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The return of BBC Three to terrestrial has brought with it a wealth of shows fronted and written by women.

The second series of Rose Matafeo’s hit romcom Starstruck, Lazy Susan’s sketch show, plus dramas such as Life and Death in the Warehouse and, of course, Killing Eve, have all been grabbing our attention.

The newest addition to Three’s collection of projects fronted by kick-ass women? Nicôle Lecky’s Mood.

Lecky may not be a household name yet, but as an actor she’s appeared in Sense8, Bloods, Fresh Meat and Death in Paradise.

She’s written for Ackley Bridge and episodes of Eastenders and directed, written and starred in a short, The Moor Girl.

Mood, however, came out of her one-woman Royal Court theatre show Superhoe – hence why people are drawing comparisons with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (also a BBC Three smash) and Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You.

Lecky brings together all her talents as a writer, exec-producer, actress and singer-songwriter on the six-part series, and her version of Fleabag’s fourth-wall breaking approach to re-inventing TV drama is having music ‘talk directly to the audience.’

Mood’s main character, twenty-five year-old Sasha (played by Lecky herself), is an aspiring singer and rapper; her creator was influenced by growing up in East London listening to Dizzee Rascal, Kano and D Double E.

Plus the series reflects genres from grime to jungle, garage and drill, together with artists such as Little Simz.

The opening episode makes Sasha tough to root for – following a messy night out, the police arrive to accuse her of trying to set fire to her ex-boyfriend Anton’s house (the 44 outgoing calls that Sasha finds on her phone to Anton are anxiety-inducing for anyone who’s tried to piece together what happened the night before, on waking up with a raging hangover and a sense of dread).

This escalates into the kind of epic family row that leads to her mum (played by Jessica Hynes) throwing her out, and a frantic search for somewhere to crash, given that Sasha doesn’t seem to have been a great friend lately.

However, as Lecky revealed to the NME, your attitude to Sasha will change if you stick with the show: ‘I remember performing the play and I would always feel the energy in the room shift when Sasha starts talking about having panic attacks and things like that. Up until that point, she’s shouting at her parents and the audience are a bit like, “She’s a bit too old to be doing this!” She swears a lot too and the audience are always thinking, “Oh god, we don’t really like her!”

‘I think it’s sometimes easy to feel sympathy for somebody who is a victim, but we have less empathy for people make mistakes, who are not very loveable perhaps, and I think that’s where you truly need to offer people empathy actually.’

The need for empathy is one of the show’s key preoccupations, alongside class – there’s a great musical set-piece in a jobcentre – race, trauma, sex work and exploitation, as Sasha falls in with Carly (Lara Peake), an Only Fans-esque influencer.

The social media bubble of parties, champagne and thousands of followers looks great from the outside, but a darker world is rapidly revealed incorporating blackfishing and the sinister side of hustle culture. ‘As the gap between her new online presence and her original dream of being a singer continues to widen, Sasha finds herself struggling to escape a world that is more complex and darker than she could have imagined.’ 

Lecky’s original music for the show is a mix of Sasha talking directly to the audience, and dream sequences such as the video shoot from the first episode.

Lecky told Deadline that, ‘working out how to depict music on screen was tricky. Sasha is a singer and it felt like a great opportunity if I could pull it off to make the show feel different.’

Lecky also wanted to create a soundtrack that could be enjoyed in its own right, outside of the show.

Although Mood isn’t a musical per se, it has two songs in every episode, which can take the characters from miserable to magical in a matter of moments.

Lecky explained that, ‘I felt the best way for me to really connect with the audience is through the songs and for Sasha to say stuff in the music that she isn’t saying to any other characters. I would write the scripts, it would get to a point where I would say, “I think there should be a number here”, I would write some lyrics and then I had to go away and make the songs afterwards.’

The songs not only give you an insight into Sasha’s character and what she’s feeling – or what she dreams of – but are brilliant stand-alones, just as Lecky intended.

Tracks include ‘Fire’ by Lecky, ‘Fear Nuttin’ by BackRoad Gee, and ‘B Young’ by Wine. You can stream them on Apple Music, or BBC Sounds is adding new tracks to its Mood playlist each week, including Ramz, Br3nya, Mercy and Ms Banks.

Nicôle Lecky chats more about the diverse casting and the importance of handling issues with drugs, family relationships and mental health sensitively – particularly in portraying someone who’s not the archetype in terms of the leading woman in a TV show – in this interview:

The Guardian gave Mood four stars and described it as a ‘bold, fresh drama… invigorating, and refreshingly easy in its own skin.’

All the episodes are available now on iPlayer, so if you’ve got a Euphoria-shaped hole in your streaming schedule, but fancy a British drama that also brings in music, humour and heart, then make Mood your next must-watch.

Want to read about more trailblazing women creatives? Check out our deep dives on the best female directors, music’s most extraordinary female activists, the iconic women in hip hop and the history of women in music.

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