The Netflix series Derry Girls, which has consistently won fans with its laser-sharp, cackle-out-loud depiction of what it’s like to be a teenage girl growing up in Troubles-era Northern Ireland, returns for a third season on Friday, and it’s not a moment too soon. The show is always a balm, but right now, as teen girls fight for their reproductive rights in the U.S. ,and young women in Iran protest for their freedom, the moment feels particularly apropos for a show about girls who aren’t afraid of what anyone thinks of what they’ve got to say (except the popular girls at school, but hey, that’s to be expected).
This week, Vogue spoke to Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee about the show’s third-season return, what viewers can expect to see from the gang (hint: get ready for a thriller) and what it’s like to apply a specifically young and female lens to a global conflict that’s often viewed through a male perspective. Read the full interview below.
I know the show has been out for a while in the U.K., but how are you feeling about the U.S. release today?
I’m really excited because obviously, as you know, it comes out in the U.K. first, and we’ve had a lot of people from our international fan base asking us when Netflix is gonna get it. And it’s just nice to finally say, “Oh, it’s tomorrow.” I’m excited to see what they think of it as well.
What has the process of running this show been like for you?
It’s been very intense. I’m the only writer on the show, so it’s kind of been my life for the last five years, although we had a gap because of COVID. It’s been surreal, because the show is based on my life and is inspired by my teenage years, so, you know, the house that the Quinn family live in was very much designed using pictures of my family’s house. The uniforms are basically the same as my school uniform, they even have the same model on the crest. People always say they’d never want to go back and relive their teenage years, but I kind of did, and it’s been so weird and lovely.
No spoilers, but is there anything you can share about this season that you’re excited to watch people receive?
I think it’s probably the most ambitious season we’ve done. We really wanted to kind of push the boundaries of what we could achieve, so the scale of it is bigger. The director and I wanted to pay homage to a few different genres, and there’s a flashback episode where we go back to 1977, when the moms were teenagers. There’s a thriller/police-chase episode, you know, it’s basically everything we wanted to do. We have an hour-long, feature-length finale episode and some really nice cameos. I can guarantee a lot of mischief, but you also get to see the kids grow up a bit as well toward the climax of the series.
Were there any depictions of growing up in Troubles-era Northern Ireland that inspired you?
No, to be honest, and I think that’s a big reason why a lot of Northern Irish women connected with Derry Girls. Northern Ireland onscreen is usually very male and very wrapped up with the conflict, and weirdly, for a country where people are so funny, there wasn’t a lot of comedy. I can’t think of another Northern Irish sitcom, actually; it’s always been associated with very dark, moody dramas about the scary times. This was very different, and I probably drew inspiration mostly from American stuff, weirdly, because that’s what I grew up with. I love that fast-paced American dialogue. I love the color of American sitcoms and the whole thing of, you know, friend gangs getting into trouble; everything from Seinfeld to Friends, which I watched as a kid. Those are the shows I looked up to when I was creating my own sitcoms. They just happen to have a Northern Irish accent. (Laughs.)
I absolutely loved seeing Claire (Nicola Coughlan) come out as a lesbian last season. How did that storyline come up?
Well, I didn’t want that to sort of define Claire. It’s just one of the things about Claire, in the same way that she’s a little bit annoying, she panics too much about academic stuff. I really wanted to tell this story in a way where it’s just part of who Claire is, and sure, we get a few jokes out of it, in the same way that we get jokes out of Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) being boy-crazy.
Have you gotten any surprising reactions to the show?
We were getting a lot of messages from Mexico. I guess Mexican living rooms can be quite similar to Northern Irish living rooms, and they really responded to the strict mom there, and in India as well. You just go, Oh my God, it’s reached all these places. That’s been really lovely. I guess the other thing that surprises me sometimes is the age range of fans. It goes from really little kids who probably should not be watching it because of the swearing, to really old guys. (Laughs.) It’s lovely.