The second season of BBC America’s cat-and-mouse drama “Killing Eve” picks up only 30 seconds after the events of the first season ended, but crafting what is to come is a new executive producer in Emerald Fennell.
Fennell stepped in to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s creation after the first season was already written but before it was airing. The two women have been friends for a long time, series star Sandra Oh pointed out at the Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the show Saturday. The fact that “they have a kinship and [similar] sensibility [in] where they come from, their humor, their style” made it a “good match” for Fennell to be the driving force behind the second season, Oh said.
“Emerald has her own voice entirely, but it really moved from one hand to a similar hand,” she said.
Fennell not only had to further complex characters, including Oh’s titular MI5 agent and Jodie Comer’s assassin Villanelle, but she also had to balance a tone that mixed deep tension with humorous bits.
“I think it’s also the placement of the humor within the show — the way it undercuts the really serious moments is genius,” Comer said.
For Comer, the “complexity and versatility” of the characters is what keeps things interesting. “It’s written by a woman who understands all of this and it’s so visible in the writing. It’s so much fun to play. It’s a real gift,” she said.
In the second season, Oh noted both women will be seen as “vulnerable in slightly different ways.”
“They’ve crossed a line and there’s kind of no going back. We have a lot of energy at the beginning…and that pushes both of them into a different place of vulnerability,” she explained. “How can you come to terms with a relationship that seems to be impossible? That’s what I think we’re trying to figure out daily.”
Villanelle, in particular, is extremely vulnerable in the first two episodes of the second season, due to the fact that she is on the run with a stab wound after her encounter with Eve in the first season finale. This allows Comer a chance to show off a new side of Villanelle internally, as she has to “scramble” to survive but really feels how out of control she is, as well as externally, with new “found” fashions.
“Villanelle fetishizes clothes,” Fennell pointed out, so the show has to be very specific in what it outfits her. “We all know, as women, how powerful clothes can be as a weapon.”
While the first two episodes see Villanelle’s clothes on the more mundane side of the spectrum, including a very specific set of pajamas and an encounter with a pair of Crocs, after she is out of that “very vulnerable setting,” the show will explore “how much clothes mean to her.”
The second season of the show will also expand outward a bit to consider the possibility that there is another assassin in the mix. While the Eve and Villanelle relationship will always be the core of the show, Fennell said that “what is really interesting is saying, ‘What do we do when somebody else comes along?’ Is Eve an assassin expert or is she a Villanelle expert? And what does that mean for her, for Carolyn, for her job?'”
Added executive producer Sally Woodward-Gentle: “What would happen to Villanelle as well if she thought Eve’s gaze wasn’t always on her?”
Comer noted that they are still very much “finding out the pieces” of their characters and their relationships as they are on set — not just for Eve and Villanelle but for many new characters who come in, as well. “Each actor brings in a different energy to the set and adds in something completely new,” she said. “We’re incredibly lucky that we get so many actors to come in.”
The team behind the show also reflected on the fact that when they were first making “Killing Eve,” the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements were just taking off. For Oh, the show took on a greater significance being inside a story that focused on “not only believe her in every moment but just watching her in every moment” at such a time in history. “That is what I feel deeply aligned by and what I hope is growing in the States,” she said.
But, Oh added, such poignancy is not a “driving force” when she signs on to roles. “I am happy if it does open up and contribute…but I am interested in what I am interested in,” she said. And one thing she is interested in at this time in her career is having “the chance to set the tone.”
The same is true for Fennell, who pointed out that as women working in this business, “we’re used to being the cement and men are the bricks. We’re used to filling in the cracks — we take in the space and make it work. [But] on a show like this we’re the bricks.”
“Killing Eve” Season 2 premieres April 7 at 8 p.m. on BBC America, simulcast on AMC.