The name Jodie Comer has been synonymous with Villanelle, the alluringly chic assassin who stars opposite Sandra Oh in the hit BBC America series Killing Eve, for the past three years. She strikes a much more serious tone in her performance opposite Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver in The Last Duel, Ridley Scott’s historical epic about a knight (Damon) who challenges a squire (Driver) to a duel to the death after his wife (Comer) accuses the squire of raping her. For W’s Best Performances issue, Comer reflects on starring with the longtime A-list pals Damon and Affleck, and reveals how she really feels about Villanelle’s beloved costumes.
Tell me how The Last Duel came to you.
Via an email through my agent, as [roles] usually do. It said that Ridley [Scott] wanted to meet me, so I met him at his offices in London. It was just a general chat, really; he was asking me a lot of questions about my life. And then he goes, "So, what did you think of the script?” I hadn't actually been sent the script, but luckily I had read some of the book beforehand as homework. There was a slight miscommunication—I didn't know any of the materials. He was like, "Right. I want you to go away, read it, and give me your honest opinion." The next day, as soon as it got hand-delivered to the door and I read it, I was like, “Yes. Yes, yes, yes."
Was he familiar with you from Killing Eve?
Yeah, apparently he's a big Killing Eve supporter…which is great for me! [Laughs] I was very happy to hear that.
Is playing Villanelle liberating?
Yes. I mean, so liberating—and also exhausting. I didn't realize quite how much, but we obviously had a bit of a break before we went back to shooting season 4. We had a yearlong hiatus, and the first week back doing the final season, I was like, "Whoa, okay, I've got to get back into this.” But I think it was good to have a little bit of space and be myself, solidly, for a good half of a year.
And to not have to wear little onesies, as you do in season 2.
Really tight, age-12 boys pajamas. [Laughs] No—that was a relief.
Villanelle’s costumes are kind of genius.
They’re such a huge, fun part of doing that show. Comfort is key with her, which I always appreciated. When I first read that she was a Russian assassin living in France, I thought, Oh no, are they going to have her scaling walls in seven-inch heels? They were like, "No, because that doesn't make any sense." So, it was great to have flat shoes.
But then you went straight into The Last Duel, which is set in France in the 1300s. Did you have to wear a corset?
Yes, but I don't know if that was just a bit of cheating, to help a girl out, if you know what I mean. But no, the costumes were incredible. Ridley really liked these wooden clogs that were two sizes too big and made out of pure wood, because of the way they sounded on the cobbles. So I was shuffling around most of the time, trying to keep my shoes on.
You have a very extreme scene in The Last Duel. Was that difficult to shoot?
There are larger, more dramatic scenes within The Last Duel, especially in regard to the assault itself, and also the questioning within the court. As an actor, when you come to those kinds of scenes—the scenes you think of for months and months on end—you hope that you give them some justice. But it was an incredible atmosphere on set to work with Ridley. He works with four or five cameras rolling the entire time. So it’s not a very quick process, because he doesn't miss a beat. He always allows you the time, but it just forces everyone to be really on the ball and very, very present.
He goes fast.
He does. We shot [Comer’s character] Marguerite's perspective first, before we ever delved into another perspective. Which was great, because then I felt secure in knowing that I'd captured her story, and then I could play around.
Is there a film that makes you cry?
Billy Elliot definitely makes me cry. And very recently, I watched CODA, which I think is just so, so breathtaking. I watched it about two weeks ago and was like, Wow, it's been a while since a movie has really moved me in that way.
Are you an ugly crier?
Of course I am. I only want to hang out with ugly criers. I don't want to know you if you're a pretty crier. Where's the fun in that? I love a good cry.
Do you get starstruck?
I do get starstruck. Most recently, I met Stormzy at a concert. He came up to me out of nowhere and gave me a huge hug and was just like, "I think you're brilliant." And I was like, "What do you mean? When do you have time to watch the television?" That was really lovely, and I was very, very much lost for words.
You weren't starstruck when you met Ben Affleck?
Well, yeah. I mean, all of those guys. Adam [Driver], Matt [Damon], Ben…it's so surreal when you've spent a lot of your life watching people through films and television, and then you end up being in a room, sat on a table with them, and they're asking you, "Hey, what do you think?" or saying, "We want your input." And you're like, "Oh wow, how did I get here?"
Hair by Ali Pirzadeh for Dyson Hair at CLM; makeup by Daniel Sallstrom for Chanel at MA+ Group; manicure by Michelle Saunders for Nailtopia. Set Design by Gary Card at Streeters. Produced by Wes Olson and Hannah Murphy at Connect the Dots; production manager: Zack Higginbottom at Connect the Dots; photo assistants: Antonio Perricone, Jeff Gros, Morgan Pierre; digital technician: Michael Preman; lighting technician: Keith Coleman; key grip: Scott Froschauer; retouching: Graeme Bulcraig at Touch Digital; senior style editor: Allia Alliata di Montereale; senior fashion market editor: Jenna Wojciechowski; fashion assistants: Julia McClatchy, Antonio Soto, Nycole Sariol, Sage McKee, Josephine Chumley, Rosa Schorr; production assistants: Tchad Cousins, Juan Diego Calvo, Gina York, Brandon Fried, Nico Robledo, Kein Milledge; hair assistants: Tommy Stanton, Sol Rodriquez, Andi Ojeda; makeup assistants: Tami Elsombati, Bridgett O’Donnell; manicure assistant: Pilar Lafargue; set coordinator: Sarah Hein; set assistants: Olivia Giles, Seth Powsner, King Owusu; tailors: Suzi Bezik, Cardi Mooshool Alvaji; tailor assistant: Elma Click