When the cat-and-mouse spy thriller “Killing Eve” first debuted on BBC America last year, it became the year’s first true word-of-mouth hit, thanks to razor-sharp writing from “Fleabag” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge and riveting lead performances from Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer.
Oh has earned widespread acclaim for her work as MI5 agent Eve Polastri, bagging an Emmy nomination last fall and a slew of other trophies in the months since. But a cat is nothing without her mouse, and Comer’s Villanelle is one heck of a mouse. In playing the psychopathic assassin being hunted by Eve and enjoying the chase, Comer at turns rises to match Oh’s trademark intensity and manages to undercut it entirely with a single facial expression or a killer Waller-Bridge one-liner.
Season 2, premiering Sunday with a new head writer, “Call the Midwife” star and longtime friend of Waller-Bridge, Emerald Fennell, will introduce an interesting new wrinkle to that dynamic.
Picking up just seconds after the Season 1 cliffhanger, with Eve still reeling from having committed an act of violence as garish as stabbing her target in the gut and Villanelle wandering the streets nursing a life-threatening wound, the new season explores the ramifications of the way these two women have now become bound together for good.
“I think what’s gonna be interesting for the audience is, I don’t know that [Villanelle] is going to react in the way they’re expecting,” Comer said in an interview with TheWrap. “That physical action is so enormous to her, and probably means something to Villanelle that it wouldn’t to anyone else in their right mind.”
The candy-coated assassin, who delights in nice things and fancy clothes but will spin around to stab a man in the eye without a second thought, is left trying to process a complicated mix of feelings toward Eve without the right mental or emotional facilities for the job, Comer says.
“In her world, she thinks they could just live together and watch movies or something,” the actress said. “In that warped sense of reality, she knows what she feels toward this person, but I don’t think she can comprehend her emotions at all … but I very much feel that she thinks she knows what love is.”
Season 2 will also introduce a new rival for Villanelle in the form of a second female killer. A rival both professionally and for Eve’s attention who will shake the previously unflappable Villanelle’s confidence for the first time.
“Deep down somewhere, it’s like, What if Eve actually forgets about me?” Comer said.
But Eve and Villanelle will continue to circle each other in their game of spy-versus-spy, a new slow-motion collision course reminiscent of Season 1, but with the simple prospect of violence replaced by bloody memory of their last encounter.
“They ultimately will have to come back together, given the way their lives have collided together. So you definitely do see them around each other a lot more than in [Season] 1,” Comer promised. “How that will work is a separate conversation.”
Read TheWrap’s full interview with Comer below.
TheWrap: “Killing Eve” has a new writer for Season 2, Emerald Fennell. Has that changed the show at all for you?
Comer: It’s been great. Obviously change is always daunting, you know. But she’s incredible. Emerald is a fantastic writer in her own right. And she’s a close friend of Phoebe’s, actually. I feel Season 2 really continues that wit and the dark undercurrent, the seriousness of what’s going on. She’s really captured the voice of the show. And she’s great fun. It’s been really collaborative, which is so lucky, because you don’t always get that luxury of having an opinion.
Season 1 turned out to be such a massive hit, did you feel any added pressure going into Season 2?
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. [Laughs.] No, you know what I think it is? I think when something is so well-received, of course you then have that sense of, ‘Well, we can’t f— it up now.’ It’s like, you want to reach the same level of celebration. But, ultimately, when you get to set you have to focus on the material and the work, and you can’t think about the bigger picture. You have to just focus on what you’re doing now.
The show picks up right after Villanelle gets stabbed by Eve, and this is really the first time we see her on her back foot a little bit. What was playing that side of the character like?
It’s been fascinating. She always thinks she’s one step ahead of the game, but now she can’t physically do what she needs to do. She is very much helpless, and it’s interesting to have seen how she tries to navigate the world around her when she’s in this situation. She’s just completely out of her depth.
What’s going on in her head in that moment? Does this change how she sees her relationship with Eve?
I think what’s gonna be interesting for the audience is, I don’t know that she’s going to react in the way they’re expecting. That physical action is so enormous to her, and probably means something to Villanelle that it wouldn’t to anyone else in their right mind. In a way, it creates a connection between the two of them that neither of them are expecting.
In your mind, what is Villanelle’s attraction to Eve? Is it romantic? Is it sexual?
I think for Villanelle, there definitely is a sexual attraction. There’s so much more to it than that, but I think, absolutely. And in her world she thinks Villanelle and Eve could just live together and watch movies. In that warped sense of reality, she knows what she feels toward this person, but I don’t think she can comprehend her emotions at all. And that’s what we explore throughout [Season] 2, but I very much feel that she thinks she knows what love is.
The new season also introduces the idea that there’s a new girl in town, almost like a rival to Villanelle. How does she react to that?
That’s also a very interesting. She really tries not to show that she’s concerned about this other person, but deep down somewhere it’s like “What if Eve actually forgets about me?” And at the same time, she’s got such a high sense of self-worth, so she’s also thinking “Okay, this person can distract her for a minute, but we all know who’s gonna be the winner.”
One of the hallmarks of the show are those little moments of humor interspersed throughout the really dark, dark stuff, a lot of which come from your character. How do you find the balance between those two elements?
Well, Damon Thomas came back to direct for [Season] 2, and he has my complete trust. He really creates a safe space on set and encourages me to take those risks. I trust him to tell me if it’s too much, and I trust him to know when it’s great. When you have trust, you can really try to push those moments, and you know he’s going to come back and go, “No, doesn’t work.” And that’s fine, but it’s the encouragement that I really appreciate. It’s that relationship, really, of trust with a director that allows you to just have some fun and play around with it. Villanelle, herself, is so playful, and when a director creates that environment, those moments can arise naturally.
You also get a lot of opportunities to slip in and out of accents and languages throughout the show, even more this season. Do you find that challenging to manage?
Definitely. Particularly with the languages. I don’t speak any languages, so I have to learn all that phonetically. But really, it’s just another element of the job that is so much fun. A lot of other characters don’t allow you to explore this much within one story. I feel like, as long as I know my lines and I’ve done my homework, the day can be gone like that. Plus, I have a voice coach who keeps me on my toes and is always correcting me if I start slipping.
How much time do you usually have to prepare for a scene or an episode?
It really varies, because sometimes the scripts come in late and you have a week. Or sometimes we start filming in July, we get them in April/May. If I’ve got a really big scene, I’ll try to get ahead of it at least a couple of weeks, but a lot of it is within that week. If I have a scene on Thursday, I may not get it until Monday. It just depends on what the scenes entail.
It’s not really an action-heavy show, but there are a few fight scenes here and there, and there’s a lot of physicality to the part. Do you find that challenging?
It can break up a scene quite a lot, so the challenge is always keeping up the momentum and whatever the emotion is throughout the scene. If you’re picking up in the middle, making sure it flows well and there’s a continuity. But they’re never what I expect. I love the surprise element of reading a kill and being like, “Oh wow.” It’s always so out of the box.
Do you have a favorite kill?
I have one favorite that I liked doing and one that I liked the finished version. The one I really enjoyed doing was the one [in episode 3] where she clamped the guy’s balls. That’s just great. When I read it, I was like, [Nods] “Hmm, okay.” But the one I really loved watching — and actually shocked me — was Bill. There was something about that one where I was like, “Oh god, Villanelle, did you have to do that?”
That smile afterward is so instantly iconic.
And when you’re filming it, you don’t see it. But seeing it all together, you’re just like, “Whoa.”
The show is so much about this game of cat and mouse between Villanelle and Eve, but how often do you actually get to film a scene with Sandra?
[Season] 1 was not a lot at all. But, of course, the way these women’s trajectories are going, they ultimately will have to come back together, given the way their lives have collided together. So you definitely do see them around each other a lot more than in [Season] 1. How that will work is a separate conversation.
“Killing Eve” Season 2 airs Sundays at 8/7c on AMC and BBC America.