There hasn’t been another character on TV quite like Villanelle.
As played by Jodie Comer on the mesmerizing British thriller “Killing Eve,” Villanelle (real name: Oksana Astankova) is a psychopath with a gleeful passion for murder. She’s resourceful even in the most dire of circumstances (escaping a Moscow prison, for one), enviably stylish and often quite amusing — in a sick, off-kilter sort of way.
Season 2 of “Killing Eve” starts Sunday on BBC America and picks up where the first season left off, immediately following the weird, violent confrontation in which Villanelle has been stabbed by her frenemy, the MI5 officer Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh). “They’re both kind of reeling from what’s happened in the apartment,” Comer said.
“I think we see a completely different side to Villanelle,” she added. “She’s just extremely vulnerable in a way we haven’t seen her before — especially physically — and I think that really scares her.”
During a recent phone interview, Comer looked back on a few defining moments from Season 1 for her character, whom she described as “delightful, dangerous” and “delicious.” These are edited excerpts from what she said.
The very first scene of “Killing Eve” introduces Villanelle’s defining combination of playfulness and cruelty: In an ice cream shop in Vienna, she becomes annoyed that the little girl across the room will smile at the man behind the counter, but not at her (at first). As Villanelle struts across the shop to leave, she very casually and very deliberately knocks the girl’s sundae onto her shirt.
This is the opening of the show and [you] want to get it right, you know? Particularly with the smile, I remember we spent a lot of time toying to get just what kind of smile Villanelle gives back to her. Also, what’s so important about Villanelle is that she observes and watches how people interact with each other, and she then uses that when she needs it.
It was one of the first scenes that we shot. It took a while, actually, especially because there’s no dialogue. There were like, two pages of stage direction, so it was very detailed what [the creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge] wanted. We just really wanted to make sure it was very clear to the audience that this person was calculating, but also for them not to see what she was about to do. There still had to be that element of surprise.
What I love is you would just never think she was going to do that, and the fact that she does — that she has the audacity — I think people go, “O.K. this is not the show that we thought we were tuning into, but I’m interested.”
When Villanelle went to prison in Russia, viewers saw “the real version, the real person,” Comer said. Credit BBC America
I have three kills that I feel set Villanelle off. The one in Tuscany, because that’s the first one that we see, and we really see the journey; she’s hiding in the suitcase. She chooses the dress. She asks for the name of the designer of the sheet before she kills this guy. We get a sense that this woman, she has a taste for the finer things in life, and she’s like, “Before I kill this guy I need to get the name of this designer.” It just shows so much self-importance, and it was a very creative kill.
The kill with Bill in the nightclub was a huge turning point, because I think even new [viewers] were scared of her. I don’t think that they ever thought she would do that, and that really shifted the energy of the show, because [viewers] felt like she overstepped her mark.
Villanelle knows at that point just how to get to Eve, and it’s too easy for her to do it. She completely lures this guy in, whom she knows is very close to Eve — she wants to get to Eve emotionally. She wants to affect this woman and bring this woman closer to her. Bill is the easiest way to do that. It’s like a power thing. And that power and control is what she feeds off, ultimately.
My favorite kill was the one with Inga in the prison cell, where she bites her neck. When Villanelle went back to prison, that was a huge moment because you see Oksana. I don’t know if you get Kinder eggs in America, but it’s like her outer chocolate shell is Villanelle, and inside, the surprise is: That’s Oksana. That’s the person who’s bubbling away underneath. I think that’s the real version, the real person, and when she goes back to Russia and to prison — that’s the person we’re really dealing with. That kill was so feral and brutal.
When she’s in the prison, her control is taken away from her. Her biggest fear is lack of control, and that’s when it’s fight or flight. Her life is ultimately the most important thing to her and nothing will get in the way of that.
Her Obsession With Eve
It is admiration, fascination, respect for someone who is passionate and good at their job. It’s the need and want for human connection. The normalcy of a relationship. Her believing that she knows what love is and she wants it, but she just does not allow herself [to have] that. And I don’t think she ever can.
When they first meet in the hospital bathroom, I think Eve brings up a lot of emotions for Villanelle about Anna [Villanelle’s former teacher and lover]. We know Villanelle has probably been through some horrific stuff, but she never pities herself. There is kind of a facade, but also — what has she got not to love and be joyful about? She has this apartment in Paris, she earns all this money, she doesn’t have people close to her, which is how she likes it. She likes to pick up and drop people off as she needs. She loves her life, she loves her job. She thrives off living, off eating everything. She just devours everything, and I think it’s just who she is.
Eve is seeking out something exciting, something that isn’t the norm in life, and I think Villanelle is seeking the opposite. I think there is part of Villanelle that looks at Niko and Eve’s relationship, and she is craving that.