Ruthlessly uncensored, outrageously hilarious, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has become everyone’s favorite truth-teller. After a “ridiculous” year, what taboos will she break next?
IT SEEMS FITTING to begin in the bathroom. A seminal scene of Fleabag—the show that Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote, starred in, and blew all our minds with, winning an armload of Emmys in the process—takes place in one, with Waller-Bridge’s character cracking period jokes as her sister quietly miscarries in the toilet stall. Outside, in a dark, almost mobby restaurant, the rest of the family is enduring a god-awful dinner. The bathroom is the sanctum within the bunker, the place where secrets out and blood flows. So, at the end of lunch on a recent October afternoon, when Waller-Bridge suggested a joint trip to the loo (“We can pee together!”), I couldn’t help but feel a little anxious. Everything was cheerful, though. “Are you still recording?” Waller-Bridge joked from the adjacent stall. Definitely not, but the line was memorably her: slightly dirty, very droll, heedless of the fourth wall (and the one that separated the toilets). “Anything I can sing or say?” she continued as she washed her hands. I finally had to kick her and her inhibitingly good banter out of the bathroom. “I’m going, I’m going! It would be creepy if I pretended to leave but didn’t, wouldn’t it?” she said, her posh, redolent voice lingering as the door swung shut.
We were at The Playwright, a midtown pub and restaurant that is a sentimental favorite of perhaps no one except Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She first went there in 2000 [ . . . ]
The Killing Eve star tells Rebecca Nicholson about gut instincts, social media and why she’s a big softie at heart
The day after she won her Bafta, Jodie Comer watched Game of Thrones with her brother and had a burger for breakfast. Granted, it was the middle of the afternoon, but they’d had a big night. She had picked up the award, amid stiff competition, for leading actress, for playing the flamboyant and seductive psychopath Villanelle in Killing Eve. “As soon as they said my name, I pulled my really ugly crying face,” she says, pulling her best ugly crying face. “I felt like, oh God, I’m such a cliché! I had to pick my dress up because it was too long and I was going up the steps, crying.” She shakes her head, embarrassed. “Such a cliché. But I’ve always gone, oh my God, imagine. Imagine that happening. And then it does.”
I meet Comer two days later, the day after the day after, when breakfast has reverted to usual hours. We’re in a stuffy meeting room at her agency in London, because she’s been in meetings all day. There’s a Killing Eve launch tonight, then she’ll head back to Boston in the morning, to shoot Free Guy, a new action comedy with Ryan Reynolds. She’s only back in the UK briefly, and she’s had a lot to squash in.
“I am tired, but it’s self-inflicted,” Comer says, warmly. “I can’t complain that I’m being overworked.” She is bare-faced, in a neon lime lycra T-shirt, and wriggling like an eel. Her hair is loose and occasionally ends up in her mouth. When she really wants to make a point, she slumps forward, hands on the table, open and expansive, and looks at you with those huge, sincere eyes, lifting an eyebrow, fashioning her elastic face into a flash of Villanelle.
Tell me about the afterparty. “The first time I went to the Baftas, it was crazy,” she says. At an afterparty in 2017, she was introduced to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who wrote and ran the first season of Killing Eve. This year ended up being a little tamer. “But I mean, I say this. Me, my dad, my brother and my mum were still up at 6am drinking champagne,” she laughs.
Comer is extremely close to her family. She grew up in Childwall, a suburb in the south of Liverpool, and her dad is a sports massage therapist for Everton FC. (Her brother Charlie works for Huddersfield FC as an analyst, “so my mum’s like, we’ve got to support both now, cos it’s Charlie’s work.”) She was bereft when they had to get the train back to Liverpool, though they did take her Bafta home with them for safekeeping. “I’ve got pictures on my phone,” she says, grinning, showing me photos of the award out in the wild, next to a bottle of champagne left over from the celebrations.
They have decided to call the Bafta “Billy”. “I don’t know why,” she says, pulling a goofy face. “My dad had it out on the train, and this woman went: ‘That’s not from Poundland, is it?’ This other woman said: ‘Is that the real thing?’ He said, ‘Yeah, do you want to touch it?’” She flicks through her camera roll, pictures of it in the pubs of Liverpool. “They took it on a pub crawl. They were so proud.” [ . . . ]
Has any actress this side of American Horror Story reveled so completely in fabulous absurdity as Jodie Comer does in Killing Eve? As the globe-trotting assassin Villanelle, Comer, a longtime minor player in British TV, broke out in the BBC America cultural phenom, in part by getting us to laugh at her character’s hilarious viciousness. In her very first scene, Villanelle smiles at a little girl at a café, only to vigorously toss the child’s ice cream in her lap on her way out the door. She follows up that violent prank with prankish violence: stabbing a target in the eye with a fancy hairpin, cutting off another victim’s penis after the kill to make the murder look worse than it was, and—my favorite—launching a head of cabbage at an opponent’s breasts during a Russian prison fight. Such scenes underscore what a near-impossible role Villanelle is, how crucial her brazen flair is to the series’ unique feminist camp, and most all, how immensely overdue Comer is for greater recognition. Continue reading