Tilly Keeper Brings the Light to You Season 4

The London-based actress channeled famous socialites to portray Lady Phoebe in the hit Netflix series.

A portrait of Tilly with wet hair and a black dramatic blouse
Photograph by David Reiss; Image treatment by Ashley Peña; Styling by Farrah O’Connor; Hair by Paul Jones; Makeup by Maria Asadi ; Dress by Philosophy

Tilly Keeper might be mad at me for sharing this, but she’s a Gossip Girl fan. I mean, can you blame her? She was a teenager in the 2010s, just when the students of Constance Billard and St. Jude’s were in the midst of their wild antics. “My friend had a box set of the series and I’d never seen it before, so we watched it to see what the hype was about. That was my show,” Keeper tells W over Zoom. “I can’t believe I just admitted that.”

Now at 25, one of Keeper’s teenage obsessions has become part of her real life—she’s acting alongside Penn Badgley (formerly known as Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey) in season four of You on Netflix. To be fair, Keeper also grew up admiring Baz Luhrmann films—1996’s Romeo + Juliet, specifically—and musicals, too. “If you were looking for me at school, I was sitting in a corner with my earphones in, watching Tony Award performances,” she says. The actress, born and raised in London, has been singing, dancing, and acting basically since she could walk. “I started off with ballet lessons and I guess I showed promise,” she says. “I think I did a plié right.” It wasn’t too surprising to her parents, then, when all of her classmates were applying for university and Keeper announced she would take a different path.

“I told them I wanted to be an actress and decided to take a year. If I didn’t book anything in that time, I would apply for drama school.” A month later she had a role on Eastenders, one of the top-rated series in Britain.

Keeper with Danny Walters on Eastenders.

Courtesy of BBC

For those Americans who might be unfamiliar with the show, the soap opera has been a British cultural staple since its premiere in 1985, portraying the lives of the local residents of Walford, a fictional borough in London’s East End. “It's like a kitchen sink, family drama, soap-tastic, murder, affairs, fraud,” Keeper explains. “The sky's the limit when it comes to storylines on EastEnders.” During her four years on the show, Keeper’s character, Louise Mitchell, experienced the gamut of soap opera plots. She was in a bus crash, kidnapped, and got pregnant, just to name a few. In 2019, though, she made the decision to depart from the show.

“I was 18 when I started and I’d just turned 21. All of my friends at university were graduating,” Keeper says. “I started thinking, ‘Maybe I should be moving on too.’ It felt like a natural progression. I got the the point where I was ready to work on other things. I was seeing my actor friends getting roles and I was kind of getting a little bit itchy. So it felt like the right time to leave.”

Keeper spent the next couple of years working on small films and auditioning for roles. “At the start of last year, I was feeling a little bit like, ‘Womp womp,’” she says, mimicking the vaudevillian noise. “I would audition and get great feedback, but then wouldn’t get the part. It was really frustrating. I was reading for a lot of ladies, a lot of aristocrats, getting really close, but not getting them.” Then, the opportunity to play Lady Phoebe on season four of You came around. “I was like, ‘If I don't get this one, I'm going to have to rethink my casting type for God's sake.’”

Keeper in You.

Courtesy of Netflix

But that wouldn’t be necessary, because Keeper landed the role and suddenly was cast on a series she’d been watching for years. “I was so excited, not just to get the job, but because it meant I would get to find out what happens in season four.”

And what happens is a bit of a departure from the first-person, moody and delusional serial killer narrative that You has been so loyal to for three seasons now. That’s not to say Badgley’s Joe Goldberg (now known as Jonathan Moore) has learned his lesson. He’s still the woman-obsessed, deranged killer he always was, but this time, he’s not the only stalker in town. Set in the UK, season four of the show turns the tables on Joe as he finds himself in a group of the poshest of the posh, trying to determine who’s targeting him. It’s less American Psycho and more Mousetrap. That’s where Keeper’s Lady Phoebe comes in, as a member of the upper class London society in which Joe finds himself. She’s an aristocrat and socialite who takes an immediate liking to Joe, but as he continues to suss everyone out, her chances of being the murderer remain just as high as being the next victim.

Keeper in a scene with Badgley.

Courtesy of Netflix

When preparing for the role, Keeper looked to two specific sources of inspiration—the ultimate heiress, Paris Hilton, of course, and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a English socialite known for her appearances on reality shows like I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! and Would I Lie to You?

“She's just so fabulous because she doesn't come across as anything other than simply entertaining,” Keeper says of Palmer-Tomkinson. “She would take out her lip gloss and start applying it halfway through the show. It's that throw away, casual chic, luxe behavior. She doesn't have a care in the world. She's just there to have a good time.” The Palmer-Tomkinson influence is clear in Keeper’s portrayal of Phoebe, whose privileged, “que sera sera” attitude provides some levity to what can be, at times, a very heavy show. Phoebe flutters around the stern Joe, unaware and uninterested in the calamity around them. “She's so polar opposite to everyone else,” Keeper says of Phoebe. “She and Joe could not see the world more differently, but it’s really endearing too. Her life is so over the top. I didn't need to be funny. It was just all there anyway. She's ridiculous enough without having to try to be.”

Courtesy of Netflix.

While Keeper shares the screen with Badgley throughout the season, her biggest scene partner is one of the only other Americans on the cast, Lukas Gage. The actor plays Adam, a wealthy, playboy American expat, attempting to juggle a relationship with Phoebe and a class-related kink. The pair forged a bond while filming in London, as well as at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, where the group enjoys a getaway to Phoebe’s country house halfway through the season. “No disrespect to Knebworth at all, it’s beautiful place, but there’s definitely some bad mojo going on there,” Keeper says. Despite suffering from a fierce migraine during a day of filming (“I was convinced the house poisoned me”), Keeper and the rest of the cast made it out alive, and got through the rest of the season unharmed, though the same can’t be said for all of their characters.

Now, Keeper is in South London, kicking back and decompressing after being immersed in the toxic world of Joe Goldberg for so long. And just like You fans around the globe, she’s also waiting for season four to come out. “I feel like the buildup has taken up my days,” she says. “Everyone's like, ‘What are you up to?’ I'm like, ‘I’m just waiting for You season four.’” We can relate.