English actress Jodie Comer first began working in television when she was a teenager, appearing over the past decade in such series as “My Mad Fat Diary,” “Doctor Foster” and “The White Princess.” But in taking on the antagonist role of Villanelle in BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” which premieres its second season April 7, she says she is getting the chance to show the most versatility. “She’s like six characters in one,” Comer says.
The first season of “Killing Eve” ended with Eve stabbing Villanelle. How does this affect her when the show picks back up?
What physically that does is it strips her of her control. She can’t physically do the things that she usually does, and she’s not used to having that limitation, and she’s completely helpless. We see her at a stage where we’ve never really seen her before in how she tries to scrambles her way out of this. Of course, within the second episode her injury becomes a big part of the story. The series doesn’t pan over a very long period of time, so she’s injured, but is healing! In the real world she’d probably be limping around a lot longer and she’d probably be in the hospital a lot longer, but for the sake of drama she won’t wallow. She’s made of steel, this girl.
Yet she must be more vulnerable with these physical limitations.
Her own mortality kicks in. It was interesting because it was another part of her we hadn’t explored. It was more fascinating, in a way, to discover how that would mentally affect her. She’s still just as determined to get herself out of the situations that she finds herself in, but honestly playing sickness is exhausting. You’re breathing heavy all of the time and by the end of a take, you’re exhausted. I was glad when she got back on her feet!
The first season was built on a cat-and-mouse dynamic with Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle, with them ultimately squaring off already. How have things changed based on their interaction?
Compared to Season 1 they’re definitely in each others’ presence a lot more. I think ultimately it’s just another stage of what their relationship is, but that sense of obsessiveness and fascination is still there between the two of them. She’s changed so much in Eve’s life and she just continues to disrupt this woman’s life and it’s [about] what the consequences are. I think what’s most interesting is Eve stabbing Villanelle and what that means to Villanelle and her reaction towards Eve for what she did. I don’t know whether it will be what audiences are expecting, but they are now connected in a way they weren’t before — at least in Villanelle’s mind. [The stab] was like penetration — that action in that way can mean something totally different, I think, to someone was warped as Villanelle.
Do you feel like Villanelle learned new things about herself because of this relationship with Eve?
Whatever she’s found with Eve, it’s disrupted her and her life and her usual flow of things. I think Villanelle believed that she knows what love is. I think she thinks she understands emotions, but I don’t think she knows how to deal with them, and when they arise she suppresses them. And there is a particular character she has to take on for a certain reason [early in Season 2] and through that we see Oxana, these things that she maybe [showed] in an earlier life, we see her be a little bit more openly — not completely because I don’t think we can ever give her too much humanity. There should always be that element of danger.
How do you determine when to show the audience little peeks behind the curtain of Villanelle’s persona?
Sometimes things just happen on set — and sometimes it isn’t right. We had a scene that we shot and I ended up crying my eyes out because the director was like, “Try and push the emotions.” And it happened, but it was too much. Everything depends on who you’re acting with, what your material is and how things are on the day. It’s that fine line because she’s someone who shouldn’t be underestimated [but] if she does become too human then she loses her magic.
Do you feel like you understand or relate to Villanelle more now that you’ve spent more time in her skin?
I relate to this person, as awful as she is. I want to flick ice cream on a 6-year-old sometimes! And she does it and you relate to it and she doesn’t f—ing care. … But she always has conviction in what she does. She doesn’t just go around shooting and killing people; there’s a reason for everything that she does.
How has the success of the first season affected what you want to accomplish in the second?
It can be overwhelming if you think about it too much because you can’t help but feel an added pressure; there is something to live up to. But ultimately when you’re on set, it’s about the material, and you have to kind of zone out of that and just focus. You know there are a lot of people that are waiting to know what’s going to happen next, and that’s wonderful, but when we get to set, that has to stay outside.
How did Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who was so integral to the first season and its success, stepping back for the second affect how you worked?
It was very collaborative… and what was really great was we had sat with these characters for a year and we understood them more so if there were ever things that didn’t feel right we could have conversations. And [executive producer] Emerald [Fennell] was incredibly open. Emerald is a phenomenal writer in her own way. Change is always daunting, I feel, in life; change can always make you apprehensive. But it was so important for her to have our full attention and support. I feel we’ve really picked up where we left off.