BBC America’s Killing Eve has had a great year; the spy thriller grew week-on-week during its eight-part run and has now nabbed two Emmy nominations. Sandra Oh, who plays the titular character, is the first Asian woman to be nominated for Lead Actress in A Drama Series and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, one of the hottest writers and performers to emerge from the UK, has been nominated for Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series, for the episode “Nine Face.”
Former Grey’s Anatomy actress Oh, who was nominated multiple times for her role in the hospital drama but never won, says this recognition means so much to her and the Asian-American community.
Speaking to Deadline from London, over a celebratory glass of wine, Oh said that she was with a fellow Asian-American actress when she found out and her friend started yelling at her. “Seeing her Asian face and congratulating me means a lot to me and a lot to our community and it’s not only the beauty of being acknowledged for your work, it’s an acknowledgement of my community and that has not always been the case,” she said.
Oh’s Eve is a bored, whip-smart, pay-grade security services operative whose desk-bound job doesn’t fulfill her fantasies of being a spy. But she soon comes up against Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer, an elegant, talented killer who clings to the luxuries her violent job affords her. These two fiercely intelligent women, equally obsessed with each other, go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse. The drama, which is produced by UK production company Sid Gentle Films, is based on novellas by Luke Jennings.
She said that she was excited to be able to play such a great role, one which is such a complex female lead. “There’s plenty of shows and entertainment that has women in them, but this focuses so intently on female psychology and because that’s the focus and interest of the show, we’re able to mine and create complex characters and that’s what people are responding to,” she added. She admitted that being on a show that grew week-by week, largely due to word of mouth was also a thrill, particularly as the tension builds in each episode.
Sid Gentle Founder Sally Woodward-Gentle told Deadline that Oh was an “extraordinary” actor and was thrilled that she could pull off a slightly different acting vernacular in such a “heightened” show. “It is is quite rare to see two extraordinary women as leads, who are given free rein to do their best work with brilliant scripts. She’s got the gravitas and emotional weight and her breadth is extraordinary.”
Former Carnival Films creative director Woodward-Gentle added that they wanted someone who could anchor the show by playing it both “dowdy” but also coming across as “unexpectedly romantic” as Eve becomes Villanelle’s obsession.
She added that Waller-Bridge’s writing was key to the project. Woodward-Gentle first approached Waller-Bridge when she read the stage play version of Fleabag, before it went on to become a massive hit for BBC Three and Amazon. “You could tell she loved TV and was very ambitious in terms of storytelling. You knew a bigger canvas would suit her,” she added.
Oh added that Waller-Bridge’s nomination was “massively well deserved”. “She just busted her butt and poured her heart out and it shows her immense talent. Here is a piece of work where she is supported to write what she wanted and that’s what you can get when you give certain voices that [opportunity].”
Filming for the second season is set to start “very soon” and Woodward-Gentle promised that the characters, who end up in rather dark and complicated places at the end of season one, will go even “further down the rabbit hole” in the next eight episodes.
The only slight disappointment was that the show wasn’t nominated in the main drama category, not a major surprise given that no BBC America original has ever been nominated in that category, but the team will nevertheless be overjoyed by Oh and Waller-Bridge’s nods.