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KILLING IT Luke
KILLING IT Luke Jennings, creator of the world’s favourite female assassin, explains the allure of Killing Eve’s Villanelle and how the TV adaptation of his original novellas nailed the casting Story Olly Richards When Luke Jennings first began percolating ideas for the character that would become Villanelle, the iconic assassin of the TV hit Killing Eve, he had two words in mind: “Outrageously entertaining”. While there are many other words you could use to describe her, those two are particularly apt. Both in Jennings’ original novella, Codename Villanelle, and as played by Jodie Comer in the TV adaptation, Villanelle is a character who can make you gasp in horror and roar with laughter in the same minute. A Russian orphan, plucked from prison by a secret crime syndicate and trained to become a killerto-order, Villanelle loves her job, and delights in a cat-and-mouse chase with Eve Polastri, an MI5 agent assigned to track her down. She’s easily one of the most charismatic fictional villains of the last decade. In 2013, when he began writing the first Villanelle story, Jennings was already a pretty successful novelist (his book Atlantic had even been nominated for the Booker Prize), but he wanted to write something that was designed purely to entertain, with characters that didn’t follow the typical tropes of the crime-thriller genre. That was when Villanelle appeared. “She burst fully formed into my mind,” says Jennings. “I’d been reading a lot about psychopathy. I was thinking about how someone might come to be like her; what might have happened to her as a child to make her the adult she is.” He didn’t want to create the typical screen psychopath, who operates without feeling or emotion. He read studies about psychopaths who are aware of their own psychopathy, but feel no shame in it, and theories that psychopaths can feel love or empathy but compartmentalise it. He wanted to create a character who was a terrifying murderer, but suffciently selfaware that she knew exactly who she was and made no apologies for it. In a way, he wanted to create the worst kind of monster: one without a cause or motive, who commits terrible acts simply because they love it. A number of things came together to form the DNA of Villanelle. In part, Jennings was inspired by the life of Idoia López Riaño, a commando for the Basque separatist group Eta in the 1980s. Better known as La Tigresa, she would seduce Spanish policemen, then kill them, ostensibly in the name of Basque independence. “She was fascinating to me,” says Jennings. “She was articulate and attractive, someone who could have made a successful life outside all that… She just seemed to really like the business of killing.” Jennings used that for Villanelle to model her elaborate, darkly comic murders, which are always a lot more complicated than they need to be, because she enjoys, as Jennings puts it, the business of killing. 16 / Jaguar Magazine
Interview Killer instinct Luke Jennings (facing page) says Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer (left), “burst fully formed” into his mind “I was thinking about how someone might come to be like her; what happened to her as a child to make her the adult she is” Jaguar Magazine / 17
JAGUAR MAGAZINE celebrates creativity in all its forms, with exclusive features that inspire sensory excitement, from seductive design to cutting-edge technology.
The latest issue features a range of inspiring people: from Luke Jennings, creator of Villanelle, one of the most interesting television characters in recent times, to Marcus Du Sautoy, who ponders whether artificial intelligence is on the brink of becoming creative. Out on the road, we visit the US to explore the foodie heaven of Portland in a Jaguar I-PACE, take a Jaguar XE to the south of France to get a photographer’s viewpoint of the charming town of Arles, and much more.