When Jodie Comer took to the stage to accept the BAFTA for Best Actress, she gave a touching – and tearful – address to her late grandmother, Nana Francis, who she credits for her success.
The reaction, with even hardened TV critics giving her a standing ovation, proved that Britain has found a new global star in this humble 26-year-old Liverpudlian.This was evident two days later too, when Jodie returned to centre stage at an exclusive screening in London of series two of Killing Eve, in which she plays the fascinating and complicated assassin Villanelle.
In the first series, Jodie made murder look terrifyingly good, touring Europe in high heels and, of course, that bubblegum pink Molly Goddard gown. Now, after last year’s explosive finale, she’s back with MI5’s Eve (played by Sandra Oh) still in her sights.
In a fashion-forward white and gold Giambattista Valli dress, the actor explained the appeal of Villanelle. ‘I have to leave Jodie at the door to play her,’ she said. ‘She is so free and has no sense of consequence or fear, which, in this day and age, a lot of us have a lot of fear. What would it be to have no fear and to be able to play that? You get to do all this crazy stuff and express all these emotions, or lack of. It’s so fun to play.’
Fun, yes, but Kim Bodnia, who plays Villanelle’s handler and father figure Konstantin, is in no doubt of Jodie’s talent. ‘I don’t know what it is, but it’s special,’ he tells Grazia. ‘She dares to use her feelings. She’s very good at that.’
Sally Woodward Gentle, Killing Eve’s producer, agrees but has only one concern: that the allure of Hollywood may steal away one of Britain’s most promising dramatic exports. ‘She is a joy to work with’, she tells Grazia. ‘I think she’s going to be an absolutely massive star and the world is her oyster. But also I don’t want to say that because they’ll take her away!’
Not yet, though. For now, Jodie is still living at home with her parents in Liverpool (near where Brookside was filmed). Her father is a massage therapist at Everton FC while her mother works for a transport company. Apparently, the local priest sends Jodie letters saying he sees ‘the humanity’ in her characters.
But she credits her father Jimmy in particular for inadvertently teaching her certain key skills you see her use today on screen. ‘Growing up, if there was an advert on the telly with a silly accent, me and my dad would always impersonate it around the house,’ she recalls. ‘I think, through doing that, I now have an ear for it. Some are harder than others but it does help me: doing my own accent, I find it harder to separate myself from the character. But you also don’t see a lot of Scousers on the telly, so maybe we need to change that a little bit.’
Growing up, Jodie exhibited a remarkable gift for acting, performing a monologue at a talent show that so impressed teachers she was sent to audition for a BBC radio play. Initially, the next steps followed the typical rules of young actors working in British television: she picked up roles in episodes of Casualty, Doctors and Waterloo Road, before setting her sights on bigger, meatier roles.
Sally puts Jodie’s success down to her openness and diligence. ‘She doesn’t overstress anything,’ she tells us. ‘She’ll come on set and she’ll be incredibly well-prepared. But she has her feet firmly on the ground, which is so important. The moment you lift off, the moment you are disconnected with the real world, it impacts your performance.’
In My Mad Fat Diary, for example, Jodie subtly lent truth to the spoiled and bitchy Chloe Gemmel. In The White Princess, she was the steely and stoic power player in the Tudor court. In thirteen, she portrayed a young woman traumatised after years in captivity. And in Doctor Foster, the role which brought her to national attention, she played a woman conflicted by the complications of falling for a married man.
‘I feel extremely lucky,’ says Jodie. ‘The past four or five roles I’ve played have all been written by women. So I feel as though a lot of the characters I’ve played have been complex and challenging. As an actor, and a human being, you want to be challenged and push yourself into new depths that you may have not been before.’
As any actor knows, though, sometimes it’s also about the blag, and she’s good at that, too. ‘When I auditioned [for Killing Eve] they told me about the languages,’ she explains. ‘You always get told that if you’re asked in an audition if you can ride a horse you say yes, even if you can’t. That’s what I did with the languages.’
It worked. Killing Eve has already been commissioned for a third series – and fashion houses have begun wooing Jodie off-screen too. Rumour has it she’s already been signed to star in a campaign for a major fashion house later this year.
READ MORE: Jodie Comer And Sandra Oh's Best Bits From Killing Eve
Sandra Oh Jodie Comer Killing Eve
Eve and Villanelle's first meeting wasn't like your typical dinner party. Their power dynamic all turned a bit sour when Villianelle brought a knife to Eve's neck and pushed her against the fridge. Casual.
For Jodie, the public adoration has come as a surprise. It’s telling, perhaps, that she spent much of the BAFTA after-party with her mum Donna and that her Instagram account is still as much about adding HP brown sauce to fry-up breakfasts in her trailer as glitzy red-carpet premieres. And, while Jodie says she’d love a wardrobe the size of Villanelle’s, she’s ‘definitely still a jeans girl. I like my comforts.’
One thing Jodie’s going to have to take in her stride, though, is that – whatever British TV execs say – Hollywood certainly beckons. While there was a recent hiccup when scheduling conflicts ruled her out of starring alongside Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot in the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death On The Nile, Jodie will next be seen in Free Guy (a bank teller discovers that he’s actually a player inside a video game), starring Ryan Reynolds.
Still, Jodie tells Grazia she can’t quite believe that Ryan, star of Deadpool and husband of Blake Lively, follows her on Instagram. ‘It is a pinch me moment,’ she says. ‘He’s just the funniest, nicest guy and to have him stand up and back me
and be happy to work with me, is very overwhelming, you’ve got to pinch yourself.’
It is surely only a matter of time before Ryan’s fellow A-listers join him in his appreciation of Jodie’s inevitable ascent