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Is Netflix’s One Day Based mostly on a True Story?

Is Netflix’s One Day Based mostly on a True Story?

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Netflix has released a new series, One Day, about a decade-long relationship, snapshots of which are revealed on the same day each year. After competing the series, many viewers are wondering if One Day is based on a true story.

We follow an unlikely couple: Emma Morley (Ambika Mod), a working-class girl from Leeds with a double first in English and History, and Dexter Mayhew (Leo Woodall), an upper-middle-class boy from Oxfordshire with a 2:2 in Anthropology.

After meeting at their University of Edinburgh graduation ball, their almost-romance blossoms into an unlikely friendship seemingly destined to be something more.

But is One Day based on a true story? Read on for everything you need to know about the inspiration behind the series.

Is ‘One Day’ based on a true story?

No. One Day is based on David Nicholl’s best-selling fictional novel of the same name, which was previously turned into a film adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

Having said that, Nicholls has previously opened up about taking inspiration from his own life.

Like Mod’s character Emma, Nicholls studied English and Drama at University and, after working as an actor for a brief period, he turned to writing and publishing novels.

“I’d had my fair share of false starts and blind alleys,” he told The Guardian in 2021. “Emma’s terrible Tex-Mex restaurant was my Fulham bistro chain, her avocado bathroom came from my bedsit in Battersea.”

But what about Dexter? “A lot of my male friends had quite a wild, hedonistic time in London in the ’90s, and that’s gone into Dexter’s character,” Nicholls told the Midlife at the Oasis book blog in 2010.

Speaking to The Guardian in 2011, Nicholls said of Dexter: “When I was an actor, I worked with lots of men who had a bit of success early on, who were very good looking, who suddenly made a bit of money and who felt no embarrassment – and nor should they have done – about having a good time. I think there are probably bits of them in Dexter.”

One Day netflix
Image credit: X/@Netflix

In the same interview, Nicholls revealed that the idea for the novel first came to him in the mid-’80s while he was studying Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy for his A-Levels, which made him consider the significance of a single date.

In the novel, Tess “noted dates as they came past in the revolution of the year” and realised that there was another date which was of greater significance than all those – “a day which lay sly and unseen … that of her own death … giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it”.

Speaking to The Guardian, Nicholls revealed that he was struck by inspiration again 20 years later while adapting Tess of the D’Urbervilles for the BBC, once again becoming interested in the idea that an ordinary day can turn out to be not so ordinary at all.

But what date would be appropriate? Eventually, Nicholls decided to set his book around St Swithin’s Day, which falls every year on 15th July and is connected to graduation season and the start of a new journey for students.

Plenty of scenes in the Netflix adaptation are set in Edinburgh, with Emma and Dexter walking up Arthur’s Seat in the first episode.

Nicholls previously spoke about how he fell in love with the city while living there for a summer during the fringe festival.

Speaking to The Daily Record in 2011, he said: “When I came to Edinburgh in 1988, I had spent nearly all my life living south of Bristol, and I was just amazed that a city like Edinburgh was actually in the British Isles.

“It was so dramatic and beautiful, and it really made a huge impression on me, and it’s stayed with me ever since.”

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Is Netflix’s ‘One Day’ true to the book?

One Day true story
Image credit: X/@Netflix

The Netflix show remains largely faithful to Nicholls’s book, though there are some noticeable changes in the finale.

In the novel, Nicholls deviates from the one-day format after the big tragedy (we won’t spoil it for you here), revealing how things unfolded the day after Emma and Dexter first met.

In the Netflix series, this part of the tale is included in the first episode, and the show ends with the couple enjoying their first Christmas together in 1988.

One Day is available to stream now on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

(Hero and featured image credits: X/@Netflix)

This story first appeared on

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Source: Prestige Online

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