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Killing Eve’s Fiona Shaw: We’re playing with the minds of millions of people

Fiona Shaw plays the head of MI6’s Russian unit in Killing Eve (Ian West/PA)
Fiona Shaw plays the head of MI6’s Russian unit in Killing Eve (Ian West/PA)

Fiona Shaw has spoken of the “huge pressure” the cast and crew of Killing Eve felt trying to follow up on the serial killer drama’s incredibly popular first series.

The actress, who plays the head of MI6’s Russian division in the BBC America production, said the show’s sudden success had left its makers watchful of keeping the quality “very, very high”.

Speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards in London, where Killing Eve picked up three gongs, Shaw put the show’s success down to it “playing with the minds of millions of people”.

Broadcasting Press Guild Awards – London
Jodie Comer stars as Villanelle in Killing Eve (Ian West/PA)

The 60-year-old told the Press Association: “A success makes you very happy but it also makes you very possessive.

“I think we are very watchful of keeping the standard very, very high, and keeping the audience enthralled to the huge prism of opportunity that these characters hold.

“None of them are pin down-able. That’s the genius of it. You feel you know them. You know aspects of them, and sometimes they corroborate that.

“But other times they absolutely drift away from that. It’s vision really, it’s vision that holds it.”

The BBC series, penned by Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and based on Luke Jennings’s Codename Villanelle novella series, was voted best drama series and also won the best online first/streaming prize, with its breakout star Jodie Comer being named best actress.

Killing Eve
Shaw with Sandra Oh in a clip from the second series (Parisa Taghizadeh/BBC America/PA)

Shaw added: “I think there’s huge pressure, yes, just from the fact of it. Second series are notoriously hard to do.

“You have to be consistent and yet not consistent. You’re playing with the minds of millions of people.

“They have expectations and when you watch something yourself, human minds are very quick – they catch on and often start making threads of narrative ahead.

“You have to be ahead of the people who are thinking ahead.”

Asked how the second series, penned by new writer Emerald Fennell, would be different, she replied: “Maybe the humour.

“Phoebe’s humour comes out of her DNA – her red corpuscles seem to bang into her white corpuscles in a different way to anyone else.”

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