The premise of New Zealand actor-comedian Rose Matafeo’s new show Starstruck, now streaming on HBO Max, is something you’ve absolutely fantasized about. What if you met a movie star on a night out, hooked up, and began a relationship? It’s the stuff fan fiction threads and Deuxmoi blinds are made of—but in Starstruck’s case, it’s not all premieres and Prosecco. Would it be interesting if it was?
No, instead, Matafeo’s character, Jessie, finds the fact that Tom (Nikesh Patel) is famous to be the least attractive thing about him. That’s not because he’s rude, haughty, or arrogant—quite the opposite, actually. Tom is funny, kind, and, yes, incredibly hot, but the circumstances of his life and Jessie’s make for a complicated relationship. There are lots of mixed signals, chance encounters, and fights that resemble what would actually happen if a non-famous person found themself in a situation with an A-lister. The show, even with its glittery logline, is rooted in reality.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a drag. Starstruck is hilarious and poignant: the perfect six-episode binge-watch for rom-com lovers. Below, Rose Matafeo—who created Starstruck and co-wrote every episode—discusses the show’s origins, celebrity culture in 2021, and how in order to create the dreamiest leading man, you don’t have to do much. (Which, honestly, is pretty sad. Do better, dudes.)
Where did the idea for Starstruck come?
Rose Matafeo: I came up with a bajillion ideas for TV shows, and most were rejected. A polite no, a polite no, until one stuck. I basically pitched the show after a plane ride back to New Zealand, and it was the last attempt at a pitch of something. It was like, “Not any of those ideas. Do you have another idea? One last idea.” And that’s the one they went for. I love rom-coms, so it felt like a really natural world to write a story and build a character within.
But there’s a clear celebrity component to it. Where did that come from?
Celebrity’s always on the mind. I’m 29. I was born in 1992, of course pop-culture is my life. I’m a nerd, and I’ve grown up loving films and television and comedy. It definitely is a mild interest of mine. As a teenager, I used to keep a chart that was my height compared to all the heights of celebrities I loved. I, obviously, am obsessed with Deuxmoi. That’s what got me through the pandemic: literally rolling onto my side, picking up my phone, and being like, “All right, who’s Nicholas Braun dating now? Where was he spotted?”