David Freyne’s Dating Amber focuses on Eddie and Amber, two teenagers living in a small Irish town in the 1990s. Both of them are struggling with inner turmoil about their sexuality, whilst trying to survive high school and move forward with their lives. Together, they make a pact in which they will ‘date’ one another until school playground politics and small town mentalities become a thing of their past.
You might recognise Fionn O’Shea from his recent turn as Jamie in the critically acclaimed Normal People. However, there’s not a coupe or flute in sight this time. Fionn stars as Eddie, a lovely but misguided teenage boy, trapped in a life that his Dad has set out for him as he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality. He’s awkward, he’s shy, he’s the antithesis of Jamie — and you will love him.
The incredible Lola Petticrew stars as Amber — an almost ethereal figure in Eddie’s path to self-acceptance. Amber is feisty, she’s funny, she’s independent and truly embodies the spirit of ‘I don’t give a f**k’. She’s the type of girl we all wanted to be in school. We all need an Amber in our lives.
In the 1990s, social media and online dating were a thing of the distant future. Dating relied on organic connections, talking to that stranger in the street — or even asking that girl from school to be your fake girlfriend for the year. Fast-forward to 2020 and we’re all in lockdown, we can’t go within 2 metres of another person, the pub meet-cute is a thing of the past and all the dating apps are suddenly flooded with people looking for a new connection beyond their four walls. So, we decided to sidestep the dating apps and ask the stars of Dating Amber, Lola Petticrew and Fionn O’Shea, on a date. Socially distanced of course. And luckily — they accepted.
Cue the First Dates theme tune, imagine a nicely lit table in a swanky London restaurant. The food has been ordered, we are all sat waiting. There’s a slight nervous tension in the air. Wine glasses in hand, we dive into getting to know one another, one sip of merlot at a time. (Disclaimer — this was totally conducted on Zoom, at a safe distance and sadly minus the wine or dinner).
So, Dating Amber is fantastic. Eddie and Amber are possibly the new fictional couple of the year so far. But that’s not why we’re here. Let’s talk about you guys — not your characters. I want to know all about Fionn and Lola, so let’s dig a little deeper. What would you say was your favourite book?
L: My favourite book is the Milkman by Anna Burns. I love it so much. Just my sneaky little hint here that I’d like to play the lead character if it’s ever made into a film. I’ve read it so many times, if I see it in an airport and I don’t have it with me, I’m like should I just buy another copy?
F: You told me to read it, and it’s so good. If there are any parts for me in it too — I’d be interested. I’ve two books — but my favourite book kind of changes all the time.
L: How very on brand of you.
F: Haha. Okay, so there’s two books that have affected me a lot in the last year, firstly — Normal People by Sally Rooney.
L: Haha. Of course.
F: I do mean that. I’m not just saying that. I really do love that book. But also, Notes to Self by Emilie Pine — it’s incredible. I’ve read that over and over. It’s amazing.
L: I rushed out to get all my female friends to read it and then I went to all my male friends and I was like actually you need to read this too.
F: Around the time when we were shooting, loads of us were reading it all at the same time, we were passing it around, with tears streaming down our faces.
Let’s flip this, when you’re trying to impress someone — what’s a book or film you’ve claimed to have seen/read — but really you haven’t?
L: I was an awful billy bullshitter when I was younger. I lied about so much just to seem cool and interesting. I remember I discovered Michael Moore. And I started reading all his books. I was like 11–12. I really didn’t understand what I was reading at all but I was just really interested in socialism. And I remember I emailed him and he never emailed me back. It broke my little 11 year old socialist heart. But I bullshitted about that a lot when I was younger, cos I definitely didn’t understand what any of it meant.
F: You’re leaving out that fact that that email was kind of like ‘I love you’ — I have a crush on you even.
L: No I don’t have a crush on Michael Moore. Oh my god, I had a socialist crush on him and he broke my heart.
F: I lied about seeing so many things when I was young. I think like anything on the school curriculum I lied about having read or watched. Or that thing at school where someone would be like have you seen this film? And you’re like yeah, so good. And then they ask you what happens at the end and I’d never have any idea as I hadn’t watched it. I guess we’re both full of shit.
Haha, amazing. So, if Michael Moore was your socialist crush, who was your first celebrity crush?
L: I remember watching Hitch when I was younger and being really confused as I fancied both Eva Mendes and Will Smith. Obviously I hadn’t come to terms with my queerness yet and I was like what is going on? I should definitely only fancy one of them.
F: They are both gorgeous people.
L: They are. I used to watch Hitch a lot. I had it on my PSP. Remember those little DVDs?
F: Yeah. I had The Longest Yard on mine. It’s so strange. The thought now of someone being like I’d love to watch Dating Amber on their PSP. It’s hilarious.
And how about you Fionn?
F: Avril Lavigne straight away. I was obsessed with her. I was like ‘I am a skater boy and don’t say see ya later boy’. It was myself and two of my friends, we were all vying for her attention and love. I think her album was the first CD I ever bought, Let Go. I still stand by my Avril Lavigne crush. She’s gorgeous.
L: She’s gorgeous. She likes to rock out.
Haha, well Avril Lavigne, if you’re reading this, Fionn’s waiting for you. Now in the film, Eddie and Amber both actively search for love. In your own lives, have you ever been in love?
F: I’ve had lots of platonic love. And I don’t mean that as belittling platonic love, because all the love that’s meant the most to me in my life, has been platonic. I haven’t been in love with a partner. It might sound cheesy but I really do have so much love in my life and I’m so grateful for all the people that do love me and care about me — and who I care about. So it’s not really something I think I’ve missed out on as a result.
L: I’ve been in love with a romantic partner. But I think recently I’ve had a massive sort of switch in my brain, where I’ve realised I was outwardly seeking that and maybe for all of the wrong reasons. And I had a pause and stopped and thought about all the platonic love I have in my life and all the love I have in my family and I just realised that I think at the moment that’s really enough for me. And there’s seeking romantic love for all of the wrong reasons — and if it happens organically great but I think I’ve rewired my brain a bit to realise it’s not something I’m going to go out and look for and if I don’t find it again I don’t think it would make me an unhappy person.
What beautiful answers. Thank you. I feel bad completely changing the topic here, but a hard hitting question nonetheless, what’s your go-to karaoke song?
F: My go-to is I Miss You by Blink-182.
L: You do a great Tom DeLonge, but we argue over who gets to be Tom DeLonge.
F: I think you have to warm up with Mark Hoppus’ part and then you get to Tom’s and you take it away.
L: Me and my sister love doing Burn by Usher. We’ve done it since we were wee. We’ve tried to do harmonies. But both of us are always really flat but we’ll always try to blame the other person.
F: You also do a great West Belfast rendition of Love on Top.
L: Sometimes when I get drunk, I take songs and perform them in a really thick West Belfast accent just for Fionn. Just for the fun of it. He has so many videos that could ruin my life.
L: I hope we stay friends and you never release those.
F: I just save them in a ‘Lola’s career ending’ file.
So, we’re imaging life after lockdown — you’re having a dinner party and you have to pick three people — dead or alive to attend, who would they be? And, why?
L: See this is the thing. I think about it and if I’m having a dinner party — I wanna know it’s a good time. I wouldn’t want people coming and just yarning about themselves and not having good craic. I’d actually rather sit with my mammy, my daddy and Fionn. And just like have a good time cos I know that would happen, rather than take a risk with anyone.
F: That’s a good answer — slightly harsh on the rest of your family.
L: We only have 3 seats.
F: I’m going to give the same answer.
L: You can’t just copy my homework.
F: No, because at an adjacent table, is the rest of our family. We’re at a restaurant, they made a separate booking.
L: You’re taking liberties here.
You know what, I’ll let you have the extra table, no one has ever mentioned that not being allowed. You get points for creativity. Now — a really important question here — who is your favourite member of One Direction?
F/L: Harry Styles. It has to be.
Ah, thank god. I wasn’t really going to accept any other answer. So glad we’re on the same page!
L: All we do is talk about Harry Styles and look at pictures of him together.
F: Yeah, yeah. Well it’s not all we do.
L: It takes up a lot of our time.
F: It has to be Harry. We’ve listened to his new album on vinyl as well.
L: Yeah, I bought it. When Fine Line came out that was us for a very, very long time. And when you buy the vinyl you get this really large poster of him. And I literally laid it out on my parents floor and I was like ‘oh my god’. I sent Fionn a video.
I think you can tell a lot about someone from their favourite member of One Direction. It’s a good question to ask someone?
F: I think so and I think you can. And I think that was the right answer. And also, not only is he an incredible singer, he was brilliant in Dunkirk.
F/L: He’s a very talented man.
He really is the best one. I feel like we could probably just have had a full chat about Harry to be honest. But back to the hard hitting first date questions. Let’s talk about fear. What would you say you are most afraid of?
L: I’m scared of everything.
F: Spiders, spiders is yours.
L: Yeah. Spiders. I don’t understand them. I tried, I’ve really tried. I give them names, cute names, to see if that makes it easier and then I say ‘you’re cute’ but every time they cross the line. I know it’s stupid, it’s a really irrational fear. And I can understand it logically, but I don’t care. I hate them.
F: Yeah you really do. We both do and also where we are, there are quite a lot of spiders. We saw — honestly this sounds like an exaggeration but it’s not, about a hundred spiders, little baby ones just all in one spot.
L: I was like — we’re going to have to get a flamethrower. I said the other day, I can’t live here anymore. I can’t live like this. I am constantly checking my back. I’m afraid.
That sounds truly traumatic. Wishing them a speedy exit — with or without the flamethrower! Let’s talk about romantic partners, aside from the ability to remove spiders, what traits do you like in a person and what do you dislike in a person?
F: Loyalty is a really good trait, honesty is a really good trait. Someone who is caring is a really good trait.
L: Humour, I love people that are funny. I need the laugh.
F: That’s true you’ve gotta be bringing humour to the party. I think so too, humour is probably the most important.
L: Kind and caring — I’m not saying they’re not important — they are. But I think that’s the rule of thumb. Everyone should be kind and caring and honest. But I like somebody who can have a laugh.
F: Also particularly with us — someone who will listen as we will talk for an entire night.
L: We’re inviting everybody to a night with us if you can listen. So there you go.
You heard it here first. ‘A Night with Fionn and Lola — Live at the Apollo’, bring your wine and your ears. Obviously, after lockdown ends of course. Speaking of lockdown, what are you missing most?
F: I think everyone is missing family.
L: I miss my Mam and my Dad and my dog and my family, I just want to hug my dog. I see pictures of her and I just miss her. She’s a weird looking dog but I love her so much.
F: She is. She’s the only dog I know with two lazy eyes. But she’s the cutest. Then there’s my dog, she had an operation recently and she had a little pink cast and we both signed it.
Aww, I hope you’re reunited soon. Spending a lot of time in isolation, I’d say we’ve all had a lot of time to reflect on things that matter to us. In terms of material things, what would you say is your most treasured possession?
F: This isn’t my most treasured. But it’s something I panic if I don’t have. It’s my retainer.
L: He’s always putting it down and then saying he can’t find it. He doesn’t even look.
F: That’s true, I don’t look very hard. I’d say another treasured possession is my necklace. I always wear it.
L: And your phone.
F: No I’d be fine without it.
L: No you wouldn’t know what to do without your phone.
F: Actually, I’ve another one that’s important. When I was in school, my mum and dad both wrote me letters saying how much they love me and how much they care about me. And now, particularly when we are talking about phones, it’s so weird to have something that is actually written down. I just kind of well up whenever I see them. It’s so special to have it in writing.
L: I don’t have one. That’s not in a ‘I’m so cool I don’t need possessions’ way. I just don’t. But when I was younger, I had these My Chemical Romance action figures. If I ever had a treasured possession, it was them, I had them all. Fionn asked me the other day if I’d opened them and I was like — open them Fionn? They are collectables.
F: They are probably worth a bit now.
L: Maybe more at the height of their fame. We’ll see in a couple of years.
On the subject of fame, who would you say is the most famous person in your contact list?
F: So I’m the most famous person in Lola’s phone.
L: You’re so annoying.
L: I think mine’s probably Daisy [Edgar-Jones] — from Normal People.
F: Mine’s Jamie Dornan? Wait no. Sorry, Lola — she’s the most famous person in my phone. Although, Daisy and Paul [Mescal] are definitely up there. They are officially famous as of right now, you heard it here first. Because I haven’t seen any press about them at all really…
L: Yeah, they need a leg up — that’s what friends do for each other.
Haha, so glad to hear you’re on the case. You’d make great publicists if you ever fancied a career change. Now, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
L: Ireland, 100%.
F: Yeah I think so too. We’re currently self-isolating together in Ireland. We’re by the water which is really great. We walk down the beach, we go for runs, it’s just really nice being by the sea. I live in London so I do miss being by the ocean while I’m there.
L: I definitely think I’ll settle in Ireland. I’ll go away for a bit but I’ll always come home.
We’ve all been binge-watching and streaming a lot of things during lockdown. What was the last thing you watched that made you cry?
L: Fionn hadn’t seen Derry Girls before. So we watched it last night and we had a little cry.
F: We watched all of it.
L: The final episodes of the first and second seasons — gosh.
F: I think for me it’s Episode 5 in the second season.
L: They really hit the notes perfectly — normal people going about finding joy in a place that can be really tough. It’s really beautiful.
And quite relevant to life now too. Derry Girls is amazing. Whilst we’re being emotional, can you describe each other in three words?
L: Funny, charming and handsome.
F: So — Lola’s been watching a lot of TikTok’s — so ‘nasty, bougie, ratchet’ are the word’s that come to mind. I would say, funny as well — you’re extremely funny, I would say you’re soulful. I think you have the biggest heart of everyone I know, and gorgeous.
L: And that’s as nice as we’re going to be to each other today.
Now, let’s try a would you rather. Would you rather go back to the age of 5, with all the knowledge you currently possess or know everything your future self will ever learn now and never learn anything again?
L: Imagine you’re in nursery school and you’re just sitting there thinking ‘the economy is crashing, Karen’ and the other five year olds are just focused on their blocks.
F: I think the thing is if I had all the knowledge I was ever going to know, that’s what would scare me about being five. When you’re five, you’re stressed about things that are relative to your experience. I think I’d have to know everything I was ever going to know.
L: But I love learning, I do.
F: I guess then people would think you’re a genius.
L: I’d like that power. I’m going to say go back to being five.
F: I’m going to say the other one.
This has been lovely. We’d like to see you again, so let’s talk about our second date, what are we doing? What’s the plan?
F: For a second date, well since we’re in isolation, let’s just take it outside.
L: Very Love Island.
F: We’re both not into big things, we’re into just sitting down and chatting.
L: Two bottles of merlot, a speaker — chatting.
F: A speaker to play music — not a public speaker.
L: I didn’t think I needed to clarify that.
F: We’ll keep it simple — we’ll take it outside.
Dating Amber is out on Amazon Prime now.
Words by Madeleine Finlay-Hudson