TV

“Killing Eve” Star Jodie Comer on Her Onscreen Psychosexual Tension With Sandra Oh

"She devours life, and that extends to her sexual tastes."

“I’m always excusing what she does, which I know is terrible,” says Jodie Comer of Villanelle, her sociopathic character on BBC America’s surprise hit Killing Eve. The 25-year-old English actress takes about as much perverse delight in playing the blithely homicidal Russian assassin as fans of the show do in watching her. “The thing I’ve picked up on is that people are rooting for her—which I so naughty!”

Comer, who developed a backstory for the character with series creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was initially wary of playing a female assassin. She wasn’t necessarily interested in embodying a lot of overly sexualized stereotypes. “Whenever I think of a female assassin I think of the femme fatale, using her sexuality to get herself out of situations,” Comer explains. “But she’s the total opposite. She’s always bizarre and humorous and actually really skillful. Basically, Phoebe turned it all on its head and it was nothing like what I imagined it was gonna be.”

BBC

Comer does want people to be scared of Villanelle. And they should be. Over the course of the show’s first season, she has pretty much murdered at least one person in every episode, taking unapologetic pleasure in each kill. This is not a character who is particularly morally conflicted: She loves her work. But it’s a credit to Comer’s performance that you still somehow feel like you want to hang out with Villanelle, swilling champagne in her shabby-chic Parisian apartment, trying on her designer wardrobe, and telling yourself she probably won’t knife you in the back when she’s done with you. That’s probably more-or-less what MI5 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh in a career defining role) sees in her quarry: her freedom, her joie de vivre—or more accurately, her joie de mort.

“She devours life,” Comer says. And that extends to her sexual tastes. In the series first few episodes alone, Villanelle seduces her pretty boy neighbor Sebastian (Charlie Hamblett), while developing a kind of psychosexual crush on Eve. “I think she would rather be with women,” Comer explains, “but in that moment she’s not gaining what she wants from the kills and I think she’s trying to get some solace from somewhere and poor Sebastian is there.”

BBC

But Comer says she and Waller-Bridge never specifically discussed the character’s queerness or how it informs the story. “I think it was just a choice,” says Comer. “It’s another layer to her.”

With just one episode left in its first season, Comer says she doesn’t have a clue where Killing Eve might be headed in Season 2. Obviously she’s excited to explore the dynamic between Eve and Villanelle more, and potentially get more screen time with Oh.

One thing’s for sure, however: Killing Eve is a bona fide phenomenon. The acclaim has been basically universal, and the show has managed to grow its audience every week it’s been on the air, the first scripted series to do so in over a decade and an impressive feat in an age of streaming TV and declining viewership. “It’s the first show I’ve been a part of with such buzz about it,” Comer muses.

Living in the U.K., her day-to-day life hasn’t been impacted significantly by the show’s success just yet. But it’s obvious to anyone that this is a star-making role. “This character has allowed people to see me in a different way,” says Comer. “I’ve never played a character like her before.”

And we’ve never seen anyone quite like her either.

The premiere date for Killing Eve Season 2 has not yet been announced.

John Russell is a New York-based entertainment and lifestyle journalist. He has been called “the Courtney Love throwing Chanel compacts at Madonna and Kurt Loder” of his generation.
@john_russell