Jodie Comer secured her title as TV’s most fashionable psychopath the moment she strutted through the streets of Paris in a pink tulle Molly Goddard dress as Killing Eve’s Villanelle.
With a wardrobe to die for and a closet of weapons that would impress an international arms dealer, Comer’s refreshing portrayal of the free-spirited assassin threw all of television’s gendered troupes out the window. Cold, ruthless and carefree, Villanelle is not your typical female character in a spy drama.
“This role should be stereotypically one-dimensional and probably played by a man, but Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] has completely turned all those stereotypes on their head,” says Comer.
When I speak to Comer she is in the midst of award season frenzy. Off the back of numerous award nods for her role as Villanelle, a ruthless assassin engaged in a heated game of cat-and-mouse with MI5 agent Eve Polastri (played by Sandra Oh), the scouser has managed to stay grounded throughout the success of the show, “if you’re nominated [for an award], the anxiety does go through the roof!”
When Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s witty female-led spy drama hit screens last year, the show became an instant hit, with fans falling in love with the enigmatic anti-hero.
Reflecting on why so many people relate to the unconventional protagonist, Comer explains, “sometimes what makes a character unlikeable is that we can see something [of them] within ourselves.”
“I always like a challenge. It makes for a more interesting character when they’re a bit more complex,” she adds.
Taking an alternative route into acting and deciding against drama school, Comer started out attending weekend drama classes before landing small parts in the likes of Casualty, Doctors and Waterloo Road, and later became a series regular on My Mad Fat Diary. Yet it was her endearingly villainous roles as Kate Parks in BBC One’s gripping family drama Doctor Foster and her RTS award-winning role in Killing Eve that took Comer’s talent global.
Now Comer’s stand-out performances on the small screen have taken her to Hollywood, where she is set to star in upcoming film Free Guy alongside Ryan Reynolds. The film will follow a games programmer whose real life becomes intertwined with her life within a video game when her code is stolen.
“I thought when I was going to do my first feature I'd come into the shop, ask for a coffee and then I’d be gone!” she laughs. “To be so prominent in the story and to have this much to play with is really exciting.”
It’s no wonder that audiences have been captivated by Comer’s versatile talent. Taking on an array of impressive accents for the chilling and mischievous role of Villanelle, the 25-year-old’s native Liverpudlian accent is undetectable as she puts on the many masks of Killing Eve’s favourite villain. But Comer insists she isn’t a method actor: “Once cut’s been said, I’m back to me.”
She laughs, “I can’t really hold that for much longer.”
Writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge has handed over the writing reins for series two to Emerald Fennell, though she will continue to serve as executive producer, but Comer is confident Fennell has maintained the tone of the show.
“Of course, it was different. Emerald is her own person,” she says, “but I do really feel she has kept the humour and darkness and the things people loved so much about the show.”
Series one’s suspense-filled finale saw the tables turn as Eve stabbed Villanelle, with her life hanging in the balance. Careful not to reveal too much about series two, Comer teases, “we take off 30 seconds later and these two are reeling from what’s just happened.”
“Villanelle is in a very vulnerable position, one we’ve never seen her in before… I think she fears for her life.”
Comer hints that the shift in power could have violent consequences, “how does she react to that, does she seek revenge? What is her comeback to what Eve has done to her?”
That admiration and respect has certainly spilled off-screen for the pair. After feeling like “passing ships” during the filming of series one, Comer says she built great personal and professional relationship with Oh and hints at a deeper exploration into their characters’ relationship in the second series.
“Now that these women have to come into contact with each other a little more, it’s been really fun exploring that,” she says.
Audiences were left guessing throughout the first series at the nature of Villanelle and Eve obsession with one another.
Comer’s own take on the complicated relationship is that Villanelle and Eve share a “mutual fascination, admiration and respect.”
“I do think that Villanelle is attracted to Eve but I also think that she is so blindsided by the want for human connection. She feels as though she can love and knows what love is and I think that is where the wires are really crossed.”
She believes the ambiguity surrounding the show and the characters is what keeps the audience coming back for more: “So many scenes [can be] interpreted in completely different ways which is refreshing, you're not trying to force opinions on people.”
“We want the audience to feel whatever it is that they want to feel.”
Many fans will still root for a romantic union, but Comer assures that there is more to the relationship than attraction, “to explore this relationship, whatever that may be, and to really delve into the female psyche…that's a different part of our minds that Phoebe's brought to the forefront.”
With female roles busting stereotypes and exploring more complex avenues, could this pave the way for more female-fronted action? Maybe even a female Bond?
“I mean, why not?” she exclaims. “I feel like [Villanelle] is pushing that forward and keeping things fresh. It’s a way of keeping people engaged.”
She muses, “so then we’d have Bond…but would we have Bond boys?”
Who needs Bond boys when you have the likes of Villanelle making waves on screen?
Killing Eve series two airs 7th April on BBC America, with the UK air date yet to be announced.