The True Story Behind New BBC Comedy, Spent

By Olivia Emily

2 weeks ago

Inside Michelle de Swarte’s brand new BBC comedy


Michelle de Swarte is a big believer in the power of comedy to process life’s most tragic events: ‘Like most comedians, I take the grimmest, darkest, most unfunny parts of my life and find humour in them,’ she says. Such is the case with her brand new BBC series, Spent, created by, written by and starring de Swarte. Here’s everything to know before you tune in.

Spent: Plot, Cast, Release Date & More

Kicking off tonight on BBC Two, Spent is a brand new comedy created, written by and starring Michelle de Swarte.

What Is Spent About?

Spent centres on Mia, a former catwalk model who has run away from New York back to her hometown of London, leaving her failing career in her wake. Mia is broke and homeless but, despite her humble beginnings, has developed a taste for the finer things in life: she may be sofa surfing and living on the breadline, but Mia has a world-class skincare regime. Having been a highflyer in New York City for years, she’s not prepared to admit her struggles to anyone – not even herself.

Who Stars?

  • Michelle de Swarte as Mia
  • Matt King as Mills
  • Juliet Cowan as Chrissy
  • Jamali Maddix as Marc
  • Lorna Brown as Grace
  • Amanda Wilkin as Jo
  • Joseph Ollman as David
  • Karl Collins
  • Eleanor Nawal
  • Rachel Ofori
Mia (MICHELLE de SWARTE) in Spent

Mia (MICHELLE de SWARTE) in Spent. © Various Artists Limited/Ludovic Robert

Who Is Michelle De Swarte?

Michelle de Swarte is a British former model turned stand up comedian. Aged 19, she was scouted while working at Segaworld in the Trocedero Centre at London’s Piccadilly Circus. She was struggling to make money in London, but thrived upon moving to New York City, gracing the catwalks for major fashion houses including Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Cartier and Michael Kors, and featuring in fashion spreads for the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, i-D and Italian Vanity Fair. Eventually, as de Swarte aged and her modelling opportunities started to dry up, she returned to London and pivoted to comedy, getting her breakout screen role in friend Katherine Ryan’s Netflix series, The Duchess before starring in Sky/HBO’s The Baby

Jo (AMANDA WILKIN), Mia (MICHELLE de SWARTE) in Spent

Jo (AMANDA WILKIN), Mia (MICHELLE de SWARTE) in Spent. © Various Artists Limited/Ludovic Robert

Is Spent Based On A True Story?

Spent is based on some true events in the life of creator and star Michelle de Swarte. Talking to the Independent, de Swarte described the show as semi-autobiographical, estimating around ‘20 percent’ of it is true.

De Swarte’s life did take many surreal turns much like Mia’s in Spent: she went from modest beginnings growing up on a council estate in Brixton to chic model catapulted into a life of luxury in New York City, before returning home 20 years later with little to show for it. ‘I, like Mia, didn’t save a goddamn penny. I spent money like it was on fire,’ de Swarte says.

After 9/11, aged 20, de Swarte and a group of her model friends were even offered a private jet ride to escape the city for the Milan runways by none other than now-convicted sex offender and trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein. This detail doesn’t make it into Spent, but many others do: de Swarte’s spending addiction and need for high quality, expensive goods; her experience ageing out of the modelling industry (‘when you choose to use your beauty as your currency, it can be a hard transition out of that,’ she says. ‘Basing your identity on how you look is… well, it’s a head-f***’); her experiences of colourism and sexual harassment in the fashion industry; and her experiences of homelessness. De Swarte tells The Independent about turning to obsessive exercise when her living situation got increasingly unreliable. Living in Los Angeles, de Swarte had ‘never been in better shape because I was so bloody depressed,’ she says. ‘My life had imploded and I worked out more than I ever have since. I was just like, “I think I might be homeless, but I have a six pack… all is not lost.”’

Eventually: ‘I moved back here [to London] because I’d been homeless for a couple of years – but in the sense of doing cat sitting and staying on people’s sofas,’ de Swarte sys. ‘I wasn’t being completely honest with myself about how bad things had got. But I knew that the gig was up.’ And in Spent, we see Mia return to her home city, effectively homeless and sleeping in someone else’s car.

Mia (MICHELLE de SWARTE), Mills (MATT KING)

Mia (MICHELLE de SWARTE), Mills (MATT KING) in Spent. © Various Artists Limited/Robert Viglasky

When Is Spent On TV?

Spent kicks off on BBC Two at 10pm on Monday 8 July 2024. It will then air weekly at the same time.

WATCH

All six episodes of Spent are streaming now on BBC iPlayer. bbc.co.uk