Yes, the wait is finally over. The insanely popular hit BBC series “Killing Eve” returned for its second season last weekend to give fans another glimpse into the unpredictable game of cat and mouse between the hilariously clever and devious Russian assassin named Villanelle and the American MI5 operative on her trail, Eve Polastri. The complicated relationship between the two lead roles, played with electric charm by Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, had won over legions of fans, bringing the show to a larger audience on AMC this season.
The cast of the show appeared at a conference hosted by the network on Monday morning for a series of different panels that revolved around such topics as visibility and inclusivity in television as well as the use of comedy to heighten the dramatic punch. Both of these topics were perfect for this unique and brilliantly constructed show, as with how dark and comedic it is, it is also led by a predominantly female cast, with an Asian-American (born in Canada but recently gained citizenship), Sandra Oh, as its principal lead. Oh explained her initial surprise at realizing that she was cast as Eve in a discussion with journalist Alicia Quarles.
“I feel like Eve was clearly at least a white woman [in the books],” said Oh. “I was lucky to be at that point in my career where I was offered this script and I read it… I had to figure out for a second which character I was playing. I think that the point is, even this far down a line in one’s career, as an actor of color or just myself, this far along [I] still could not see myself in this leading role. I felt very ashamed of myself for not having been able to see it. I was talking with my agent and I’m scrolling through and I’m like ‘I don’t get it.’ I’m scrolling through and I’m like, ‘Who am I playing?’ And [my agent] was like, ‘Eve. You’re playing Eve!’”
Fiona Shaw, who plays Eve’s superior in MI6 Carolyn Martens, chimed in, saying that casting Oh was also a revelatory choice in terms of the British social dynamic in these types of thrillers.
“There is something so interesting about a good deed producing another good deed,” explained Shaw. “The casting of Sandra in ‘Killing Eve’ absolutely stopped thriller British spy stories being about the class system. Because suddenly, we had this American voice in. The whole ceiling shattered. It was very refreshing for everybody… because you couldn’t do that endless thing about wondering whether someone is looking up or looking down on someone.”
With the show’s villain, Villanelle, the choices by the show’s writing staff, along with the performance of a truly magnetic Jodie Comer, combine to really let the viewer inside the mind of a rampant psychopath. But the most interesting aspect to this is that the viewer is immediately torn on whom to root for once they get to know her better. Villanelle will put on her flawless dry wit as she lures her victims into her traps, breaking the slow-building tension just before she exhibits her total lack of remorse. It’s a belly laugh that can hurt and delight in equal measure.
“What I love about the comedy moments is that it lulls the audience into this false sense of security and just as they are feeling comfortable [snaps fingers],” said Comer. “I know that’s what I enjoyed in playing those moments. It’s that element of surprise. I think it’s so important that we have those moments. She’s flamboyant, witty and extremely charismatic. That was always present within the script.”
Breaking into the mind of such a cold-blooded yet likable serial killer was a part of the fun for executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle.
“I think she entertains herself,” explained Gentle. “I think she finds herself hilariously funny. She is her biggest fan. What we did quite a lot when we were in the room, when we were talking to Phoebe and the other writers, was to try to get a sense of what any of us would do if you would wake up in the morning without any fear and there was no sense of consequence. I think that then liberates you massively. For a character like Villanelle, that’s sort of wish fulfillment. We love playing with that and also being dark and being really naughty [laughs].”
Season 2 of “Killing Eve” currently airs Sunday nights on both AMC and BBC America. On the heels of the season 2 premiere, it was also announced Monday that the show will return for a third season.