Why Everyone’s Talking About ‘Sweetbitter’

Tip one: watch it with wine

Tonight’s the night: the hotly anticipated Sweetbitter TV series debuts on Stan, adapted by the original book’s author, Stephanie Danler. You’ve seen the billboards splashed with that curiously back-to-front word, you’ve caught the buzz all over Instagram ever since the novel was first printed in 2016 – now, it’s time to find out what all the fuss is about.

1/ It’s a coming of age tale – with a dark twist

Sweetbitter hinges on Tess (whose name you don’t even know until you’re a good two thirds into the book), a 22-year-old fresh from America’s Midwest seeking to find a new identity in the big city. She lands a backwaiter gig at one of New York City’s hottest restaurants and quickly becomes embroiled in their decadent, debaucherous world of heavy drinking, drugs and casual (and not-so…) staff trysts.

2/ It’s partly autobiographical

The Sweetbitter restaurant is loosely based on author Danler’s own experience of moving to New York after college and waitressing at the trendy Union Square Café. Danler wrote the novel while waitressing at another popular NYC haunt, Buzette, where – incredibly – she plucked up the courage to ask Penguin Random House publisher and restaurant regular Peter Gethers to read her manuscript. “The book came in, and within 10 pages, I was going, ‘Oh, my God, this woman is an extraordinary talent,’” Gethers told the New York Times. And just like that (more or less), her debut novel was published.

3/ Angelina Jolie lookalike Ella Purnell plays Tess

Up-and-coming British actress Ella Purnell plays Sweetbitter protagonist Tess. You may have spotted her playing the teenage version of Angelina Jolie’s character in Maleficent, plus she’s starred in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. If the trailer is anything to go by, she brings a confidence to Tess that’s missing from the novel, while maintaining her wide-eyed, perpetually overwhelmed vibe during service.

ella purnell sweetbitter
(Credit: Getty)

4/ Sienna Miller’s former fiancé plays Jake

Another British actor adopting an American accent for this series, Tom Sturridge takes on the role of enigmatic bad boy Jake. He’s previously appeared in films including On The Road and Far From The Madding Crowd with Carey Mulligan. 

5/ Caitlin FitzGerald was cast as Simone

Unreal fans will appreciate this one: Caitlin Fitzgerald plays the third point in Sweetbitter’s love triangle, Simone. You may also remember her as Meryl Streep and Alex Baldwin’s eldest daughter in It’s Complicated.

sweetbitter tv show cast
Sweetbitter cast members Paul Sparks, Ella Purnell, Caitlin Fitzgerald and Daniyar (who plays Sasha). (Credit: Getty)

6/ Paul Sparks is also on board

With House of Cards, The Crown and Boardwalk Empire under his belt, Paul Sparks is adding another cult TV series to his repertoire, giving restaurant manager Howard a simmering, sinister edge.

Sweetbitter premieres on Stan in Australia today.

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