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"Starstruck" creator Rose Matafeo shares her rom-com secrets, including how to woo a funny woman

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It's not hard to fall in love with Jessie in HBO Max's new rom-com series "Starstruck." Played by series creator and co-writer Rose Matafeo, Jessie is the kind of woman who, after a one-night stand with a guy in a houseboat, dances in celebration along the canal, high-fiving strangers along the way.

The joy in the scene is infectious; not only is Jessie a carefree, sex-positive protagonist, but the 1996 British R&B hit "Return of the Mack" provides the perfect accompaniment.

"I mean, what better song to choose to have a celebratory post-sex morning fantasy dance?" Matafeo said in a Zoom interview with Salon. "It was kind of hard actually to figure out what song we wanted to put there. I had a whole entire Spotify playlist of songs that I would walk around London, and be like, 'Is this the song? Is this song?' I just couldn't get 'Return of the Mack' of my head."

Agonizing over the song choice exemplifies the meticulous care that Matafeo, a comedian from New Zealand who lives in England, put into every aspect of "Starstruck," a six-episode comedy she co-wrote with Alice Sweden.

"I kind of obsessively care about the show and get a bit control-freaky. I was a head girl in high school, so I was that kind of energy. Every little tiny thing I'm kind of obsessed with," said Matafeo.

Fortunately, she channels this perfectionism into crafting imperfection onscreen. Jessie's canal-side dance is all the more endearing because it's full of moves that feel big with emotion, but are clearly performed by an amateur.

"It was fun to film. Although to be fair, I had my period and back pain that day. And it was a no choreography, all freestyle – I just wanted to get that on record," she said. "Early on was I like maybe I should get a choreographer and I was like, 'You know what, I'm going to trust my own instincts,' and it paid off because it's slightly sh*t and it's slightly good."

The dance is just one part of what makes "Starstruck" an ode to regular, messy people, and that includes celebrities. At the beginning of the series, Jessie is a Millennial woman from New Zealand living in London with two dead-end jobs and seemingly limitless confidence. She hooks up with a man named Tom (Nikesh Patel, "Four Weddings and a Funeral") on New Year's Eve, only to find out the next........

© Salon

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