did the audition. We hit it off and it was very easy acting together because the writing is so good to begin with and Esther is so good, so that makes my job very easy.

How much did you resonate with your characters? Were you figuring Nikki and Jason out along the way or was it something that was instant?

Esther: For me, it was a connection straight away. As soon as I realized who Nikki was, I recognized a lot of her within myself—a lot of wanting to give 100% but not necessarily achieving that, wanting to present a version of herself to the world and not necessarily achieving that as well, and just feeling like she’s a child in an adult’s body.

Rafe: Yeah, I think it’s a bit of both. I did instantly feel like I could play this character, because for a while I’ve been looking to play a character where I could bring a lot of myself to it. I wanted to use a lot of my own natural rhythms and play a character that shared my sense of humor, and that was all there on the page. But I think that’s an interesting point that you make about the process of doing things and then discovering things about the character—I think every person you’ve ever played that happens. Whenever you watch a show or a film that you’ve been in, and I think Esther would testify, when you watch a scene you go alright that was my first day shooting. You could always see a difference in yourself at the beginning of the shoot and at the end of the shoot because you learn more about the character. Filming is a process of trial and error, you never get it right, you’re always reaching off to something that you never quite get. It’s the trying to get it right rather than the attainment that you see, because you never nail it, you just get it wrong and this thing that ends up on the screen is the take that you got it wrong the least.

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That’s a good point, I never really thought about how your first day of shooting could also be a scene in the middle of the first episode or even at the end. I’m sure that plays a part in your mind when watching it back. 

Rafe: Yeah you turn up, you’re nervous and you’re worried and you feel like it’s your first day of school. Being around everyone for the first time, it’s very icky and you want everyone to feel like you’re doing a good job, it’s nerve-wracking . You do work very long hours on a film set though, so you soon acclimate and you become very close with people and you bond with people. I always say a day on a film set is like a week, and a week is like a month—you spend a hell of a long time with people working long hours, so you soon relax.

‘Trying’ follows your characters on a very personal and intense journey trying to have a baby for years and then deciding to adopt, but it also does a very nice job of bringing comedy in with this deep subject matter. What do you think that blend brings to the audience experience overall? 

Esther: I think it’s so important to have that element of comedy for this project. The thing is with life, often we try to have comedy and everyday life go hand-in-hand. What Andy has done so brilliantly is bring those two things to the forefront, and these characters get to experience something which not a lot of people have experienced. I also think it’s just so important that you like the two people that you’re spending the eight episodes with to tell this story. I really hope that is something that we’ve achieved, because I think it’s a subject and I think it’s a story that shouldn’t be shied away from.

Rafe: I totally concur with what Esther says, you need to find the levity in any situation which might be adversarial, I think that’s a very human thing. To deal with a terrible situation with nothing but pain would be unbearable, you have to cut into difficult situations with finding the humor in it—I think we all do that, all of us, in every situation in our life. This show is very representative of that and makes it identifiable and draws people in with its levity and humor. We laugh and we cry, and the pain and joy are very close together.

‘Trying’ drops on Apple TV+ May 1.

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