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Jodie Comer on how 'Killing Eve' has changed her life

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

In BBC America's hit drama "Killing Eve," Jodie Comer was chosen from dozens of actresses to play the deadly assassin Villanelle. The show also stars Sandra Oh and just kicked off its final season this week. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans caught up with Comer to talk about her character and the lessons she'll take away as the series concludes.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Ask Jodie Comer to sum up "Killing Eve's" story for new viewers as the series returns for its fourth and final season, and she offers an answer crafted particularly for the streaming age. They should watch the show themselves from Season 1.

JODIE COMER: The kind of premise of Season 1 was that it is this cat-and-mouse chase between these two women, the unraveling and the discovery of the female psyche through two women who are really fascinated and obsessed with each other.

DEGGANS: It's been almost two years since audiences have last seen Comer's assassin Villanelle face off against Sandra Oh's put-upon former MI5 agent Eve Polastri. Polastri was an overlooked American employee of British intelligence obsessed with the idea that a mysterious female assassin was killing targets across the world. But as the final season begins, the roles have shifted. Villanelle has joined a religious group, living with a pastor and his daughter, trying hard to convince the world she can be a better person, starting with convincing the pastor to baptize her.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KILLING EVE")

COMER: (As Villanelle) I was born in Russia, abandoned in an orphanage, then sold into slavery.

STEVE ORAM: (As Phil) Yeah. You seem more interested in someone seeing you be baptized rather than the baptism itself. Do you believe in God?

COMER: (As Villanelle) I believe that people who believe in God are good people for me to be around.

ORAM: (As Phil) No, I can't baptize someone who doesn't have faith.

COMER: (As Villanelle) I have faith. I'm not as [expletive] inside as some people think I am.

Her whole life, I feel like she's been molded and shaped to fit the narrative of the people around her, and she's been used to other people's advantages. And she's having a real identity crisis, you know? And she's on this quest to be good, but I don't think that's coming from an honest place.

DEGGANS: "Killing Eve" emerged in 2018 as a big hit, subverting the typically male-centered tropes about espionage stories by focusing on two women who were adversaries but also were drawn to each other in ways that could be romantic, sexual or even vengeful. Comer's work drew particular attention, earning an Emmy in 2019. She played Villanelle as a psychopathic force of nature who never considered the consequences of her murders until she saw how Eve was affected when she killed people close to her.

COMER: Villanelle was feeling things that I don't think she fully understood or could articulate, and I think she struggles with that part of herself.

DEGGANS: Originally developed by "Fleabag" creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge from a series of novels, "Killing Eve" has featured a different female showrunner every season, including Oscar winner Emerald Fennell. Comer says that arrangement requires the actors to speak up so their characters stay consistent. That's something she learned from co-star Sandra Oh, an alum of "Grey's Anatomy," who taught her how to contribute beyond just acting.

COMER: I think her attention to detail has really inspired me. Prior to "Killing Eve," I just always considered acting as, like, you know, you learn your lines. You go to set. You do your job. You go home. And - but there is so much more that you can give. So I think through Sandra and through the production, that's really helped me find my own voice.

DEGGANS: It's a voice that will help bring one of the most groundbreaking TV series of its time to a well-deserved conclusion. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KILLER SHANGRI-LAH")

PSHYCOTIC BEATS: (Singing) I had to kill you. I'm really sorry. I had to do it, got to go on my own. I had to kill you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.