Glamour– Jodie Comer is the most talented actress of her generation and she has the receipts – or rather the accolades – to prove it. An Emmy award and a BAFTA award (she’s been nominated three times) are perhaps her most notable pieces of hardware, but her greatest achievement of all is that in a world where artifice rules, Jodie is a real queen of authenticity. That’s right, Jodie is even better in real life.
WATCH: Jodie Comer reveals the classism she has experienced in auditions due to her Liverpool accent and dealing with imposter syndrome
As Jodie prepares to star in Talking Heads – a new BBC reimagining of Alan Bennett’s monologues – where she plays an ambitious 1980s actress by the name of Lesley, she joins Josh Smith for the latest episode of GLAMOUR UNFILTERED, our bi-weekly chat show. Here Jodie talks about dealing with classist feedback in auditions because of her strong Liverpool accent, audition fails, building her self-esteem and putting her, “big girl pants on,” and why she never wants to be anyone’s milky cup of tea. Well Jodie, you are exactly our cup of tea…
Your episode of Talking Heads is a 45 minutes tour de force in acting from you…
It was so hard! I remember finishing the day and being like, “That is without a doubt the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” so it’s something I definitely feel proud of.
So, murdering multiple people on screen and learning hundreds of accents for Killing Eve isn’t challenging enough for you, babe?
You know what it was? It was the concentration. I think there was 20 pages of dialogue. Obviously, we shot it within the lockdown with new rules and regulations, less people on set and there was one other person on set with me at any given time. The set was deadly, deadly silent and usually sets are so chaotic. Everyone’s just running around, trying to do what they need to do last minute before the camera turns over. This time it was like tumbleweed. Then obviously you’re looking down the barrel of the lens, which you’re also told, “Pretend the cameras not there.” To get a bit loosey-goosey, it just took a little bit of time.
This is meant to be Lesley’s big break in Talking Heads. Throughout your career has there been a time when you felt like something was going to be your big break, and you were like, “This is it, honeys,” and then it didn’t happen?
God, do you know what? I don’t think I have. I think for me what I always realised was with each role that I did, I always learned something new. I feel like they all mount up together. I feel like they all make up to that big, big break. Obviously, Killing Eve was huge. I think I’m more of the pessimist. I’m always a bit like, “No one’s going to like it! Oh God!” You worry more, I think, than going, “Well, this is it, guys. I’ve made it!” It’s more like, “Oh my God. Everyone’s going to hate it. Then I’m never going to work again,” which always, of course, is silly.
Of course, you do things, and you put so much into them. Not everything lands well, it’s not like everything you do is a roaring success and that’s okay. But I think as long as you go into something with integrity and you know the reasons you’re doing it and why you believe in it, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit of a flop because you have stuck by your convictions. Whereas I think if you get into something for the wrong reasons, and then it doesn’t go well, then you’ve got to answer to yourself. I think actually that’s the hardest part, if you don’t kind of stay true to you and what you believe in.
What is your relationship with your self-critic like?
Oh my God! Well, up and down. It’s funny, and I think with myself critic with work, I’m better with dealing with that kind of critique of myself because I feel confident in what I do, I believe in what I do and I trust my strengths. Whereas if it’s something more personable, like your self-esteem or what people think of you or reading things online that aren’t true or those kinds of things, it’s harder for me to kind of put my big girl pants on and be like, “No, that isn’t right,” or, “That doesn’t make sense.” It just depends. It also depends on the time of the month, Josh, to be quite honest with you!
So, here’s some good news for the culture-starved. Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads – the playwright’s hilarious and heartbreaking monologues from the ’80s and ’90s (and stalwarts of A Level and GSCE exam papers) – are returning to BBC primetime. Remade in the middle of lockdown with a new, all-star lineup, they will land on iPlayer on 23 June before being rolled out piecemeal on BBC One in the coming weeks. With socially-distanced crews and actors doing their own hair and make-up (monologues are the ideal Covid set-up, aren’t they?), 10 of Bennett’s seminal dozen were re-filmed last month with the likes of Kristin Scott Thomas, Harriet Walter, Lucian Msamati, Martin Freeman and Imelda Staunton. (He has even penned two new instalments for Sarah Lancashire and Monica Dolan.)
Then there’s Jodie Comer. When the call came, the nascent superstar, famed for Killing Eve (and her recent British Vogue cover), found herself at home with her family and a suddenly wide-open schedule, having had to down tools on Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which she had been filming in France alongside Adam Driver and Matt Damon. She jumped at the chance, especially when she found out Josie Rourke (former head of the Donmar Warehouse) would direct her. Though it turned out to be anything but easy. “This is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Comer.
For 40 sublime minutes, the award-winning Scouser plays aspirant, ’80s actress Lesley in Her Big Chance. Delivered straight into the camera lens in a series of wincingly funny, breath-catchingly sad vignettes, she relays the tale of our somewhat delusional heroine’s sudden and unlikely casting in a film that slowly reveals itself to be a soft porn piece, “for the West German market”. Julie Walters did Lesley first time around, to iconic effect. “I watched the first minute of it then switched it off,” says Comer of trying to watch the earlier version, scared to drift too close. And it worked. Comer has brought all her dazzling, own-brand pathos to what is sure to be one of the most talked-about slices of TV of the year.
Naturally, we have a Zoom to talk everything from Bennett to what she’s planning to wear to the socially-distanced TV BAFTAs next month. Dialling in ahead of her daily pilates session (remote, naturally), the 27-year-old is at home and in good spirits, with her shaken out hair at maximum volume, to say nothing of some excellent minimalist athleisurewear.
So, first things first. Did you actually have to do your own make-up?
“Yes! It was fun actually. We tried to make sure it had the ’80s feel while being a little more stripped back. I was a bit worried, as sometimes when you’re getting your last hair and make-up checks on set, that’s your little quiet minute to get in the zone. So I was worried that doing it myself, being self-conscious in that way – making sure I looked okay – would be a bit distracting for getting into character. But I made it all part of Lesley. We did a smoky eye.”
Is it true you only had three weeks to learn it all?
“It all happened very quickly, which means I couldn’t overthink it too much at least. I got the email from my agent and within a few days me and Josie were rehearsing on Skype in the mornings. Then we shot it in a day and there was only one person on set with me at any given time. It was completely silent apart from me talking. All day down the barrel of the lens.”
Are you good at learning lines?
“Well, I like to think I generally am [laughs]. But with a text that big it’s so much more difficult.”
Forty minutes of non-stop, very precise script delivery. Ouch…
“The challenge was we shot every scene in just one take. If ever I fluffed a line, I had to take a deep breath and go back to the beginning.”
What was the most number of takes you had to do?
“Scene three, when she’s waiting to go on set. It was four or five-o-clock in the afternoon by that point.”
Three takes? Five?
“[Laughing] Definitely more like that, yes. Just missing a word! The crew were very patient.”
Has it made you want to do theatre?
“I would love to do theatre! It terrifies me, the thought of it. Because I haven’t been to drama school – though of course I have my process – I’ve always thought I was lacking a little bit in detail. But working with Josie was incredible. We ripped the script apart and she helped me bring to life so many things beyond the page.”
So when might we see you on stage?
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone for so many theatre auditions [in the past] and been told that I’m not experienced enough. I wouldn’t say it was malicious, but maybe there was a little bit of a snobbery there. And the insecurity with me is that I’m not theatre trained. I’ve always been waiting for the perfect moment. I actually got sent an amazing play which I’m probably not allowed to talk about…”
Did you call Alan Bennett before you took on Lesley?
“I didn’t. I was too nervous. Josie spoke to him and said, ‘He said if you want to call him and ask him any questions, he’s happy to do that.’ But I was so terrified to do it justice and said I wouldn’t because of nerves. But I definitely would love to now. Once they’ve been out and he’s seen them, I would love to ring him and say thank you for trusting me.”
It is laugh-out-loud funny. What line from it makes you giggle most?
“There are so many good bits. It’s all the mundane little parts that make me really laugh. I love the bit where she just goes: ‘When the phone went telling me I got the part I assumed it was Simon, so I said, ‘Hello Simon!’ He said: ‘Try Nigel.’ So I said, ‘Well Nigel….’”
And the line that breaks your heart?
“Whenever I get to the last paragraph and she just says: ‘Acting is giving.’ I always want to cry. That final paragraph is so emotional for me.”
What has lockdown meant for the next series of Killing Eve?
“They were planning to go on time, but with everything shut down you can’t do location scouting and things like that, so everything is very much up in the air. I was halfway through The Last Duel, and we don’t have very much left on that.”
How’s the quiet life?
“Yeah, it’s good. I’m up in Liverpool. Obviously I’m itching to get back to some sort of normal. Now when I have to leave the house for something it feels like the biggest thing ever. I’ve been watching a lot of telly.”
“Ozark, each season gets stronger and stronger. It’s incredible how they continue to keep raising the bar.”
Noted. And congratulations on the third BAFTA nomination for Killing Eve next month. How do you think the socially-distanced ceremony is going to work?
“I guess like this… on a Zoom! [Laughs] And what’s the dress code?”
Have they given any guidance?
“Not yet. But it might be quite nice. I might just do a flashy top and wear my pyjamas on the bottom. That way I can say I wore my pyjamas to the BAFTAs.”
Talking Heads will be available on BBC iPlayer from 23 June and Jodie’s monologue, Her Last Chance, will air on BBC One on 29 June at 8:45pm
New York Times- Killer acting role leads to killer skin care? Not exactly, but both are true for Jodie Comer, who is known for her role as the sociopathic but charismatic assassin Villanelle on the darkly comic “Killing Eve,” just back for Season 3. These days, Ms. Comer, 27, is sheltering in place with her family in Liverpool, England, where she grew up. Hear what she’s putting on and also cooking up.
Caffeine First For me, it’s definitely coffee before anything. I treated myself to an espresso machine recently, and it’s changed my world. I read a little bit. Then at some point, I get up and wash my face and kind of do what I’d be doing anyway if I was going to a day’s work.
Getting Into Her Skin When I was in high school, I literally used to baby wipe my face. I’m mortified to admit this. Through my late teens, I was a big makeup girl. I was born in Liverpool, and I don’t know if you know this, but the girls here and in Manchester and Essex too, we love our makeup. I mean the full get-up. So much effort goes into all that. I loved it — the eyes, the full face. That was definitely me. Skin care wasn’t something I thought about much until a friend introduced me to a facialist in London, Jasmina Vico. It was through Jasmina that I became educated about the importance of skin care and how it can signal what’s going on in your body. Like now, I recently changed my contraceptive, and my skin has gone crazy. I didn’t realize how much hormones can freak out. I’ve always had kind of good skin — I’m really lucky. Now, it’s like, Whoa! I know, I know, I’m trying to not be a drama queen. Being indoors so much more probably doesn’t help and disturbs everything a bit. I think there’s something to letting the sun be on skin.
The New Routine Now I’m on a routine with a step-by-step with Noble Panacea products. The brand approached me, and I liked how the products complement one another. I particularly like the eye cream and the serum. I find the serum kind of great if you’re working out. I have oily combination skin, and I don’t want anything heavy on my skin when I work out, but I don’t want it feeling dry either. The serum hydrates just enough. And the moisturizer has such a gorgeous consistency. It feels like there’s a thin layer that continues to moisturize all day. I try to exfoliate once a week. I use the Clarisonic tool with the different brushes. I usually do that on Sunday.
Makeup Cleanse The film I was doing went on hiatus. When I came back home to Liverpool, I cleaned all of my makeup brushes. I’m waiting for the day when we can all go out and party together again. The brushes, they are ready to go! Right now, I’ve just given up. I haven’t worn makeup for the past couple of weeks. I have no shame on Zoom meetings either. When I’m on sets, they’re constantly reapplying makeup. It’s kind of nice to let my skin breathe. That’s my excuse at least! In more regular daily life, I love Hourglass. You just can’t go wrong. I love the foundation sticks. They have a thick consistency, but I put it on the back of my hand and then put it on with my finger tips. I also have the highlighting palette. That’s always good for giving me the illusion of a healthy glow. I get them here at Space NK. I was very lucky that Pat McGrath sent me some of her products when I met her last year. I love her mascara, and there’s a lipstick in a color called Love Supreme. The shade is very close to my natural color but a little bit more pink. Otherwise, Nars lip crayons, they’re always a good go-to. I used to buy crazy colored lipsticks. When I was out of work when I was younger, I actually did a makeup class in Liverpool. I just hoarded makeup then. Now I’m just into giving my natural lip a boost.
What Does Killer Makeup Look Like? When I think of Villanelle, I think comfort above everything. For her, makeup is not a necessity. So for her look, it’s natural and simple, day to day, and then she experiments with the other personas she inhabits. But more often than not, when I rewatch something, I’ll think, “Oh God, that makeup feels too much.” I don’t think she would be into upkeep. I don’t think she has the time to take out a lip liner and reapply.
Fragrance I wear Le Labo Santal 33. I feel like everyone in the universe wears it now. But it smells different on each person — or so I want to think! I definitely copied off an actress I worked with. We would ride the lift every day, and I would smell it on her, and it would be that amazing smell. But we’re all copying each other. I have no shame in admitting.
Gym Time I do Pilates with my trainer David Higgins. He’s in London, so we just do a FaceTime call. I need someone to make sure I’m not slacking. Also, we have a little makeshift gym in the back of my parents’ house. We’re all making appointments for it — it’s good fun. Or I just use these elastic bands that I have for travel. And I have a foam roller. If I just stretch out and roll my back and legs, I feel like it releases so much tension. It’s satisfying to hear all the clicks on your back — it’s like I’m a new woman. Otherwise, I’m just taking walks, really.
What Diet? I just had six chocolate digestive biscuits! I’m having one of those days. I did download the Deliciously Ella app. They have a lot of vegan and vegetarian recipes, and me and my mum have been trying them. What I’ve realized during this time is how much I enjoy cooking. If I’m working long hours, I can’t be bothered. It’s the first thing that goes. There’s a place in London called Detox Kitchen, and the lady who owns it has been doing little Stories on Instagram on how to make a meal of what’s left in your fridge. You can also make the meals and stick them in the fridge or freezer — although there are four of us in the house, so nothing really makes it to the freezer. Chocolates are big. It was just Easter. We have so many mini eggs. I don’t know if you have them, but they are just so good. The weird, crazy, bizarre thing when you’re off work is that you lose track of time. We might be half into the day and it’s sunny out and we’re like, “Should we have some wine?” It’s like, “No!” You can’t do that every day, but there is really no right or wrong. The Pilates keeps me sane, but then so does the chocolate. Just do what you need to do in the moment.
When Jodie Comer agreed to share her “lasts” with British Vogue, it swiftly became apparent that April’s cover girl is Hollywood’s most relatable young star. From the last thing she screenshotted (a “ridiculously expensive” coat she’s lusting after) to the most recent picture on her camera roll (a selfie snapped after a hot-sauce-in-the-eye incident), the Killing Eve star is just like any other twenty-something. Aside from her Best Actress BAFTA and upcoming blockbuster movie role in Free Guy, that is. Watch the video to see Comer reveal more of her “lasts”, as well as the book Phoebe Waller-Bridge told her to read, and why she slid into a Sex Education star’s DMs…
As Jodie Comer prepares for her first major Hollywood release – sci-fi blockbuster Free Guy – British Vogue features director Giles Hattersley meets a woman with the world at her feet.
For aspiring actors outside the M25, Jodie Comer’s rise to fame is the most exciting Tinseltown invasion since noted Brummie Julie Walters stormed the 1984 Oscars with Educating Rita. The past 12 months have shown how unstoppable the 26-year-old Liverpudlian is: she scored an Emmy and a BAFTA for her role as the charismatic televisual sociopath Villanelle in Killing Eve, and has a feverish millennial fan base backing her.
Comer was discovered, quite by accident, at age 12, when she read a dramatic monologue about the Hillsborough tragedy at a local theatre festival, and was cast in her first professional job not long after – a BBC Radio 4 play that paid £200. She has worked solidly ever since, whether on television or at Tesco in-between jobs, building a career without drama school or industry contacts (her father Jimmy is a sports massage therapist at Everton FC, her mother Donna works for Merseytravel).
Well, almost solidly. “I remember there was a year where I didn’t work for eight or nine months,” Comer tells British Vogue. “You get up in the morning, get yourself ready, get to the train station, two-hour train, get to your audition, you’re in there for 10 minutes, and then you’re coming all the way back home. Sometimes I was doing it three times a week. What I realised, the more that I wasn’t working, was that I stunk of desperation, basically. It became: ‘I need the job.’ And then you go into auditions and they can smell it.”
She has since found her niche playing small-screen dynamos lacking empathy – from My Mad Fat Diary’s resident mean girl, Chloe, to Kate, the notorious other woman in Dr Foster. And of course, Villanelle in Killing Eve. What can we expect from season three? Will we get more glimpses into the assassin’s past? “We kind of delve into it a little bit,” she confirms. “The audience love what they love about her, but it’s been nice to show a different side to that. Maybe a little bit of vulnerability.”
The conversation drifts to her life outside of work. In reality, she doesn’t have much time to go out and socialise with her schedule being what it is. Not a lot has been written about Comer and love, for example. But, “I’m very much in it,” she says. “I think love’s the best. I’d been single for a while and just kind of going with the flow and doing my thing. That’s the thing, isn’t it? When you’re relaxed and letting the universe do what it’s doing, things kind of fall into place. Which is very much what happened. Which is great.”
Jodie Comer is remarkably close with her family — which is why, ironically, the “Killing Eve” star didn’t bother to invite them to the Emmys this past weekend.
It’s not that she didn’t want them to fly in from Liverpool and be there to cheer her on. But Comer had no expectation of winning the bloody trophy and didn’t want them to be disappointed.
“It’s nice to bring your parents to these things,” she says. “But I just said, ‘Oh no, sit this one out. Now’s not my time.’ I’m probably not going to ever live that one down with them, or they’ll be coming to every single thing now!”
Comer won the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama, beating out contenders Laura Linney, Viola Davis, Robin Wright, Mandy Moore, Emilia Clarke and her “Killing Eve” co-star, Sandra Oh. At 26, Comer is the first Emmy lead actress winner to have been born in the 1990s, and the kudos come after also winning a BAFTA TV Award for the role in May.
Emmy night was a bit of a blur for Comer, but she remembers a few key things, including embracing Oh and getting a cheer from “Killing Eve” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge before climbing onstage.
“I actually don’t know what I was thinking. I was in a complete state of shock,” Comer says. “During the day I was strangely calm because I didn’t think it would be me. But it also happened so fast. You’re standing in front of all of these people, and you want to say the right thing and don’t want to miss anybody. You want to soak it up, not rush it, and take it all in. I feel like I blabbered on a lot!”
Variety caught up with the rising star the day after her victory, as Comer reflected on the win, what “Killing Eve” has meant to her, the chemistry with co-star Oh that fueled the AMC-BBC America show’s instant success and what’s next (including a feature film with Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi).
But first, her family. She’s going to have to make it up to them, but Comer’s not too worried: They were celebrating all night in their Liverpool suburb (the telecast didn’t end until 4 a.m. in the U.K.). “They’d been up drinking and watching it,” says Comer. “They were still up, which I was really impressed by. There were tears; there were screams. They’re just incredibly proud, which means a lot. Just a lot of chaos on the phone!”
Comer, who’s fighting a cold and a hoarse throat at the moment, played it chill on Emmy night, packing it in by 2 a.m.
“I was so tired; it was such a long day,” she says. “I was with my agents and the ‘Killing Eve’ team, and we had a couple of drinks to celebrate, and lots of pizza. Also, my voice isn’t usually like this. I sound a little bit like Marge Simpson.”
The relatively mellow evening was a contrast to that of Waller-Bridge, who went viral the next morning with a photo of herself, cigarette in hand, enjoying the Emmy life deep into the night. But even as the “Killing Eve” creator mused on her own wins (comedy series, comedy writing and comedy lead actress statuettes for “Fleabag”), she took a moment to celebrate Comer’s success.
“I think she’s given a once-in-a-generation performance and she’s a once-in-a-generation actress,” Waller-Bridge told Variety on Emmy night.
For Comer, the feeling was mutual — “She was killing it all evening,” she says of Waller-Bridge — and it was serendipity that both enjoyed an Emmy night to remember. It was a chance meeting at another ceremony, the BAFTAs, that led to Waller-Bridge casting Comer on “Killing Eve.”
At the 2017 event, Comer — a tremendous fan of “Fleabag” — and Waller-Bridge partied hard. Their antics got a bit out of hand, to the point that Comer, when contacted to audition for “Killing Eve,” was nervous, lest Waller-Bridge recall that night with any shame.
“We were both really drunk, until silly o’clock in the morning, and kind of forgot about it,” Comer recalls. “Then months later I got the ‘Killing Eve’ audition. You know when you get the fear when you can’t remember from a hangover, and you’re like, ‘Oh, God, was I doing an embarrassing dance? Did I do something cringey?’ I panicked, but we spoke on the phone, and she was like, ‘We were in the same boat. It’s all good.’”
Comer didn’t have to fret. She brought a performance style and a personality that Waller-Bridge and executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle were looking for in the role: a “chameleon.” Says Gentle: “We didn’t want a puckish ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ type; we wanted someone that you could sit next to on the tube and really have no idea what they had just been doing. [Comer] has the ability to transform, and it feels totally effortless. She’s such an extraordinary talent; she just does it.”
Based on a series of thriller novellas (later compiled as the book “Codename Villanelle”) by U.K. author Luke Jennings, “Killing Eve” is a cat-and-mouse tale of two women who come to depend on one another — while also trying to kill each other. Comer is Villanelle, a Russian assassin who is doggedly pursued by Eve Polastri (Oh), a marginalized MI5 agent who gets her mojo back by chasing the enigmatic killer.
Villanelle murders without remorse and comes with absolutely no filter, which gives the show much of its dry, dark humor. For two seasons, Comer has dived into the role so completely that sometimes viewers are startled when they meet her. And not just because she speaks with a Liverpudlian, rather than Russian, accent.
“The person who I’ve been alongside for this whole experience has been Sandra,” Comer says of her co-star, Oh, who was also nominated for best actress in a drama series at the Emmys Sunday night. MICHAEL BUCKNER/VARIETY/SHUTTERS
“They’re surprised that I’m nice,” she says. But she also loves when fans sheepishly admit that they kind of like Villanelle. “I’m like, ‘Good. I like that conflict that you’re experiencing when you’re watching television.’ It’s good to make people feel something, and she definitely seems to do that.”
Comer and the producers have shied away from calling Villanelle a psychopath, but they do characterize her as a person with psychopathic traits. The occasional vulnerability in Villanelle gives Comer even more to work with. Gentle points to a scene in Season 2 when Villanelle kills someone in Amsterdam in the hope that Eve will show up to investigate — then is disappointed when she doesn’t and loses her grip, going on an uncharacteristic bender.
“On set she’s got a really good sense of humor, and she understands what fun this role of Villanelle gives her — the action, the fight sequences, the fact the character doesn’t give a damn about the terrible things she’s doing,” Gentle says. “And she gets that black humor. She completely understands the tone of the show. If you didn’t, it would be a struggle in that role. But she understands there’s an immoral naughtiness at the center.”
Adds Sarah Barnett, AMC Networks president of Entertainment Networks Group/AMC Studios: “Jodie can go from chilling to hilarious to sexy to bored, bratty teenager within five seconds. You can’t take your eyes off of her.”
“She’s given a once-in-a-generation performance and she’s a once-in-a-generation actress.”
PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE, “
KILLING EVE” CREATOR
It’s a skill that Comer perfected at a young age, having caught the acting bug when she won a competition at the Liverpool Drama Festival. By 14, she was booking gigs like a part in a BBC Radio 4 play. “My parents would never push me into it,” she says. “I fell into it and had the opportunity to go with an agent, and they were like, ‘Look, if it’s what you want to do.’”
By the time Comer landed the lead in the BBC series “Thirteen” in 2015, she felt she was on an established career path. Then came Starz’s “The White Princess,” followed by “Killing Eve,” which she now considers the “big break.”
Audiences quickly gravitated to the show, which premiered on BBC America in 2018 and received weekly ratings growth right up to its Season 1 finale — the first time any TV show had done that in more than a decade, according to the network. For Season 2, AMC simulcast the series with BBC America, which helped grow it another 87% among total viewers in live-plus-seven ratings.
“We knew we had something special on our hands,” Barnett says. “People couldn’t stop talking about it. Our world has never been more competitive, and BBC America isn’t a huge platform. To watch it catch fire through word of mouth is so rare these days.”
And as viewers revel in the exploits of Villanelle, Comer says she’s having a blast playing the character.
“The fun doesn’t stop with her,” says Comer, who compares Villanelle to a Kinder egg — the chocolate treat with a surprise inside. “Her outer shell is Villanelle. … Inside is the real person,” she says. “As the series goes on, we’re peeling that away and getting to the core of who she is, or her having to face the things she’s pushed down for so long.”
That’s not to say the character is redeemable. “She’s a bad person,” Comer says. “We’re not excusing this person, ever.”
Central to the narrative is the deadly attraction between Villanelle and Eve, which leads to Eve stabbing Villanelle at the end of Season 1 and Villanelle shooting Eve in the Season 2 finale. The magnetism between the two actresses is real, and it was critical to making “Killing Eve” work. Oh was already on board as Eve when Comer came in for a chemistry read — and nailed it.
“They either spark or they don’t,” Gentle says. “They’re very different performers, and in a way that helps. You can get a sense that they’re both looking at each other, realizing that they’re different animals linked by some commonality. Her extraordinary chemistry with Sandra — I know it’s a trite thing to say, but it’s true — it’s a win for both of them. It’s just brilliant.”
Comer says she feels it both on screen and off. “The person who I’ve been alongside for this whole experience has been Sandra,” she says. “Initially these women never spent any time together. But when they did there had to be this electricity.”
Despite competing with Oh for the Emmy (a circumstance they also experienced at the BAFTA and Critics’ Choice awards), Comer dismisses the notion of it being uncomfortable.
“I think people think it’s more awkward than it is,” she says. “I’ve always said I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of a show that has two female leads that are complex and in the same category. It’s pretty special that we’re both in there together. We’re so celebratory of each other, as is the whole crew. There’s no hard feelings.”
Indeed, what has made “Killing Eve” stand out from the pack is the female power behind and in front of the camera. The Television Academy clearly noticed, nominating Fiona Shaw (who plays Eve’s boss, shady spy Carolyn) in the drama supporting actress category in addition to the nods for Comer and Oh.
“It’s delicious,” Comer says. “To work with Fiona and Sandra and Phoebe, and we have Sally and [executive producer] Gina [Mingacci]: There are so many incredible women — and men — who are a part of this show. But as a young woman within this industry, to be surrounded by these women is incredible.”
Adds Barnett: “It’s a show that really is able to showcase an incredible array of very talented women, from Phoebe as an executive producer to Sandra, who won the Golden Globe this year, to Fiona Shaw getting this amazing platform in the U.S. to now Jodie Comer.”
Production on Season 3 is under way overseas, and two episodes have been shot with new head writer Suzanne Heathcote, who took over for Season 2’s Emerald Fennell (who in turn replaced Waller-Bridge). The changes at the helm would seem to present a challenge to continuity, but Comer takes the shuffle in stride.
“We still have the same tone of the show and everything the show stands for,” she says. “It keeps things fresh. You adapt and you learn. It’s a huge part of the job that I enjoy.”
Shooting was halted during the past week as Comer, Oh and Shaw traveled to the U.S. to attend the Emmys. But with the ceremony over, by Monday everyone was prepping to return and get back to work.
“I can’t tell you anything — I was sworn to secrecy for Season 3,” Comer says. “But what I’m really excited about are the emotions that Eve has stirred up within Villanelle. I think it triggers a lot. There’s still a lot of craziness going on, and Villanelle is up to her old tricks. But I think we’ll definitely see Villanelle in a much deeper sense.”
Next up, Comer will be seen in 2020 in her biggest feature to date, “Free Guy,” an action comedy in which she stars opposite Reynolds and Waititi as two characters: a video-game code writer and “Molotov Girl,” her badass avatar.
“Whatever the challenge is, Jodie attacks it,” says “Free Guy” director Shawn Levy. “She had to do a stunt which involved her descending on a cable rig from 30 feet in the air, and after a couple of takes I said, ‘Are you scared?’ She said, ‘I’m just scared of not doing it great.’ She is a perfectionist. Whether it’s the accent, the physicality, the performance, she wants to be great.”
It was the first time Comer had filmed in the United States, and it required her to spend three months in Boston. Comer says she was overwhelmed by the scale of the production, but Levy is in awe of what she accomplished.
“You’re asking a non-comedic actress to jump into the first studio movie of her life, her first Hollywood big-budget picture, and she’s suddenly doing heavy improvisational comedy with some true maestros,” he says. “She was able to become fluent in that language, which is completely different to dramatic acting, and she was able to master that new language as well. That’s the revelation you’re going to see in ‘Free Guy.’”
With success, Comer is now figuring out how to juggle fame and privacy. She’s on social media but limits her posts mostly to promotional material. “I think there should always be an air of mystery,” she says. “But then also, a huge part of our success is the people who support us, and I think it’s so important to engage in that. It’s about finding that balance.”
Comer says she’s patient about discovering the next challenge, but with an Emmy in hand and a major feature on the way, Hollywood is paying attention. Gentle believes we’re just seeing the beginning of Comer’s rise.
“Within the first week of filming ‘Killing Eve’ Season 1, I knew she was going to be a massive star,” Gentle says. “It’s not just because I know her, but when she’s in a room, you can feel the glow coming off her. She’s going to keep going on and on. I think she’s barely scraped the surface.”
Jodie Comer became an international star for her portrayal of psychopathic assassin Villanelle in BBC’s Killing Eve – a long way from her pre-fame shifts on the Tesco checkout. As the second series of the hit show airs, Jodie talks to GLAMOUR’s Josh Smith about dealing with fame, and how she slayed her own teenage insecurities to put the sass into assassin
Photographs by Josh Shinner, Styling by Elizabeth Saltzman, Styling assistant Lisa Batkina, Make-up by Naoko Scintu, Hair by Patrick Wilson, Nails by Cherrie Snow
It’s just under 12 months since Jodie Comer burst onto our screens – and into global pop-culture consciousness – as Killing Eve’s super-assassin, Villanelle. The one-woman slaying machine with a Net-A-Porter wardrobe, sexy AF Russian accent and spicy chemistry – both sexual and murderous – with the fellow lead Eve (played by Sandra Oh) made for TV as addictive as Pringles. But most importantly, the character of Villanelle – despite drawing much of her power from some pretty gruesome acts – has, in the hands of Jodie, become one of the most empowering women ever seen on screen.
Cue rave reviews for the 25-year-old, celebrity fans including Anne Hathaway, and a BAFTA TV Award. All of which is even more impressive considering Jodie had zero formal training, and some unfortunate GCSE Drama results. “I got an A* in my practical drama and I got a U in my written,” she laughs, in her thick Scouse twang. “I think my drama teacher made an example of me. You know people who would go home, do their homework, revise? It wasn’t my vibe.”
Watch Jodie become the ultimate Agony Aunt with hilarious results
In fact, Jodie only started acting when her drama teacher put her forward for a BBC Radio 4 play, at the age of 12. Around this time she was expelled from a burgeoning girl group for failing to commit to rehearsals. After hearing Jodie’s rendition of Jamelia’s Superstar during our GLAMOUR shoot, I reckon the band members didn’t know a good thing when they saw it. But that setback didn’t affect Jodie’s career, and she went on to make her TV debut at 15 with guest roles in The Royal and Holby City, along with a stint ‘werking’ the Tesco checkouts, of course.
“I used to have a part time job and the woman [the boss] hated me,” Jodie recalls. “It was Tesco, I worked on the checkout – she just proper had it in for me. I think it was because I was hungover! I had the 10am-4pm shift on the Saturday and then the Sunday 10-4,” she laughs.
But thanks to her star turn as public enemy No1 – AKA the mistress in BBC’s 2015 hit Doctor Foster, she was able to permanently swap her Tesco uniform for red-carpet clobber. And then the *real* big break came at the 2017 BAFTA Awards, when she plucked up the courage (fueled by alcohol) to introduce herself to Fleabag herself, Phoebe Waller Bridge – the writer and producer of Killing Eve.
Despite her epic CV, Jodie remains – à la J-Lo – Jodie from the block. Between filming she still lives at home in Liverpool with her parents (her mother works for Merseytravel and her father is a sports massage therapist for Everton FC), and her younger brother Charlie.
Her friends and family have remained her security blanket throughout the past two years. “My best mate Liv in particular [has been by my side]. She knows everything about me,” Jodie says, citing a friendship that began at St. Julie’s Catholic High School in Liverpool, where she also counted Olympian Katarina Johnson-Thompson as a close pal. “We’ve got a girls’ group chat,” says Jodie. “It’s called ‘Hoes in Different Area Codes’ because we are never in the same place at the same time… so that’s always very lively.”
As a very ‘lively’ Jodie continues, it’s evident that just like Villanelle, you never know what she’s going to say next. “WhatsApp’s got us all by the balls, though! It’s like these are all private chats, but are they though?” Jodie questions before asking me, seriously: “Do you cover your webcam with a sticker? I’m so paranoid! I always have a sticker over it. My first one was an alien but if you peel a sticker off too many times, you can’t use them anymore. So now I have a pink heart that says ‘ladies’ on it.” Jodie has taken tips from Eve’s MI5 handbook, then.
Sisterhood both on and off screen has clearly been a source of comfort to Jodie as she’s navigated her meteoric rise. And, for all the hype, she has battled the same insecurities we have all faced. “In my late teens, I was so insecure about my body. I had a really unhealthy obsession with being thin,” Jodie confides as we wade into the charged topic of body image. “It’s something I struggle to speak about because I can’t really remember it. You know when you have a moment in life where it’s a total blur?
“When I look back at the time, I really lost interest in my acting because I was so obsessed with how I looked. I don’t remember wanting to go to auditions or being passionate about doing it. It’s so hard when you’re a teen. We used to have Piczo and people would have pages of ‘rate the girl’ and they’d have a picture of one girl and a picture of the other and there would be a comment box and you’d have to pick which girl was the fittest. Isn’t that disgusting? It blows my mind.”
However, after witnessing Jodie serve angles even Tyra Banks would be proud of on her GLAMOUR cover shoot, it’s clear that nowadays she’s found her confidence. “I’m extremely lucky that isn’t a thing for me anymore,” she says. “Now I want to feel strong and healthy. To do what I do you need to have stamina and you have so much time in your own head that you really have to. It’s like how people play instruments. Your body is your instrument.”
Jodie’s newly honed zero-BS approach to life is a handy tool when you have Hollywood knocking on your door – she’s currently filming her first feature film Free Guy, opposite Ryan Reynolds. “When I was younger, I was very aware of how I looked and as I got older, I was like. ‘I am not a model, I’m an actress!’ I was succumbing less to the pressures of that kind of world, because I much preferred seeing characters who looked like sh*t or don’t care about it,” she says.
“When I put makeup on, I automatically become very aware of what I look like. The reason you don’t get a part isn’t solely because of your talent, there’s so many other factors, and as soon as you accept that and let it go, the better it is for you to move on and go to the next thing.”
Villanelle might have a life-threatening impact on those around her, but the character has clearly had a more positive transformative impact on Jodie’s life. “I don’t know if it’s through turning 25 or playing Villanelle, but I feel like I’m more honest with myself and with my relationships, work relationships, personal relationships, just everything,” she says. “I find myself being a bit more honest with people. I’m a lot clearer minded. Villanelle just says what she thinks.”
She continues: “When you’re going through your teens and early 20s, everyone is playing games with each other. No one just says how they feel. That’s what I love about Phoebe – she’s so honest and when you’re around someone like that it’s so infectious and attractive when someone says what they feel, and they stand by it. That’s a good quality to have.”
With such women as Phoebe and Sandra at the centre of Killing Eve, the show isn’t just a gripping drama with a side helping of comedy and frothy fashion, it also represents changing attitudes in TV, which are moving towards putting powerful females in lead roles. But as Jodie herself shows, there is as much power in showing your emotions as in wielding an assassin’s knife.
“These women and characters are complex,” she says. “For an actress to play those roles is exciting and challenging and should be available to everyone. It’s the ‘strong’ thing that gets misinterpreted, as actually sometimes there is a strength in being quite vulnerable.”
What is the ultimate lesson Jodie has taken from the show about womanhood? “Freedom,” she says without hesitation. “These women are doing whatever the f*ck they want to do without consequence – within reason. It’s hard because I know Villanelle is a bad person, but there’s also something so free in her as she does what she wants to do and stands by it. Take away the killing people, just doing something and standing by it and not apologising for anything, that’s what I’ve learnt through these women. Neither character is black or white, good or bad. There’s times when you’re on Villanelle’s side and times when you go, ‘Oh that wasn’t a great move.’”
However, while roles for strong women – flaws and all – are becoming more common, I wonder if she still has to deal with everyday sexism? “Within everyday sexism, it’s hard – there’s the obvious things where you go into an audition room and it’s not very welcoming or you’re met with a certain attitude,” she says.
“But ultimately, I hate people calling me names! You know when someone’s scooting past you on the train and there’s a touch or a name like, ‘Hey darlin!’ I’m like, ‘Urrrgghh! Dude, put it away. Put it on the shelf!’ I’ve just been really lucky with who I’ve been surrounded with, like Sandra, Phoebe and Fiona [Shaw, her Killing Eve co-star]. But even though the show is fronted by women, there are so many men behind it who champion it. It’s always important to not forget that.”
Two other valuable lessons from filming Killing Eve that Jodie won’t forget in a hurry are to chew properly and to possibly invest in some laxatives. “I had a really terrifying moment this series,” Jodie tells me, as my mind whirls with images of potential stunt injuries.
“For one scene I had to eat pasta all day for nine hours and I literally didn’t go to the toilet for two weeks,” she says. “It was the most excruciating pain I’ve been in. It was thick tagliatelle. It was my close up and it slipped down the back of my throat and was stuck,” she reenacts the scene with her hands around her throat.
“I full on couldn’t breathe and the actor in front of me thought I was making a really weird acting face, but I couldn’t breathe. The medic had to come in and I was crying. I loved the fact that of all the things that could have killed Villanelle, it was pasta. That was terrifying. We have a laugh about it now because I’m alive and kicking.”
The Envelope recently gathered the actors who have brought some of your favorite TV dramas to life — Jason Bateman (Netflix’s “Ozark”), Patricia Clarkson (HBO’s “Sharp Objects”), Jodie Comer (BBC America’s “Killing Eve”), Bob Odenkirk (AMC’s “Better Call Saul”), Billy Porter (FX’s “Pose”) and Lorraine Toussaint (NBC’s “The Village”) — to talk about the pros and cons of Peak TV, the roles that push beyond the comfort zone, fan overreactions and nervous breakdowns.
Here is an excerpt from their conversation edited for length and clarity. The full interview will air on Spectrum News 1, starting June 7 at 9 p.m.
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