"She's pushed much further than she's ever been," says the actress of the cryptic MI6 boss.

By Dan Snierson
April 08, 2020 at 12:41 PM EDT
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Killing Eve

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Eleven months after viewers watched Villanelle turn her expedition to Rome with Eve into a mess of murder and manipulation, Killing Eve returns to reveal the ramifications — and to add new layers of intrigue and betrayal to this bloody spy game.

The season 2 finale of BBC America’s alluring thriller saw Europe-trotting assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) slice open the neck of Aaron Peel (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) in front of MI6 operative Eve (Sandra Oh) and coax Eve into axing to death her handler Raymond (Adrian Scarborough). Villanelle wasn't done yet; when Eve refused to run away with her, the lethal psychopath exacted petulant retribution by inserting a bullet in her back. Villanelle wasn't the only one to exploit Eve; Eve had learned in Rome that her never-not-cryptic boss Carolyn (Fiona Shaw) had masterminded the Peele play, prompting a frustrated, strung-out, and traumatized Eve to cut ties with Carolyn — and ultimately with Villanelle. Figuring out Carolyn's true allegiances and alliances is a task more futile than "handling" Villanelle. Just ask Raymond or Konstantin. (Or that other guy that Villanelle quickly dusted.)

Who knows exactly how many of the strings that Carolyn is pulling this complicated game? But fair to say: a lot. And a few of them connect to Konstantin (Kim Bodnia), who is tied to mysterious, nefarious organization named The Twelve, and who maintains a fruitful, romantic, and untrusting bond with Carolyn. There are surely more strings to unwind in season 3, which debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. on BBC America (simulcast on AMC). Armed with a new showrunner — Suzanne Heathcote (Fear the Walking Dead) — Killing Eve resumes the action six months later, with Villanelle trying to move on with her life in Barcelona, Eve pursuing a kitchen-based career at a location to be revealed, and Carolyn answering to her own bosses for the fallout from that Italian mission. "Suzanne Heathcote’s playwriting skills mean that it's quite structured," Shaw tells EW of season 3. "It doesn't shy away from not being funny. And I think that's very good. Season 2 was very funny, but season 3 is very structured, so you’re going to get a lot of stuff that is very real. And that's very dangerous in a way, because we've begun to get quite unreal. Now we’re back to quite real. There's quite a lot of challenges with the characters, but it's very fulfilling for the audience to watch."

What might Carolyn's endgame be? How does she draw Eve back in if she's no longer her boss? And what happens when her daughter — someone who's actually in touch with her own feelings — enters the picture? We rang up Shaw from a secure line and asked her to slip us some intel on season 3.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, what we can expect from Carolyn this season?

FIONA SHAW: She's very much more present and she's pushed much further than she's ever been. And you get to know her personally much, much more. That's possibly true of some of the other characters — but particularly Carolyn. I was surprised at how the domestic world reveals so much more about Carolyn. And in a way it was a huge challenge because of course, it’s much easier play behind the hedge of work. You're going to meet her right up front and personal in this.

We know that Carolyn’s son, Kenny (Sean Delaney), has worked for his mom. Now we’re going to meet daughter Geraldine, played by Game of Thrones' Gemma Whelan. What can you say about the relationship between mother and daughter?

Ummm… it's disastrous. [Laughs] There is a part where Carolyn says, “In some ways, you are always your father's child and Kenny was mine.” For all the peculiarity of their relationship, Kenny and his mom have a lot in common. They're both slightly obsessive and maybe slightly on the spectrum, and they go on very well in their silence. They didn't have to speak much. I’m thrilled that Gemma has joined the family, and it's hilarious because Carolyn is just a red rag to a bull with all this self-help and emotional talk. It drives Carolyn mad! So it's a disastrous relationships in many ways.

How does Geraldine re-enter the picture? Does she have anything to do with the family business?

I could say, but maybe it's none of anyone's business until it happens. She hasn’t on the surface anything to do with the family business. That's not her interest. You'll find quite quickly that she's the one who got away. But she comes back and she tries to organize the household in a more organized way, which Carolyn really doesn’t like. It's good because you get the family dynamic of there is love there but whether there’s actual "like" there is a difficult to say. [Laughs] They're very different people, put it like that. So there's plenty room for complication in this.

I was going to ask you for a few adjectives to describe her, but it sounds like pretty much if I just picture a photo negative of Carolyn, I might get there.

Yes! She's the last person that Carolyn would choose as a daughter. [Laughs] They find it very hard to find common ground, and that goes from everything from food to things they like to do or the way they like to speak to each other. What is wonderful — and Gemma is just marvelous at it —  is Geraldine keeps on trying to make her mother connect emotionally. And Carolyn, her hair rises on the back of her neck every time she’s near her.

How would you describe Geraldine’s importance to the season 3 story?

Things are bound to happen. After two seasons, the audience gets to know the people very well. So one of the reasons that Geraldine appears is because you're getting to meet the family more directly — or things more directly — rather than at arm’s length of the office and all the subterfuge that goes on in the spy world. So it's much more personal, but not just in Carolyn’s story. Eve’s story, too. There's a lot of personal events that happen. Then, of course, new characters appear, which is utterly thrilling. There's some wonderful actors who've come to join us, and it makes for a bonfire, having its flames [shoot] even higher. It’s very good.

Kenny doesn't always seem to trust his mom. With Geraldine thrown into the mix, what can you say about that family dynamic?

The audience knows the characters so well now, you only have to think back of how it must have been when they were growing up. It must have been absolutely extraordinary! [Laughs] And it'll be a revelation to the audience that Carolyn has more children. And, of course, you don't know whether she hasn't got more children. That's the marvelous thing about Carolyn — you never quite know where the story ends. You never know who she was actually married to and who was the father of those children, whether it's the same father. I mean, the amount of  question marks around Carolyn — I'm amazed the audience put up with what she manages to do.

She’s got more children than we know, and she may have had more partners than we know, but that's the amorality of nos jours, you could say. I'm very [glad that] season 3 is coming out and that we have something to offer this moment that people can actually enjoy with some relish because it will be a distraction from the sorrow we’re in the middle of.

Eve felt betrayed at the end of last season by Carolyn and cuts ties, but clearly Carolyn's not done with Eve. In the trailer, we see that she's one who tells Eve that Villanelle is back. What hints can you drop about what might create this uneasy reunion?

Yeah. It's a really peculiar relationship, isn’t it?  Because Carolyn was the making of Eve in a way, but only when she was in her little cell, her secret cell that she had in that dirty office where Kenny used to leave such a smell — and that worked well. When Carolyn got reunited with MI6 in [season] 2, she’s trapped in the functionary-ness of MI6, and we will find her in part there again, hitting up her bosses. Her bosses are none too pleased with Carolyn because she seems to always cause disasters, doesn’t she? I mean, huge disasters and very expensive disasters for MI6 to clean up. Eve has now left that, so Eve is no longer in her employ. So their knowledge of each other is now really only plot-fueled. And I find playing it very hard because, because I'm dying to boss Eve — and in a way I've lost my power to do that. [Laughs] I'm not her boss and she can tell me where to get off anytime she likes, she can do what she likes. That's a really big shift in it. So when she knocks on the door or appears, it's astonishing how she's got rights to do that now as a person rather than as an employee.

Carolyn seemed to cleaned up that mess with Hugo at the end of season 2, where he was shot and then he disappeared. She didn't say whether he was dead or not. We don't know who shot him, and if he might even be complicit with the clean-up plan. Do we get some answers to that with Carolyn early in the season?

You do get some answers. What you get at the beginning of the season is Carolyn in terrible trouble for the cost of that cleanup. [Laughs] I mean, the twists and turns of loyalties are both chilling and very funny, but it sort of tickles you in in a dark place. But Carolyn’s in a lot of trouble over that. I mean, that was both well run and really badly run. It was ingenious of Carolyn, but absolutely horrible that that scene had to happen.

We’re still trying to crack that fascinating bond between Carolyn and Konstantin. What kind of turns does that close-but-unstable relationship take?

Well, I can tell you that they have a car journey together. They’re utterly hilarious. They have this fight in the car and it's the most amazing secrets where they drive through the countryside, and Carolyn throws his wallet out of the car window, just to shut him up. It's very, very good. I have so enjoyed playing my scenes with Kim because he's a wonderful, wonderful actor — and he's an actor who works from a completely different place to me. So we're both sort of bewildered and intrigued by each other when we do these scenes. But it's like when you play tennis with somebody really, really good — your game gets better. So when I'm with him, I feel the history of our relationship is deeper, weirder, or stronger because he plays it so well,  and he plays it even though it's not described; it's just there. And I think that inspires the writers too, to the depths of their mutual and very ambiguous relationship. As you know, they both trust each other and don't trust each other. He knows her very well, but also they come from a ruthless system, both of them. I'm amazed as we go on how ruthless Carolyn has to be, but how it throws light on how ruthless all spy systems must be, including MI6. I'm very shocked by it actually, because you couldn't work for those even now in our modern day and not be somehow willing for life to be lost. I always thought it was something out of TV. But actually, of course, there are rules in those places where they have to be willing to lose life and they are willing to use life.

So... lots of new shadings and surprises in their relationship.

Oh my God! I would say “Fasten your safety belts.” Just settle in. Get your pizza in and get your popcorn on or whatever it is. But you’ll be astonished. I was astonished. We have read-throughs of these [scripts] at the beginning of the season, and we read two episodes and you just go, “Oh my god! Ahhhhh!” A lot of "Ahhhh!" It's a good ride.

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Killing Eve

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