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Killing Eve was a ratings phenomenon its first season, bucking 2018’s downward trend with rising ratings on each episode and a finale that with three days of delayed viewing had an 86 percent higher viewership than its premiere. A word-of-mouth hit in every sense of the phrase, the series became a critical darling and was featured on multiple year-end best of 2018 lists.
But season two — which will also air on the series originator BBC America’s sibling network, AMC, in a bid to grow the audience — will be a test for the show, with Emerald Fennell (Call the Midwife) coming in as a new showrunner and taking over head writer duties from Emmy-nominated creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge. At the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Saturday, Fennell sat down with stars Sandra Oh, Jody Comer and Fiona Shaw and producer Sally Woodward-Gentle to reveal details about season two and discuss what what the show would look like sans Waller-Bridge.
Season one’s ending left the characters at a point of no return, and the second season picks up immediately after Villanelle and Eve’s fateful altercation. Their relationship was at the core of the series’ success and the sophomore effort looks to dissect it even further. “We have a lot of energy at the beginning of the [new] season and that pushes them into a different place of vulnerability,” Oh explained.
The showrunners also teased that the show’s country-hopping will continue with a trip to Rome, as well as Paris and Holland, something that Oh was clearly excited about. “The one part of the show that we all delight in is that our show has an international feel and flavor to it. It’s exciting not only to shoot on and work on and be on those locations, but it also gives such a depth, flavor, and originality to the show.”
Fennell also addressed her new leadership in the second season, sharing that joining the successful show has been “terrifying but amazing.” The showrunner added, “I’m lucky in that I came on board before the first season came out, so the explosion and joy of interest and attention came after we’d already started envisioning season two.
Oh offered a glowing review of her new showrunner. “It was such a good match. I don’t know how much you guys know, but Emerald and Phoebe are friends and have been friends for a very long time, and I feel like they have a kinship and sensibility, where they come from their humor and their style,” she said. “Emerald has her own voice entirely, but it really moved from one hand to a similar hand,” Sandra Oh shared.
At another point, Shaw shared her own theory as to why Killing Eve hit a cultural nerve in 2018. “I think Sally Woodward-Gentle was genius to pair Phoebe with these books,” Shaw said of the original source material, Luke Jennings’ collection of novellas, Codename Villanelle. “That was a very good combination, but secondly there’s something about Phoebe’s humor — and Emerald’s — that is very much about the instability of the time we’re living in.”
Each of the cast had a story about the show’s impact on the people around them, with Oh expressing that even with all of the accolades and awards, she was also judging the show’s success on how the general public reacted to it. She argued there was a huge reaction from “the people on the street, which is kind of even more exciting because you see that our show has reach and range in its audience, which is really hard to get.” Showrunner Woodward Gentle shared her own anecdote, revealing that fans told her their grandparents learned how to stream for the first time just because they loved the show so much.
The panel played up Killing Eve’s female representation both in front and behind the camera. But for Oh, “there’s still work to be done.” The star added, “It’s all about setting the tone. Being able to be one of the people who gets to set the tone means a lot to me because I’ve seen how things run and there are some ways where I would love it to be different.”
It’s a sentiment shared by her colleagues, as Woodward-Gentle added that “people [should] treat each other in the way they [want to] be treated, and treat people well and be kind to each other, that’s the ethos, and do the work and bring more women through.”
Fennell agreed, adding, “I think as women, as actors, writers, directors, or producers, we’re used to being the cement, and men are the bricks. So we fill in the cracks, we take up the space that we have and try to make it work. But on this show we’re the bricks.”
Killing Eve returns on BBC America and AMC on April 7.
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