Jodie Comer on her role in Killing Eve: 'When you dare to do something absurd, you can make magic'


Warning: Spoiler Alert

In 2019, Jodie Comer won the Emmy Award for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the role of Russian spy Villanelle in Killing Eve.

The 27-year-old won the acting accolade for the second season of the hit show, which premieres on Fox (DStv 125 and StarSat 131) from 1 July, directly after the first season ends.

The spy thriller centres on two women, bound by a mutual obsession and one brutal act: Eve (Sandra Oh), an MI6 operative, and Villanelle (Jodie), the beautiful, psychopathic assassin that she has been tasked with finding.

Ahead of the season two premiere, Jodie tells us what's in store for Villanelle this season, what it's like working with Sandra Oh and how the show is different from other stories about the world of spies.

Can you tell us a bit about how things start for Villanelle in season two?

At the end of season one, Eve and Villanelle have a little altercation… I don't know if you remember but Eve stabs Villanelle! Season two picks up from that moment, and Villanelle has to escape the apartment before she's found. She's in a pretty bad way and has to get herself out of that situation. As the story progresses, we find out how Villanelle reacts to Eve stabbing her. I'm not sure whether it'll be what people expect her reaction to be, but it's interesting.

Can we discuss the fantastic response season one received when it came out?

The reaction to season one was insane and unexpected. We all believed in the show and were so passionate when making it, but you can never second guess how the audience is going to take it. The response was enormous; there were some incredible Villanelle Halloween costumes and fan art. I've never been part of a show that's had such an amazing reaction, so it's been really lovely. It's really nice coming to season two knowing that there are people eagerly waiting for the continuation of the story.

What's in store for Villanelle this season?

The most interesting part about coming back to play Villanelle is the exploration of her emotions and feelings, or lack of them. A huge conflict arises in her head from how she thinks she feels about Eve and the other relationships in her life. I think that's another reason why the audience took to her. There's a flicker of humanity about her, and just when we think we've found it, we lose it again. That's probably really interesting for the audience to discover.

How do you develop your character after getting the script?

First of all, I learn the lines, which helps give me an initial idea of how I want to play the scenes. But I never like to be too set in stone before I begin filming. Everyone who is a part of this show has a cracking sense of humour so when we get in a room to discuss the scripts and read through scenes it's really fun, as well as very productive. I love the collaborative relationship between actor and director and enjoy figuring it out together on set.

One of the lovely things about coming back this season, was that I already felt like I understood Villanelle. I'm probably the person on set who understands her the most. It was nice to have that air of confidence.

What are the main things that attracted you to the character of Villanelle? And have those elements changed in season two?

Everything attracted me to Villanelle. I expected her to be one thing, and she was the total opposite. I read 'assassin' and immediately thought of a sexy woman in a catsuit scaling walls in six-inch heels, but Villanelle felt more real than that. She has a sense of humour and makes mistakes, which is so relatable. Assassins can sometimes feel like creatures from another planet, like they've got superpowers, whereas there's something very earthy about Villanelle. That has continued through to season two. She's so much fun to play. She gets away with murder, quite literally, but I love her.

What makes Villanelle so attractive to an audience?

I think the audience relates to Villanelle in ways that they may not want to. I always refer back to the opening sequence in season one, where she knocks the ice cream over the little girl. I'm sure we've all wanted to do that before, but we never have. I think they admire her, and want to high five her, but know she is not to be messed with. Her playfulness and childlike quality take away the terror at moments where we should really hate her. Often we sympathise or even agree with her, which makes her seem a bit like us. 

Jodie as Villanelle.
Jodie as Villanelle.

How does Eve and Villanelle's relationship develop in season two?

Their relationship progression in season two is really interesting. I'm really looking forward to the audience seeing Villanelle's reaction to what happened at the end of season one. People already have ideas about how they think she'll react, but what she actually does could be surprising. The emotions they have for each other is still something that me and Sandra are figuring out. They spend a lot more time in each other's company, as their two worlds collide, and it shifts the energy of the show. But whether that's something Eve is happy about is another question. Villanelle is thrilled!

What is it like working with Sandra Oh?

I love her so much! She's so generous and is beyond wonderful to act with and be around on set. Anyone you speak to who works on a film set will say that the attitude of the lead actor trickles down through the whole set. This set is the happiest and most chilled-out set that I've ever worked on, and that's a credit to the person that Sandra is. And she's fun; she's a funny lady.

How does Killing Eve feel different to your normal story about the world of spies and assassins?

The show is different to any kind of typical spy or assassin show because of the voices behind the characters. What Phoebe Waller-Bridge did in setting up these characters is so unique. It's also because of the tone and how it switches between humour and terror or tragedy. There are two women leading the show, which is different; it's not a man chasing a woman. We have two women who are equally fascinated and cautious of each other, and that has broken a lot of stereotypes, particularly with Villanelle's character. Killing Eve brings a freshness and energy to the screen that people haven't seen before.

Killing Eve mixes drama, thriller and comedy genres. What is it like to switch between these tones?

Initially, I really struggled with that switch between comedy and darkness because it wasn't something I'd done before. I had to break out of the mould I'd made for myself. Phoebe really helped me with that in the first season. During filming, she would ask me to play a scene in the opposite way to how I'd initially read it. She made me realise that when you dare to do something that is a little absurd, or out of your comfort zone, you can make magic. When you're in a safe environment and dare to take risks, you might come out with something really brilliant. Worst case, it doesn't really work, and you just move on.

Jodie as Villanelle.
Jodie as Villanelle.

Killing Eve takes place in cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and London. What is it like filming in these major cities?

Pretty much all filming has been on location for this season. When we were filming in Paris, France won the World Cup, so it was pretty epic to see all that craziness going on. Amsterdam was beautiful. Actually filming there makes the story feel authentic and as if you're right there while it's happening. The locations in Rome were insane. It's another reason why I feel very lucky to be a part of the show; we get to see places that I would never usually have the chance to visit.

What would you like an audience to take away from Killing Eve?

I want the audience to come away having had fun and having enjoyed it. Our show doesn't have a huge message to the world, and that is probably why people enjoy it so much. They can escape through it and live through the characters, having fun with it. The characters are definitely on another journey, and the story has to push forward. Things have to change, and hopefully the audience will come along with us.

Killing Eve airs Wednesdays at 20:45 on Fox (DStv 125 and StarSat 131). It repeats Fridays at 14:00, Saturdays at 19:25, Sundays at 22:00 and is also on DStv Catch Up.

ALSO READ | Sandra Oh's character is in a dark place in Season Two of Killing Eve

- Compiled by Leandra Engelbrecht

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