15 Thrilling Facts About Killing Eve

BBC America
BBC America

Warning: Spoilers ahead for season one of BBC America's Killing Eve.

If you have yet to watch Killing Eve, you’re missing out on one of this year’s most addictive crime dramas. And spy thrillers. And black comedies. Just when you think you know where the genre-busting BBC series about an MI5 desk drone-turned-field agent (Sandra Oh) helping to track down a psychopathic assassin (Jodie Comer) is headed, it changes the rules. Which helps explain why the show has been such a hit with audiences and critics alike. With a second season already underway, and star Sandra Oh vying for what could be a groundbreaking Emmy win, here are 15 things you might not have known about Killing Eve.

1. IT’S BASED ON A SERIES OF NOVELLAS.

L to R: Fiona Shaw, Kim Bodnia, Sean Delaney, and Sandra Oh in 'Killing Eve'
BBC America

Between 2014 and 2016, Luke Jennings—dance critic for England’s The Observer—wrote a series of four Kindle Singles that become the novel Codename Villanelle, about a Russian assassin and an ambitious MI5 agent who chase each other around the world in a global game of cat-and-mouse. In 2014, producer Sally Woodward Gentle optioned the rights to Jennings’s stories.

“Although the notion of a female assassin was not unique, Luke’s take was fresh, intelligent and tonally much bolder than others,” Woodward Gentle said. “It wasn’t exploitative. We really enjoyed the character of Villanelle and the inventiveness of her kills, but we were particularly engaged with the mutual obsession between the women."

2. IT WAS WRITTEN AND DEVELOPED BY FLEABAG CREATOR PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE.

Though Phoebe Waller-Bridge began her entertainment career as an actor (she played droid L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story), Crashing and Fleabag have turned her into an in-demand writer and producer as well. Waller-Bridge was brought onto Killing Eve based on her work on the stage version of Fleabag, which she performed as a one-woman show in 2013. The material turned out to be a perfect match for the creator’s sensibilities.

“I write from the point of view of what I’d like to watch,” Waller-Bridge told The Guardian. “I’m always satisfying my own appetite. So I guess that means transgressive women, friendships, pain. I love pain.”

3. SANDRA OH WASN’T SURE WHO THE SHOWRUNNERS WANTED HER TO PLAY.

'Killing Eve' star Sandra Oh
© James White, Corbis Outline via BBC America

Sandra Oh—who was the first actor cast in the adaptation—loved the script for Killing Eve, but was slightly confused about which role the producers had in mind for her. “I was talking to [my agents] and scrolling on my phone like, ‘What is it?,’” Oh told ELLE Magazine. “I’m quickly scrolling through my phone, trying to find my part, and I’m talking to my agent like, ‘I don’t get it. What’s the part?’ because I was like, I can’t play an assassin, obviously it’s gonna be a young hot girl, I don’t get it, what’s my part? Then my agent said, ‘Eve. The part is for Eve.’"

4. IT WAS CELEBRATED BY MANY CRITICS FOR BREAKING ALL THE GENRE RULES.

The critical reviews for Killing Eve were almost unanimously positive, with many fans mentioning the innovative way in which the show subverts so many genre conventions. In making the case for Oh as this year’s Best Actress for Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote that “Killing Eve is such a brazenly entertaining series that you don’t immediately realize how groundbreaking it is … First, of course, there’s the fact that Killing Eve is built around two women, an immediately distinguishing difference in a genre, the cat-and-mouse thriller, where both the main investigator and the main baddie tend to be men.”

At IndieWire, Ben Travers wrote that “Killing Eve is a helluva good time, it's already more interesting than many of its genre peers, and the first season illustrates a self-awareness essential for its survival. The show may follow a formula, but there's nothing routine about it.” Writing for The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert said, “Killing Eve is subversive at its most basic level, taking the classic good-guy-chases-villain template and placing two women in the primary roles.”

5. OH IS THE FIRST ASIAN ACTRESS TO BE NOMINATED FOR A BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA EMMY.

Proud #immigrantparents Just took me 30 yrs...

A post shared by Sandra Oh (@iamsandraohinsta) on

Between 2005 and 2009, Oh received five consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy (though she has yet to win one). But her nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Killing Eve marks an important first for the entertainment industry: She is the first Asian actress to receive a Lead Actress in a Drama nomination.

6. WALLER-BRIDGE AND JODIE COMER’S FIRST MEETING WAS AT A BAFTA PARTY, AND THEY WERE BOTH DRUNK.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Jodie Comer shared that the first and only time she had ever met Waller-Bridge was a few months before she was ever contacted about Killing Eve. The two of them met at a BAFTA party, and both were rather inebriated. “I didn’t know nottin’ about Killing Eve,” Comer said. “Then my audition came along and I was like … Oh my God, I was so drunk that night. This is really awkward.”

7. OH AND COMER’S FIRST MEETING INCLUDED ACTING OUT THE KITCHEN SCENE.

As Eve and Villanelle, Oh and Comer spend almost the entirety of season one trying to stay one step ahead of each other, which means that they don’t share a lot of screen time. But it was imperative that the actors who filled the roles had enough onscreen chemistry to fill the moments that they did share with a rare kind of curiosity that is both raw, vicious, and somewhat sexual. So Oh’s first meeting with Comer required them to act out the infamous kitchen scene, where Villanelle breaks into Eve’s home.

“Jodie is so wonderful in her presence, and her own instinct, and her own fearlessness,” Oh told Deadline. “She’s absolutely nothing like the character, which makes what Jodie can personally bring to it so much more extraordinary. We first met in her audition, and the audition was the scene in the kitchen in Episode 5, this 10-page scene. Jodie flew from England to LA, we laid it down, and immediately, I felt like we could both feel, ‘Oh, this is my dance partner.’”

8. IT WAS RENEWED BEFORE THE FIRST SEASON HAD EVEN PREMIERED.

Sometimes you just know when you have a good thing. On April 5, 2018—three days before Killing Eve had even made its debut—BBC America announced that it was being renewed for a second season.

“This show has the thunder of women on both sides of the chase in Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer and, importantly, behind the camera with the lavishly brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge,” BBC America president Sarah Barnett said in a statement. “The early response to Killing Eve has been incredible—for that reason, as well as the fact that we wholeheartedly love this original, funny, thrillingly entertaining series, we are delighted to move ahead with a second season before we even premiere.”

9. MORE THAN 100 ACTRESSES WERE CONSIDERED FOR VILLANELLE.

Jodie Comer as Villanelle in 'Killing Eve'
BBC America

Though it’s impossible to imagine Killing Eve without Comer in the role of the psychotic—and rather glamorous—assassin, the show’s producers considered more than 100 actors for the part. “We didn’t want Villanelle to be like Nikita or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—that male fantasy version of what a woman who’d come for them might look like. We wanted her to be able to disappear into a crowd,” Woodward Gentle told Backstage. “There had to be chemistry between [Eve and Villanelle], this extraordinary chemical reaction that’s not necessarily sexual, but has hints of it. [Oh and Comer] had it. Their acting methods are very different, but they were completely within the same piece. That was really important.”

10. WALLER-BRIDGE AND OH WANTED THE ENDING TO FEEL ORGANIC, SO THEY WORKSHOPPED IT TOGETHER. WITH SOME WINE.

While discussing Eve and Villanelle’s second encounter, which ends with Oh stabbing Comer, Waller-Bridge told Variety that it was important to both her and Oh that whatever happened in that scene felt natural to the character of Eve. “That moment of ‘saving her’ came out of a wine-fueled, after-dinner spontaneous workshop of the scene with Sandra,” Waller-Bridge said. “Sandra and I were acting it out across my kitchen table … We mimed her stabbing me and then pulling the knife out … Then we both froze for a second, just feeling out what might happen next, then we suddenly both covered the imaginary wound at the same time and looked at each other utterly mortified—just like we believed Eve would once she took a second to realize what she had done.”

11. OH DOESN’T NORMALLY WATCH HERSELF ON SCREEN, BUT MADE AN EXCEPTION FOR KILLING EVE.

Sandra Oh in 'Killing Eve'
BBC America

Many actors can’t bear to watch themselves onscreen, and Oh counts herself among them. But she was curious to see how Killing Eve turned out, so she binge-watched the first three episodes—and loved every second of it. “In the plethora of all that’s out there to watch, actually being something different is so fun,” she told Vanity Fair.

12. ITS RATINGS GREW WITH EACH EPISODE.

Word-of-mouth played a major part in Killing Eve’s success, a fact that could be seen in its ratings, which grew from one week to the next throughout the season—which is something that no other scripted television series had done in more than a decade.

“This show has exceeded our expectations in every possible way, and we came into it with very high expectations,” BBC America president Sarah Barnett said in a statement. “From executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s words on the page, to the performances by Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and the entire cast, the critical acclaim, the fan engagement and audience growth. On every level, this has been one of the ones you dream about when you get into this business.”

13. THE SHOW’S DARK COMEDY HELPED AUDIENCES ROOT FOR A KILLER.

Much of the show’s success, according to Waller-Bridge, rests in its more lighthearted moments—which she told Variety were necessary for any show that’s “tied up with pathos and is as usefully disarming as it is entertaining.” She also believes that the show’s dark comedic elements allowed the audience to root for Villanelle, “because she makes them laugh … It forgives a thousand murders!”

14. THE BODY COUNT WAS RATHER HIGH.

Though given Villanelle’s penchant for murder, it’s not hard to imagine that she’s killed 1000-plus people throughout her career, the audience only witnesses a total of 19 deaths of the hands of the quirky assassin. (An additional eight deaths throughout the series led to a total body count of 27 for the first season.)

15. EVE SHOULD BE NERVOUS ABOUT SEASON TWO.

Jodie Comer in 'Killing Eve'
BBC America

Though not many details have been released about Killing Eve’s second season, we know that it’s scheduled to premiere in 2019 and that Waller-Bridge—who received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing—won’t be writing it. (The second season of her show Fleabag is currently in production, and timing wouldn’t allow her to do both.) But Waller-Bridge has offered a warning that the next season will see Eve in danger.

“[Eve] has crossed a line with Villanelle and with herself,” Waller-Bridge told Variety. “I think both are threats to Eve going forward. There is no question that she will be haunted in some way by both from this moment on.”

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

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