Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer on how she put the sass into assassin

Meet 'The First Lady of Slaying' – literally!

12 Oct 2018

“Oh my god, Jodie is making me question my sexuality,” one of my straight girl pals said last weekend, after binge-watching the entire first season of BBC’s Killing Eve in just one day. I'm inclined to say the same for my sexuality. Indeed, Jodie’s on-screen prowess playing the show’s psycho assassin, Villanelle - as she’s chased by MI5 Agent, Eve (Sandra Oh), goes beyond enthralling; it’s addictive and the whole world is hooked on her every move.

This level of questioning around individual sexuality is an ironic effect given that Villanelle is a rare female character in that she's NOT defined by her sexuality and thus breaks down TV stereotypes one murder at a time. As Jodie tells me, calling from the set of the second season, “the biggest stereotype we broke, for me personally, was that Villanelle never uses her sexuality to better herself. Usually a female assassin would be in a slinky black catsuit or there is something overtly sexual about her.”

She continues in her surprising and disarming Scouse accent, “Villanelle wasn’t like that. She was gritty, she makes mistakes, she’s fabulous and successful for reasons not regarding her sexuality.”

Villanelle may have 99 problems but being self-conscious isn’t one - and that’s something Jodie has learnt to care less and less about through *literally* slaying the role, she confides. “I learnt from Villanelle to care less about what people think. She always does what she wants to do regardless of the consequences and that is so liberating. I am naturally quite self-conscious so what I had to learn to do was to let go of that; that’s something I have definitely taken away from her.”

The script, penned by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has made many of us question our morals. Is it really that funny that Villanelle just accidentally killed her fit lover with poisoned perfume? Jodie, like us, also had to let go of her instincts, “Phoebe is amazing at finding humour in very dark places,” she utters in pure girl crushing mode. “You would think it was a very serious scene and she would try to say it with humour and bring light into the situation. It was really strange, but brilliant, getting used to the tone of the show, which is so different to every other show as it goes against your instincts. It’s so refreshing to see something that isn’t like every other job.”

Killing Eve certainly serves the black comedy ‘tea’ with a heavy dose of drama. But the fact that the leads, the writer and director were all women served Jodie the sadly rare opportunity to work on a fully-fledged female production, “I just have to pinch myself all the time. I just thought to myself, ‘how lucky am I to be on this stage, be in this situation and be inspired by the people around me.’”

As she continues, I suddenly realise that Jodie doesn’t even realise how damn good she is, “to work with these women, and learn from them every day on set, spend time with them, be friends with them, is incredible. It’s really inspiring to be around people who make you want to be better. I just wish it was the norm and not be a surprise to have an all-female production.” Here, here, Queen.

Jodie’s bad b**** moves have led to me (and you, just admit it!), questioning whether being an assassin could actually be a v. chic career option. That might also have something to do with the designer wardrobe Villanelle has accumulated, ranging from full pink Molly Goddard frothiness to sleek fresh-off-the-runway wears. Did Jodie treat the wardrobe department like her own personal Net-A-Porter, I wonder? With her infectious laugh, she replies, “usually when you go wardrobe shopping it’s to every day normal shops like Primark! So, to have the opportunity was amazing!”

While most of us turn to retail therapy to boost our mood, playing a psychopath actually proved to be cheap therapy for the 25-year-old, “I think that is probably what actors enjoy so much about acting; letting out these emotions. One day you will sit in a room and cry for eight hours, then you are angry – there is something about that is really therapeutic and you really learn a lot about yourself and other people. Ultimately that is what acting is – putting yourself in other people’s shoes.”

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Perhaps Villanelle’s level of self-abandonment is the reason why we're just so damn obsessed and that has led to some rather questionable tweets, “a lot of people on Twitter are asking for her to kill them,” she laughs. “What is so brilliant is you find people really rooting for her, and I know it’s bad, but I just really want to be her mate.” Jodie, babe, we really want to be your mate, too.

If you have already raced through season one, you will be wondering what Killing Eve season two has in store. Naturally, ever the enigmatic assassin, Jodie keeps her cards close to her chest, “What I was most excited about was she has all these accents and personas and I wanted to see what else she would pull out the bag. I was really interested to see how they were going to explore whatever this relationship Villanelle and Eve have with each other. They have only been together so long – the stakes are so high. I am always fascinated with how they interact with each other.” Well, well, well. Could a Thelma and Louise style road trip be in the pipeline?

Sassy is a word that is banded around a lot, but Villanelle throws it around as if it’s a casual snack. When I comment that she puts the sass into assassin, Jodie exclaims, “oh my god I am going to put that in my Instagram bio!”

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“Oh my god! I am not a very sassy person, you know,” Jodie confesses before continuing, “but I do get sassier with her! It’s so funny, I was on a train the other day and the guy opposite me was watching episode two and he was going, ‘you have to do an accent or a creepy smile!’ I was just sweating, I just couldn’t do it. 'Where is your Villanelle, where is your sass,’ I thought!”

There lies the reason why Jodie Comer is everyone’s girl crush du-jour (to reference her character’s Parisian home), she’s just so damn relatable, self-deprecating and yet so talented at the same time. Give this woman a BAFTA already!

Killing Eve, season one can be streamed on BBC iPlayer now.