LOS ANGELES (AP) – Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer say the spy thriller’s fourth and final season quickly makes clear that their characters have changed.
But Eve, Villanelle and viewers should prepare for “how much more personal it is” as the hit series unspools to its eight-episode conclusion, said executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle.
“This is going to be a bigger journey than they’ve been on in any other season, and more emotionally charged,” said Woodward Gentle, who has guided Killing Eve throughout its successful run.
She spoke from London in a break from monitoring post-production work on the last episode of the drama.
There’s two “really brilliant new characters” this season, the producer said, and the welcome return of Camille Cottin as the powerful and well-connected – or more accurately, ill-connected – Hélène.
After being immersed in cuts of episodes and promotional spots, Woodward Gentle was careful to monitor her words: “I spend my whole time getting terrified that I’m going to give away some horrible spoiler, so I don’t really know what else I can say.”
Oh and Comer dropped a few clues, reinforced by a trailer intended to whet the audience’s appetite for the last bow of the series inspired by novelist Luke Jennings’ Codename Villanelle’ series.
Eve is “different in the way that she’s clearly gained skills, that she’s not afraid of violence in herself or inflicting it on others,” Oh said of the maverick spy she plays.
Her “complete innocence” on display in the show’s first year is gone, the actor said during a Q&A with TV critics.
Eve’s nemesis, the emotionally damaged but effective assassin Villanelle, has her own bumpy transformation, Comer said.
“I think she’s so desperate to change at the beginning, and I’m not sure that comes from a truthful place. However, when you see this season in its entirety, you really, truly see just how she’s done so,” she told critics.
The show, praised as an intoxicating female perspective on obsession, cruelty and power with an overlay of dark comedy, earned two Emmy nominations for best drama series and was a boon for its stars.
Oh, a five-time Emmy nominee for her supporting role in Grey’s Anatomy, became the first performer of Asian descent to receive a lead drama actress Emmy bid for the part of Eve. Comer won her first Emmy along with England’s counterpart, a BAFTA award. Fiona Shaw, whose Carolyn slipped from intelligence boss to unhappily relegated to an embassy post, also was Emmy-nominated.
Killing Eve is among the well-received programmes produced by Woodward Gentle, among them The Durrells and Any Human Heart. It’s the first one she’s done primarily led by women in front of and behind the camera.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Emerald Fennell (The Crown) and Suzanne Heathcote took turns as lead writer for one season each, with Laura Neal in for the final season. An all-female trio of directors – Emily Atef, Stella Corradi and Anu Menon – handled the last season.
Gender proved a bedrock difference in Killing Eve and the process of making it, Woodward Gentle said.
“It’s always fascinating conversations around the emotional truths of characters. But there was never any moment where we didn’t understand what somebody else is saying or where they’re coming from,” she said. “Or have you got to explain to someone ‘No, you don’t understand. From a female perspective, it feels like this.’
“So that part has been really, really glorious,” the producer said. Oh, Comer and Shaw were also a gift.
They are “very strong women who’ve got fantastic creative opinions, who’ve got amazing life experience that they can bring to the stories of those characters,” Woodward Gentle said.
“And out of those conversations, the piece just gets stronger.”
For Comer, playing Villanelle has led to both artistic and personal growth.
“I really had to shed a skin with her. I was extremely self-conscious coming into this process and there was something about playing her that I had to get rid of that, and I had to dare and I had to be a little fearless,” she said. “That is definitely filtered through my own life, which I’m very grateful for.”
As rewarding as Killing Eve proved to be, it was time to bring it to a close, Woodward Gentle said, and one that didn’t leave the story or viewers hanging.
“We wanted to do something that honoured our characters and something that we planned from the beginning of the writing of season four, which is what we’ve done,” she said.
Were there network pleas to craft an ending that could allow for a Killing Eve sequel?
“There was no moment at any point where pressure was put on to either kill people off or to keep them alive. It’s always been the perspective of what felt like the right thing to do,” the producer said.