For every role Jodie Comer plays, a letter arrives from God with notes. Technically, it doesn’t come from the Almighty directly – the letters are sent by a priest in her father’s parish, but as he does God’s work it surely counts as forwarded mail – and they wait for her, in silent judgement or praise, at her parents’ Liverpool home where she stays when she’s not filming.
“And he still does it,” says Comer in her thick Liverpudlian accent. “When he watches a thing I’ve done, he’ll explain what he took from it in regards to the people he meets. He says he respects what I do, because you have to find empathy for people you otherwise might not.”
Which, of course, invites the question: Comer plays Killing Eve’s Villanelle, a deliriously demented psychopathic assassin, so what does God think about her best-known role? “He’s spoken,” says Comer, “about the depths he feels I would have to go to in order understand why a person would be like this.”
Well, He might not approve, but the rest of us do. Written by Fleabag wunderkind Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the first series of Killing Eve popped up on the BBC last year and immediately became the kind of show you create a WhatsApp support group for. It saw Comer’s assassin and Sandra Oh’s MI5 agent (Eve) in a deadly chase around Europe as they become increasingly infatuated with each other. It was chic and stylish, but also gloriously off-kilter and darkly hilarious. Imagine Bond remade by the Coen brothers… if the Coen brothers were sisters.
When she first heard the words “female assassin”, Comer feared the worst. “I was like, ‘Oh, fuck no.’ Because I always think of someone in a leather catsuit and six-inch heels scaling walls.” Also, “How naked is she going to be?” The reality, though, was completely different: a cold-hearted killer who skips through the world like a child and wears chic designer outfits while doing it. If Burberry did assassination…
Comer has found that she is recognised in public increasingly often, which can be an odd experience when you play a psychopath. Sometimes it’s merely awkward (on a packed Tube while she was desperately hungover a woman inches from her face gently asked, “Excuse me, are you Villanelle?”) and other times just plain weird (a woman asked for a selfie before whispering, “Will you strangle me?” Comer declined).
So no strangling, but she does, she says, share two things with her alter ego: her wardrobe and a deep love of reality TV. The former is self-fulfilling, as she fell so in love with Villanelle’s designer outfits that she refused to let them go and bought a bunch of them. When Eve discovers Villanelle’s apartment at the end of the first series and ransacks her wardrobe – tearing outfits out and throwing them to the floor – Comer watched in horror as she already owned half of them. “So I was being really precious about them getting dirty on the floor. I was like, ‘No!’” Yet, as the show went on, wearing Villanelle’s clothes in public started to feel… a bit weird. “They had too much of a connection with the character.” Put another way: no one wants to feel like a psycho killer in the morning.
The second series of Killing Eve starts with Villanelle freshly stabbed by Eve and desperately making her way to refuge – first to a hospital, then to the house of a not-so-Good Samaritan – and we see her on the ropes for the first time. There will, Comer says, “be a lot more kills”.
Due to Waller-Bridge’s other commitments – not least, it has been announced, rewriting the new Bond script – the writer took more of a consulting role in series two, but Killing Eve remains as twisted and bloody and haute couture as ever. Comer is off to New York two weeks after we meet to see Waller-Bridge performing her one-woman Fleabag show off-Broadway.
“I love her so much. I’ve said to her she has to cast me on every single thing she makes from now on. Otherwise I’ll send Villanelle!”
After that, there’s the small matter of starring opposite Ryan Reynolds in the big-screen action-comedy Free Guy, her first Hollywood film. Comer’s character name: “Molotov Girl”.
Just wait for God’s verdict on that one.