The moral good, moral bad & Killing Eve

Fiona Shaw muses on the complexities of UK thriller in a show where nobody can be trusted.

Killing Eve has been described as a “feminist thriller” and a “perfect show for the #MeToo era” as misogynists get what’s coming to them.

The show emerged in early 2018, while news around Harvey Weinstein was empowering women around the globe.

Starring two strong leads in Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (based on novels by Luke Jennings) it has been hailed as ground-breaking -a point few could deny.

Yet it’s not just misogynists who come asunder. According to actor Fiona Shaw (Carolyn, head of the Russia Section at MI6) there’s more to its success than sheer timing.

“It’s not a very #metoo show. It’s very immoral, but it’s celebratory of the range of behaviour of women,” she tells TV Tonight.

“It doesn’t make any excuses for itself, but it doesn’t make any apology.

“Even in the so-called creative world of television and film, women have always tended to hold either the moral good or the moral bad. And it’s really great that in Killing Eve, neither of those things are relevant.”

Shaw was drawn to the complexities of the script by Waller-Bridge, who had won praise for her TV adaptation of her stage play Fleabag (which Shaw herself would later appear in).

“I read the script, I thought it was marvellous and then I had lunch with her. She is utterly delightful, and now she’s flowered into a global thing. She’s a very level headed, very hardworking, creative, lively person,” she recalls.

“Every page you turned, you weren’t sure”

“The first two episodes were utterly fantastic, because every page you turned, you weren’t sure. What is this? It wasn’t like anything else. And yet, you were riveted because it has huge polish. There’s not a word wasted.

“I’ve done a lot of classical work and it’s really good to have a text that is as dense and as tight as that was. Every line was just brilliantly wrought. It was like reading an 18th Century comedy.”

But she also had hesitations in finding the character.

“I was very nervous at the beginning because I really didn’t know how to play a character who is so withdrawn, so mysterious. You want to somewhere give a wink to the audience. But I just trusted it and I’ve really enjoyed playing her ever since.”

The mix of murder and mayhem, espionage and shifting relationships deliberately woos the viewer into a false sense of security.

“You’re really on the side of Villanelle and then you reassess”

“You’re really on the side of Villanelle (Comer) and then you reassess what that means. It’s got the ‘charm’ of psychopaths,” she explains.

“With Eve (Sandra Oh) you see her bit by bit getting corrupted from her self-image being very virtuous. We all think we’re good and as life goes on and you concede to various things.  You become less good -or have to face the fact that you’re less good than you thought you were.”

“Everybody betrays everybody all the time’

Carolyn’s eye is less on Villanelle as it is on the mysterious assassin organisation ‘The Twelve’ but Shaw agrees not even Carolyn can be trusted in this complex tale.

“You can’t trust her. But she also can’t trust Eve or Konstantin (Kim Bodnia). She couldn’t trust Kenny (Sean Delaney). Everybody betrays everybody all the time,” Shaw warns.

“People are friendly when they share information, but they also will use that information to sabotage the other person if it’s for the greater good.

“Carolyn is in charge so people have to trust what she says but she may have further information, that’s what makes her very powerful.

“The audience doesn’t know if she has the ultimate information….”

Filming hopes to resume in September but is yet to be confirmed given the current crisis is still severe in Europe. Killing Eve is notable for its magnificent locations across Tuscany, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Bucharest and London.

“It’s just marvellous to take camera crews into these iconic buildings”

“I find it magical that I can be doing a scene with Eve in Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Pillar and red buses behind us. It’s thrilling. It makes the city vibrate, in my mind. In Season 3 -spoiler- I have scenes in Albert Hall. It’s just marvellous to take camera crews into these iconic buildings,” she says.

“And it’s very exciting to know that in Australia, you’re enjoying them as a sort of picture postcard of those places.”

But in a show were the body count rises on a weekly basis, does Shaw ever worry that Carolyn might be a next surprise victim? She answers coyly….

“Obviously, that would be that. There would be no more to be said if Carolyn was knocked off!” she concedes.

“But I think that’s very unlikely. That’s all I can say.”

Killing Eve Season 3 screens 9:30pm Sundays on ABC and new episodes are available from Mondays on iview.

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