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18 / Jaguar Magazine
18 / Jaguar Magazine “From her first frame, Jodie Comer was in charge of the situation’’ Luke Jennings
Interview PHOTOS: STUART CLARKE/SHUTTERSTOCK (P.16); TOM VAN SCHELVEN (P.17-18); BBC (P.19) Another inspiration for Villanelle came from Jennings’ previous life as a dance critic for The Observer (he wrote his final review for the paper earlier this year). “The worlds of the Villanelle books, and the series, they’re very theatrical,” he says. “There’s a sense of artifice about them. They’re certainly not meant to be realistic. I think my love of the world of performance influenced that.” It had always been Jennings’ intention that Villanelle would become more than just a character on a page. “TV was the goal,” he says. “That was the reason I wrote it in an episodic way and very visually.” He published four novellas on Amazon Kindle between 2014 and 2016 so he had something that TV producers could read quickly and access instantly. The plan worked. The stories were optioned by Sid Gentle Films in 2016, which secured the talents of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, then barely known, to rework the books’ story for the screen. “Phoebe was only known to a small circle of people at the time,” says Jennings. Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show, Fleabag, which would go on to become a hit series that made her world famous, had been a success at the Edinburgh Festival and was about to start a run at the Soho Theatre in London, but Waller-Bridge was not the comedy writing royalty she is now. “Phoebe just got Villanelle immediately,” says Jennings. “She “She showed us this ordered chaos... From her first frame, she was in charge of the situation.” The scene Comer performed for the audition was the now classic sequence in which Villanelle, dressed in a big, pink froofy dress, is evaluated by a psychiatrist, giving all the right answers but in a way that suggests she definitely deserves to be locked up. “She has to be at once highly ordered and off-kilter,” says Jennings. “There was something completely unbalanced about her. She just launched into it in a way that made the character her own from the very start. She claimed her.” Across two seasons now, Comer has continued to lay her claim to Villanelle. She may not be the title character of the show – Eve is played by the brilliant, Emmy-nominated Sandra Oh – but she’s become its core. The limitlessness of the Villanelle character has powered the show to enormous success. The first season was an instant smash with both audiences and critics, and the breathlessly anticipated second season, written by Emerald Fennell and released in April 2019, had even better reviews. It has propelled Comer from well-liked British actress to international star. She won a Bafta award earlier this year for playing Villanelle and is set to appear in 2020 in Ryan Reynolds’ actioncomedy Free Guy and Death on the Nile, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic. She owes it all to a crazed killer with excellent dress sense. talked a lot about the ‘glory’ of Jennings happily admits that Silent assassin Jodie Comer as the Villanelle, by which she meant the “completely unbalanced” Villanelle two Villanelles now exist. One is absolute excess of the way she lived his creation, who reappeared and her complete lack of contrition about any of it. She earlier this year in Killing Eve: No Tomorrow, a sequel to saw this character without any limits and that matched the Codename: Villanelle collection. The other is the so well with her desire to write in an unlimited way.” creation of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Jodie Comer, Then, of course, it came time to cast Villanelle. which has veered from his books. “The way I see it,” he Jennings had never written with anyone specifically in says, “is that they exist in the same universe and each mind. He “looked out of the characters’ eyes” so didn’t complements the other. If you enjoy the TV series you envision their faces, only how they felt. When he saw Jodie can then read the books, and vice versa.” Killing Eve will Comer’s audition, though, she embodied everything he return for a new series in 2020, this time written by felt. Comer was, at this point, not especially famous. Suzanne Heathcote (Fear The Walking Dead). She’d been in successful shows – Doctor Foster, The White The show may well carry on beyond a third season, Princess, My Mad Fat Diary, even the obligatory episode but Villanelle is already guaranteed a life beyond both of Casualty – but this 24-year-old Liverpudlian was no book and show, thanks to Comer’s portrayal. “I think household name. With her thick accent and friendly face, people identify with someone who has just decided the there was little about her that said ‘sociopathic Russian rules are not for them… I don’t think they love her for killer’… until she began to audition. the murder,” Jennings says, considering his words. “She was completely brilliant,” says Jennings of her “They love her because she’s pushing through the audition tape, which wowed everyone on the production. bullshit of life.” J Jaguar Magazine / 19
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.