Cat and mouse. Hunter and, well, hunter. Mutually assured destruction/obsession. However you describe the relationship between Killing Eve’s instinctive, in-over-her-head, off-the-books MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and the petulant, sexually omnivorous, artistic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) — we will also accept “bats— crazy” — that forbidden bond mesmerized viewers and TV critics in 2018. After only eight episodes of the cunning, droll drama, the spy-thriller genre had been reinvigorated and reimagined, thanks to a pink tulle dress worn to a psych eval, a microwaved shepherd’s pie eaten mid–home invasion, etc. Season 1 culminated in a pileup of question marks and exclamation points — plus an Emmy nomination and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award trophies for Oh — as Eve trashed Villanelle’s apartment before cozying up with her in bed, only to impulsively jam a knife into her stomach, only to even more impulsively yank out the blade in regret, allowing Villanelle to escape. Things further ratchet up in intensity and intimacy when season 2 begins April 7 at 8 p.m. on BBC America (simulcast on AMC). “There’s a duality and a sense of self-examination — both women learning a lot about who they are,” sums up Eve executive producer Emerald Fennell of the new season. “We’re starting to see the mirror-image similarities between them, for the good and the bad. What does it look like when a psychopath starts to learn how to feel things, and when a woman who’s incredibly empathetic and intuitive starts to lose those parts of herself? At what point do they meet?” We met up with Oh, 47, and Comer, 25, in a debugged hotel room, where the actresses opened up about their characters’ killer dynamic, dropped clues about the intrigue to come, and coughed up the scene that almost cost one of them her life.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you read the script for Killing Eve, what was the single element that quickened your pulse and made you say, “I have to sign on”?
JODIE COMER: Initially it was the tone of the show, the voice that was the undercurrent of all of it. I found myself laughing out loud when I read it, which doesn’t happen all the time, and how [exec producer] Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] has subverted stereotypes in regards to Villanelle. When I read “assassin” I thought, [sighs disappointedly] “I know what this is going to be,” and I shouldn’t have, because Phoebe’s name was on it. I was like, “Wow. This is against what you usually see.”
SANDRA OH: Yeah, you would imagine, “Young female assassin, Russian,” and then you’re just going to go, “Ughhhh.”
COMER: Leather catsuit.
OH: Crawling around in sexy pants. It’s like, “What is this trope?” It’s so interesting how we’ve been trained in some ways to expect it, because the point of view has always been the same, honestly, for such a long time. Suddenly a completely different voice and a different point of view come in.
COMER: It was refreshing. I was really surprised by it. I just knew that it was going to be so much fun. Of course, hard work…
OH: Oh God, all the s— that you did? It was like, “Villanelle has to speak 5 billion languages and then have fights and then ride a motorcycle!”
COMER: They said to me at my initial audition, “You know, she speaks many languages,” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s fine! I can! Great!” [Oh laughs.] And then I kind of forgot about it, and then as each episode came through, I was like, “Ooooh. Oh, you guys weren’t kidding!”
One would think that Eve would have killed Villanelle in the season finale, but after plunging the knife into her, Eve had that panicked change of heart. What was your first reaction to that twist?