Jodie Comer on Playing TV’s Chicest (and Cheekiest) Assassin
Article from Marie Claire.
The Emmy-winner spoke with Marie Claire about her to-die-for costumes and why killers need sensible shoes.
Jodie Comer swears she’s a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of girl. “I’m way too lazy for my own good,” she professes. It sounds like an impossible lie. One that only someone as cunning as Killing Eve‘s Villanelle herself could dream up, trying to convince the world she is a normal girl. Not a globe-trotting, multi-lingual, impeccably dressed psychopath with murderous tendencies and to-die-for clothes.
Though Comer promises she doesn’t have Villanelle’s flair for fashion, she must be just as much a chameleon as her on-screen counterpart. Because for the past few years the actress has masqueraded flawlessly—on red carpets and in high-fashion editorial shoots and on set—as TV’s chicest assassin. In real life, Comer’s style is much more down-to-earth; her disposition much friendlier.
“My fashion at the minute flips from my gym clothes and my pajamas and sometimes half and half, depending on if I actually end up doing any sort of exercise,” she explains through fits of laughter. “I’ve seen too many videos and Instagrams of people saying, ‘Just get dressed and do your makeup’ and I’m like, Ugh! I just can’t wear jeans in the house.”
The 27-year-old is quarantining at her family’s home in Liverpool, she tells me, as we chat days before the season three premiere of Killing Eve. Playing Villanelle (or Oksana or countless other aliases, depending on the scene) earned Comer an Emmy last year, and cemented her as the most fashionable woman on television since Carrie Bradshaw.
Villanelle’s outfits have an unattainable and immediately iconic quality. The assassin injects both her kills and her wardrobe with a (much-appreciated) dose of cheek and creativity. “[Villanelle’s] got an innate sense of style, definitely. I think she has very little rules. She wears what she wants to wear,” Comer says, adding that show creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, built Villanelle’s penchant for designer labels into the character. “It was a huge part, that kind of materialistic side of her. For the clothes, it was an expression of self. She found so much joy in that. [It’s] her outlet. That’s what she likes to treat herself with and express herself with. So it was a definitely always an element to her.”
While one-half of Comer’s character is at home in haute couture, the other half, Oksana, is much more at home in Russian jails. That concomitant is what influences Villanelle, what encourages her obsession with luxury and wealth, what stokes her impeccably tailored Chloé suits and Comme des Garçon jackets.
“I think Oksana was a scoundrel!” Comer says. “I don’t know if she even thought about fashion, but, then, when she got introduced into this lifestyle, it was something that filled a void. And that’s where that interest [in fashion] and need for it grew.
“For me, Villanelle is a creation. It’s someone who she has created herself, and it’s an expectation she has created for herself. And that’s why you see [Oksana] constantly slipping and coming towards the surface. It’s like two personas of who she really is and who she is expected to be by herself and other people.”
Oksana is putting on a costume in hopes that it will convince the world that she is the character. It’s the ultimate manifestation of dressing for the job you want: If you’re going to commit murder, you might as well be dressed to kill.
The enviable wardrobe is owed to Killing Eve‘s talented costume designers. This season, Sam Perry takes over from Phoebe de Gaye (season one) and Charlotte Mitchell (season two), who perfected Villanelle’s playful looks and flamboyant style, mixing vintage finds with the coveted of-the-moment designs—a strategy that Perry kept moving into the show’s third year.
“[Sam] just sees it as a playground, which is what I really admire about her. She’s not intimated by it,” Comer says, revealing that Perry is slated to also work on season four.
It’s hard not to focus on Villanelle’s day-to-day wardrobe—brimming with show-stopping prints and stand-out silhouettes that seamlessly blend the masculine and feminine—or even her luxurious at-home style, complete with printed robes and colorful, silk pajamas. But Comer finds her character’s look at its best when she’s thrown off-kilter; forced into a fashion corner of sorts, when Villanelle must wear some of the most laughable and memorable outfits of the series. Yes, even crocs.
“I love the moments when she’s having to wear somebody else’s pajamas that don’t fit her. I want to put her in as many painful situations as I possibly can,” the actress says, with a tiniest hint of Villanelle villainy surfacing. “She just seems so together to me—when I throw her out of her comfort zone it just feels so right.”
Season three will afford Comer the biggest opportunity yet to see Villanelle pushed to her sartorial limits. In episode five, she’s confronted with ghosts of her past. But the character’s arc posed a dilemma to Perry, Comer, and the show’s team, who had to decide what was more important to Villanelle: fashion or family.
“What happens in episode five shifts her a lot [for] the rest of the series. And we had to make a big decision of whether she is so lost that what she’s wearing—the fashion element—is completely gone or she’s trying to be appear to be okay and her normal self. And we went with the later.”
But no matter what Villanelle is wearing—a dramatic headpiece, a pig mask—Comer suggest thats it’s Villanelle’s confidence that sells it and her practicality that grounds it. Literally. I’m referring, of course, to her footwear. Villanelle pairs a statement Molly Goddard confection with Doc Martens and matches white trainers with Miu Miu.
“It was never that she was going to do a kill in 6-inch heels. Whenever I see that in a film, [I think] Uh… is that really possible?” Comer says. “With Villanelle, comfort is key. Let’s wear something really fucking cool, but let’s also wear shoes that I can do all this stuff in and, you know, feel confident.”
As we’re wrapping up our conversation, I ask Comer about her favorite piece in her own wardrobe, and, finally, I understand where she and Villanelle overlap: shoes.
“I’ve got a pair of Grenson boots. They are London-based bootmakers and the shoe is the Nanette. [They are] kind of like an ankle biker boot. But I wear them with everything, probably too much. But they are super comfortable, and they are super light. That’s my [item I] wear to death.”