Posted by admin on August 02, 2021

Having dazzled us as Villanelle in Killing Eve, Liverpudlian Jodie Comer is taking her impressive skills to Hollywood. First up, a sci-fi comedy opposite Ryan Reynolds.

Jodie Comer: “We all go through these years of feeling a bit lost and not really knowing who we are. And I feel like I know who I am now. I honestly think that the trick is to just not pay attention [to what other people think].”

When British actor Jodie Comer was daydreaming about packing her bags and heading to Hollywood, she signed up for elocution lessons. “Because I’d go into auditions and people would be thinking I couldn’t change my accent,” says Jodie, who hails from Liverpool. “So I thought, ‘Well, I have to have a different accent.’ And then I remembered working with Stephen Graham, and him saying to me, ‘Don’t you dare do anything to your accent.’ ”

Graham, an actor’s actor, had worked with Jodie on the BBC series Good Cop in 2012. Impressed with her talent, he persuaded his agent, Jane Epstein, to put Jodie on her books. Their careers would diverge: Stephen largely remains a hometown actor, starring in UK television dramas like The Virtues and Line of Duty, while Jodie beat a path to Hollywood and will soon have her first leading role in Free Guy.

But Jodie, seemingly an industry veteran at just 28, is walking, talking proof that you can take the girl out of Liverpool but you can’t take Liverpool out of the girl. As she sits down to talk to Sunday Life, we bond over our shared experience of her home town: the Royal Albert Dock, the renovation of Merseyside, and her childhood in Childwall, in the city’s south-east.

“I have a big family that I’m very close with, and always have been,” Jodie says. “They very much keep me on an even keel. Scousers, people from Liverpool, we’re a very specific breed. There’s something in the water, I don’t know where it comes from, but everyone’s very personable and got a very kind of wicked, naughty sense of humour. It’s something I really miss when I leave.

Jodie stepped into the global spotlight in 2018 as the star of the spy thriller series Killing Eve. She plays Villanelle, a Russian assassin obsessed with MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), who has been tasked with her capture. The role won Jodie an Emmy and a Bafta.

If you overlook a brief cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Jodie is about to make her feature-film debut in Free Guy, an action-comedy in which the real and virtual worlds become enmeshed.

She’ll follow that with two Ridley Scott films, The Last Duel, co-starring with Matt Damon, and Kitbag, in which she’ll play Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, Joséphine, opposite Joaquin Phoenix. As movie careers go, it’s not a bad start.
But the first cab off the rank is Free Guy, directed by Shawn Levy. It stars Ryan Reynolds as Guy, a bank teller in a virtual-world computer game who, thanks to a programming glitch, becomes aware that his world is a fictional construct.

Jodie plays Millie – online avatar Molotov Girl – a programmer who realises a sinister, code-stealing Silicon Valley fast-talker, Antoine (Taika Waititi), is going to cover his tracks by wiping this virtual world and restarting it, kicking off a race against time to save the self-aware Guy from erasure.

“I think what’s really interesting, and especially about Millie and Molotov Girl, is that the gaming world is also a very male-dominated industry,” says Jodie. “The film explores that through Millie’s experiences and the kind of obstacles she faces.”

Things are not so different, Jodie adds candidly, in Hollywood. “This is also a very heavily male-dominated industry. I love the idea that Molotov could be a role model for a younger generation of women. There’s a lot of innocence and life and humour there that I hope a lot of young women can relate to.”

Jodie understands the importance of role models, in turn acknowledging the women who have played an inspiring role in her life, from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who wrote Killing Eve, to the much less known Vanessa Caswill, who directed Jodie’s episode of Snatches, a 2018 series of monologues inspired by real women in history (she played a secretary exploring her sexuality in 1960s Liverpool).

“I love the idea that Molotov could be a role model for a younger generation of women. There’s a lot of innocence and life and humour there that I hope a lot of young women can relate to.”

“They play a huge part,” says Jodie. “It’s probably something that is more subconscious, something that filters through without me recognising it. What I’ve always admired about these women is they know who they are, and they’re so free in that expression.

“There could be an instance where a male director may lose his temper and shout and tell people what to do, and everyone will just go, ‘Okay, it’s the way he is.’ And if a woman was to do that, it would be, ‘Who does she think she is?’ So I think seeing these women in this space, and coming at it with such humility, is what inspires me. They do a brilliant job.”

One of the most difficult things about being an actor is that everyone has an opinion about your success or failure. The great thing for Jodie is that so many of those opinions are complimentary. The New Yorker, for example, describes Jodie as a woman of “mercurial, unassailable charisma”.

“I’m going to be honest, [the opinion of strangers] definitely used to hit a lot harder than it does now,” Jodie says candidly. “It’s very surreal, because you’re out there, you’re accessible to people through your work, and people form ideas of you. Plus the media is a very powerful thing, and people believe what they read.

“I think also that as you get older, you worry about these things less. We all go through these years of feeling a bit lost and not really knowing who we are. And I feel like I know who I am now. I honestly think that the trick is to just not pay attention to [what other people think].”

Jodie recalls a conversation with Phoebe Waller-Bridge during the early days of Killing Eve which shifted her perspective. “We were talking about reviews, opinions, whatever, and I said to Phoebe, ‘I think if you read the good stuff, you’ve got to read the bad stuff.’ And she was like, ‘No you f…ing don’t.’ And then, obviously, I just fell in love with her even more, which I didn’t think was possible.”

Jodie is notably private, even by Hollywood’s gatekeeper-driven gold standard. She does not talk about her personal life in interviews, which leaves the media to speculate. (She has been romantically linked to American lacrosse player James Burke, but has never discussed the relationship.) “My personal life feels so sacred to me now, and it’s something I want to protect,” she told Marie Claire magazine last year.

But Jodie does have an Instagram account with 1.8 million followers. Her social media “self” feels authentic, but it also highlights the performative nature of social media. “It’s something we all get swallowed up in,” she says.

“For me, it’s a public platform, and my Instagram is very much a work-focused thing. I sometimes post personal things, but that is when I’m feeling very comfortable.

“I’m constantly having that kind of see-saw of what I should do, what I feel comfortable doing. Some people are so much better at that. Some people find it so easy and don’t think about it. And I probably think about it too much.

But of course everyone has a responsibility. You don’t post the moments when you’re having a mini-breakdown on the sofa. It’s something that I’m always trying to navigate.”

She pauses. “I think we’ve become so consumed with ourselves. I was doing a yoga class the other day and my yoga teacher played a meditation, a song, at the end. And there was a guy speaking and he was like, ‘We’ve lost our curiosity.’

“And I thought, that is so true. You grow up as a child, and you question everything, you want to know everything, everything’s so brand new and you’re seeking out so much. Then, as we get older, we lose that curiosity.

Returning to her new film, she adds, “I think what’s so beautiful about Guy – he has this innocence. He’s experiencing things for the first time, and he’s finding the joy in the simplest of things. The heart of this film is essentially about realising your worth, and that you have agency. And that, if we all come together as a community, the things we can create and change are incredible.”

Free Guy opens in cinemas on August 12 in Victoria and on September 9 in NSW.

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