Warning: Spoilers ahead for season one of BBC America's Killing Eve.
If you have yet to watch Killing Eve, you’re missing out on one of this year’s most addictive crime dramas. And spy thrillers. And black comedies. Just when you think you know where the genre-busting BBC series about an MI5 desk drone-turned-field agent (Sandra Oh) helping to track down a psychopathic assassin (Jodie Comer) is headed, it changes the rules. Which helps explain why the show has been such a hit with audiences and critics alike. With a second season already underway, and star Sandra Oh vying for what could be a groundbreaking Emmy win, here are 15 things you might not have known about Killing Eve.
1. IT’S BASED ON A SERIES OF NOVELLAS.
Between 2014 and 2016, Luke Jennings—dance critic for England’s The Observer—wrote a series of four Kindle Singles that become the novel Codename Villanelle, about a Russian assassin and an ambitious MI5 agent who chase each other around the world in a global game of cat-and-mouse. In 2014, producer Sally Woodward Gentle optioned the rights to Jennings’s stories.
“Although the notion of a female assassin was not unique, Luke’s take was fresh, intelligent and tonally much bolder than others,” Woodward Gentle said. “It wasn’t exploitative. We really enjoyed the character of Villanelle and the inventiveness of her kills, but we were particularly engaged with the mutual obsession between the women."
2. IT WAS WRITTEN AND DEVELOPED BY FLEABAG CREATOR PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE.
Though Phoebe Waller-Bridge began her entertainment career as an actor (she played droid L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story), Crashing and Fleabag have turned her into an in-demand writer and producer as well. Waller-Bridge was brought onto Killing Eve based on her work on the stage version of Fleabag, which she performed as a one-woman show in 2013. The material turned out to be a perfect match for the creator’s sensibilities.
“I write from the point of view of what I’d like to watch,” Waller-Bridge told The Guardian. “I’m always satisfying my own appetite. So I guess that means transgressive women, friendships, pain. I love pain.”
3. SANDRA OH WASN’T SURE WHO THE SHOWRUNNERS WANTED HER TO PLAY.
Sandra Oh—who was the first actor cast in the adaptation—loved the script for Killing Eve, but was slightly confused about which role the producers had in mind for her. “I was talking to [my agents] and scrolling on my phone like, ‘What is it?,’” Oh told ELLE Magazine. “I’m quickly scrolling through my phone, trying to find my part, and I’m talking to my agent like, ‘I don’t get it. What’s the part?’ because I was like, I can’t play an assassin, obviously it’s gonna be a young hot girl, I don’t get it, what’s my part? Then my agent said, ‘Eve. The part is for Eve.’"
4. IT WAS CELEBRATED BY MANY CRITICS FOR BREAKING ALL THE GENRE RULES.
The critical reviews for Killing Eve were almost unanimously positive, with many fans mentioning the innovative way in which the show subverts so many genre conventions. In making the case for Oh as this year’s Best Actress for Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote that “Killing Eve is such a brazenly entertaining series that you don’t immediately realize how groundbreaking it is … First, of course, there’s the fact that Killing Eve is built around two women, an immediately distinguishing difference in a genre, the cat-and-mouse thriller, where both the main investigator and the main baddie tend to be men.”
At IndieWire, Ben Travers wrote that “Killing Eve is a helluva good time, it's already more interesting than many of its genre peers, and the first season illustrates a self-awareness essential for its survival. The show may follow a formula, but there's nothing routine about it.” Writing for The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert said, “Killing Eve is subversive at its most basic level, taking the classic good-guy-chases-villain template and placing two women in the primary roles.”
5. OH IS THE FIRST ASIAN ACTRESS TO BE NOMINATED FOR A BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA EMMY.
Between 2005 and 2009, Oh received five consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy (though she has yet to win one). But her nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Killing Eve marks an important first for the entertainment industry: She is the first Asian actress to receive a Lead Actress in a Drama nomination.
6. WALLER-BRIDGE AND JODIE COMER’S FIRST MEETING WAS AT A BAFTA PARTY, AND THEY WERE BOTH DRUNK.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Jodie Comer shared that the first and only time she had ever met Waller-Bridge was a few months before she was ever contacted about Killing Eve. The two of them met at a BAFTA party, and both were rather inebriated. “I didn’t know nottin’ about Killing Eve,” Comer said. “Then my audition came along and I was like … Oh my God, I was so drunk that night. This is really awkward.”
7. OH AND COMER’S FIRST MEETING INCLUDED ACTING OUT THE KITCHEN SCENE.
As Eve and Villanelle, Oh and Comer spend almost the entirety of season one trying to stay one step ahead of each other, which means that they don’t share a lot of screen time. But it was imperative that the actors who filled the roles had enough onscreen chemistry to fill the moments that they did share with a rare kind of curiosity that is both raw, vicious, and somewhat sexual. So Oh’s first meeting with Comer required them to act out the infamous kitchen scene, where Villanelle breaks into Eve’s home.
“Jodie is so wonderful in her presence, and her own instinct, and her own fearlessness,” Oh told Deadline. “She’s absolutely nothing like the character, which makes what Jodie can personally bring to it so much more extraordinary. We first met in her audition, and the audition was the scene in the kitchen in Episode 5, this 10-page scene. Jodie flew from England to LA, we laid it down, and immediately, I felt like we could both feel, ‘Oh, this is my dance partner.’”
8. IT WAS RENEWED BEFORE THE FIRST SEASON HAD EVEN PREMIERED.
Sometimes you just know when you have a good thing. On April 5, 2018—three days before Killing Eve had even made its debut—BBC America announced that it was being renewed for a second season.
“This show has the thunder of women on both sides of the chase in Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer and, importantly, behind the camera with the lavishly brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge,” BBC America president Sarah Barnett said in a statement. “The early response to Killing Eve has been incredible—for that reason, as well as the fact that we wholeheartedly love this original, funny, thrillingly entertaining series, we are delighted to move ahead with a second season before we even premiere.”
9. MORE THAN 100 ACTRESSES WERE CONSIDERED FOR VILLANELLE.
Though it’s impossible to imagine Killing Eve without Comer in the role of the psychotic—and rather glamorous—assassin, the show’s producers considered more than 100 actors for the part. “We didn’t want Villanelle to be like Nikita or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—that male fantasy version of what a woman who’d come for them might look like. We wanted her to be able to disappear into a crowd,” Woodward Gentle told Backstage. “There had to be chemistry between [Eve and Villanelle], this extraordinary chemical reaction that’s not necessarily sexual, but has hints of it. [Oh and Comer] had it. Their acting methods are very different, but they were completely within the same piece. That was really important.”
10. WALLER-BRIDGE AND OH WANTED THE ENDING TO FEEL ORGANIC, SO THEY WORKSHOPPED IT TOGETHER. WITH SOME WINE.
While discussing Eve and Villanelle’s second encounter, which ends with Oh stabbing Comer, Waller-Bridge told Variety that it was important to both her and Oh that whatever happened in that scene felt natural to the character of Eve. “That moment of ‘saving her’ came out of a wine-fueled, after-dinner spontaneous workshop of the scene with Sandra,” Waller-Bridge said. “Sandra and I were acting it out across my kitchen table … We mimed her stabbing me and then pulling the knife out … Then we both froze for a second, just feeling out what might happen next, then we suddenly both covered the imaginary wound at the same time and looked at each other utterly mortified—just like we believed Eve would once she took a second to realize what she had done.”
11. OH DOESN’T NORMALLY WATCH HERSELF ON SCREEN, BUT MADE AN EXCEPTION FOR KILLING EVE.
Many actors can’t bear to watch themselves onscreen, and Oh counts herself among them. But she was curious to see how Killing Eve turned out, so she binge-watched the first three episodes—and loved every second of it. “In the plethora of all that’s out there to watch, actually being something different is so fun,” she told Vanity Fair.
12. ITS RATINGS GREW WITH EACH EPISODE.
Word-of-mouth played a major part in Killing Eve’s success, a fact that could be seen in its ratings, which grew from one week to the next throughout the season—which is something that no other scripted television series had done in more than a decade.
“This show has exceeded our expectations in every possible way, and we came into it with very high expectations,” BBC America president Sarah Barnett said in a statement. “From executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s words on the page, to the performances by Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and the entire cast, the critical acclaim, the fan engagement and audience growth. On every level, this has been one of the ones you dream about when you get into this business.”
13. THE SHOW’S DARK COMEDY HELPED AUDIENCES ROOT FOR A KILLER.
Much of the show’s success, according to Waller-Bridge, rests in its more lighthearted moments—which she told Variety were necessary for any show that’s “tied up with pathos and is as usefully disarming as it is entertaining.” She also believes that the show’s dark comedic elements allowed the audience to root for Villanelle, “because she makes them laugh … It forgives a thousand murders!”
14. THE BODY COUNT WAS RATHER HIGH.
Though given Villanelle’s penchant for murder, it’s not hard to imagine that she’s killed 1000-plus people throughout her career, the audience only witnesses a total of 19 deaths of the hands of the quirky assassin. (An additional eight deaths throughout the series led to a total body count of 27 for the first season.)
15. EVE SHOULD BE NERVOUS ABOUT SEASON TWO.
Though not many details have been released about Killing Eve’s second season, we know that it’s scheduled to premiere in 2019 and that Waller-Bridge—who received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing—won’t be writing it. (The second season of her show Fleabag is currently in production, and timing wouldn’t allow her to do both.) But Waller-Bridge has offered a warning that the next season will see Eve in danger.
“[Eve] has crossed a line with Villanelle and with herself,” Waller-Bridge told Variety. “I think both are threats to Eve going forward. There is no question that she will be haunted in some way by both from this moment on.”