Interview with Nina Sosanya plays Jess in Killing Eve
Killing Eve - season two Multi award-winning cat-and-mouse thriller returns to the UK on June 8
Can you describe Jess?
Jess is an MI6 agent who has been working with Carolyn for many years out in the field and is now based in the office. She’s an old hand, an experienced agent, who is settling down and about to have a child. You can’t quite tell how much she’s welcoming the prospect of motherhood in that she’ll have to leave behind her career. She’s going to do both up until a certain point, but she’s in a position where she could throw caution to the wind and be a bit reckless. Seeing Eve go off the rails means she wants to temper that a little though. She’s an interesting character because she’s quite ambiguous and you don’t really know what her ultimate aim is.
How does it feel to be part of a female-led ensemble that is breaking down genre conventions?
The show is packed full of interesting, unexpected female characters and none of them are stereotypes. We also see females in positions of power having to fight against the old-boy network. Jess finds that irritating but rolls up her sleeves and has a go. The thing that really attracted me to this show was the calibre of the acting and the actors. Having two female protagonists at the forefront of the show is quite new for the spy genre. It’s becoming more prevalent, but I can only think of Cagney and Lacey as examples!
It shows that as long as it’s character driven, the plots are exciting and the script is excellent, you don’t actually notice how many women are part of the show. Then you start to notice that there aren’t enough of them in other shows. It’s not an unusual world to be in, where there are lots of women, because that’s the world we actually live in.
How does Killing Eve feel different to your normal story about the world of spies and assassins?
I wouldn’t even describe Killing Eve as a spy story, it’s really a character-led thriller. In a normal spy TV show it’s about the plot and finding out how, who and why. While there is that in Killing Eve, it’s really about how the world of spying and killing is actually changing people - what it’s doing to them and how it’s affecting their personalities. Whether they know it or not and whether they want it to happen or not, that is what’s happening to every single person involved. That’s the crux of it and it’s a really interesting take on the spy story.
How would you describe Eve?
Eve is kind and passionate but a bit bored. She’s down to earth and funny but easily influenced. She is driven, but really shambolic, and is at a point in her life where she needs something else. She doesn’t even know what it is but the world that Villanelle opens up to her seems to fill the void. As far as Jess is concerned, she’s a very easy person to be with and they share a sense of humour.
What is the relationship like between Jess and Eve?
Eve comes into an office that is already functioning and an operation that is being headed up by Jess. She joins as an expert on female assassins and slots in quite well because she’s very personable. It gets a little sticky because she knows more about this particular subject and quickly starts to take charge. There’s a bit of good-natured jostling between her and Jess in terms of the hierarchy and being Carolyn’s favourite. Jess can see what’s happening to Eve and doesn’t know whether to intervene or to step back and leave her to her own devices.
What’s it like working with Sandra Oh?
Sandra is brilliant because she leads but doesn’t make you feel like she’s the lead actress. In every scene you’re just her fellow actor which is fabulous. She’s everything you want her to be. Like Eve, she’s funny and easy to be with but she’s not at all shambolic. She’s very on the story and on point, but not in an intimidating way. The whole working environment is really nice on this show. You don’t feel like you’re joining someone else’s party, you feel part of it straight away.
How would you describe Carolyn?
Carolyn is a very enigmatic presence. She’s someone you want to impress. She’s the boss of their particular branch of MI6 and she bridges the gap between the old school cold war-style spy system and the new. She’s intimidating, ruthless, and highly intelligent but not two dimensional. She’s constantly surprising. Even just the fact that she’s working in the same office as her son is surprising. What does that mean to her as a boss, as a woman, as a mother? It’s really interesting.
What is the relationship like between Jess and Carolyn?
Jess has worked for Carolyn for a long time as she recruited her straight out of university. She knows her foibles and that you might get burnt. You might be the favourite or you might get dropped. They are colleagues and know how to work together. Their relationship is very much in the office or in the field and hasn’t progressed into friendship. Jess knows nothing more about Carolyn than anyone else. She knows Carolyn only befriends people when she needs something from them. Jess respects Carolyn but I’m not sure there’s much in return.
What would you like audiences to take away from Killing Eve?
What attracted me to the show is how it explores the way in which experiences will shape people. If your obsessions are to the detriment of other things in your life, that might not be a great thing. It’s about watching people go through something and seeing how it affects them. It’s less about who did what than what happens to them after that. It’s not flippant or glib about the gravitas of killing people and the effect that has.
Can you describe Killing Eve in a few words?
Unconventionally sexy. Funny, dark, entertaining. You just want to keep watching.
May 29, 2019 1:02pm ET by BBC One