As the final season of Killing Eve unfolds, we had the chance to touch base with the show’s beloved cast. For four seasons Fiona Shaw has played the always blunt and often elegant Carolyn Martens. In Episode 5, we’re treated to a flashback and a backstory that fills in many of Carolyn’s blanks. In this interview, Shaw talks on-screen fashion, friendship, and Carolyn’s true motivation as we approach the series finale.
Q: This season Carolyn is really propelled by her mission to find out who ordered Kenny’s death and she’s laser-focused on finally taking down the Twelve. Can you talk a bit about Carolyn’s headspace at the top of the season?
A: I think that Carolyn has a great zest for life. She really does love life and she loves being in hotels. She knows a lot of people and she has friendships going back a long way, so she's a very expansive person, I think we can say. And obviously having killed Paul, she has to be punished, so MI6 seem to have banished her to one of their small offices in sunny Mallorca. It's not so bad! But Mallorca cannot contain her, so sure enough she takes off and becomes much more of a maverick. In the process of trying to discover who the Twelve are and who killed Kenny, she gets much nearer to her own path than she would have ever wished to. I think that little threads in her life inevitably begin to unify, and that's a very suitable thing for a last series.
Q: One of the coolest things this season happens in Episode 5 (“Don’t Get Attached”), when we get to meet young Carolyn and we really get a sense of who she was and how she became the Carolyn we know today. What was it like getting that extra information about her youth? Did you learn anything about her early days that informed or clarified her actions as an adult?
A: Well, honestly I had a completely different history in my mind! But I lauded the writers for wanting to make one. I thought she'd have gone to Oxford, so I never thought she'd have gone to university in Germany. But it did make a lot of sense! I mean, what they're playing with is the kind of icon of Carolyn. It’s amazing how Carolyn has sort of leapt over all these decades effortlessly. Placing her father as part of that Cold War chaos means that she's an inheritor of that Cold War system, and I think that does make a lot of sense for her.
The writers really wanted to explore her youth. I said, "Leave her mysterious!" but they didn't want to and we found this marvelous actress who plays young Carolyn, Imogen Daines. She did it very well. Also having Emily Atef direct was just perfect. They began to explore different styles for that episode, and I was very impressed by it. I think it was a daring experiment to put in the last season. Rather than have everybody unify, they actually split Carolyn off and allowed her to explode like a meteorite elsewhere, and I think that was so good!
Q: Over the course of the past two or so seasons, we’ve seen Carolyn and Villanelle form a very interesting symbiotic relationship. This season that’s taken to an even deeper level and it’s so much fun to see you and Jodie play against one another. What was it like working on some of the more intimate and casual scenes with Jodie this season? There’s lots of bread-breaking going on between the two of you and it’s so interesting to see how their connection grows.
A: Well, I was sorry that there hadn't been more written earlier about them, but there couldn't have been because Villanelle was always being pursued by Eve. Oddly, Eve and Villanelle are not very important in Carolyn's life. I mean, that's the irony of the whole thing —Carolyn isn’t as invested in those two as they are in themselves. She's on her own track. She just happened to be the boss. So by request, I said, "Please don't let this thing end without my having something to do with Jodie!" So they did write these scenes and I so enjoyed them.
I think as characters Carolyn and Villanelle have a lot more in common than they don't. Neither of them stick to a strict morality. Neither of them are woke in that sense of being part of the liberal dialogue. They're both rulebreakers entirely. They think very refreshingly, according to their own perspectives, and they respect that in each other, I think. Carolyn was never threatened by Villanelle. She never found her a big threat, including Villanelle's murders. They're just part of a system that Carolyn is also part of. So they probably have more in common than what separates them. Carolyn is by far a more mature character than Villanelle. Villanelle is a very young, hedonistic person, and Carolyn is an anarchist of a deeper kind perhaps.
Q: One of the elements of the show that is so thrilling for fans is the storytelling that happens through the show’s fashion. It was so shocking to see Carolyn in different unexpected looks this season — sandals! No statement coats?! Button down dresses! But she does return to more familiar looks when she gets back to London. Costuming is such an integral part of embodying a character. Were there any looks in particular this season that really helped you slip into character immediately?
A: I mean, Sam [Perry, costume designer] is a genius. Sam is a bit like the young writers. I didn't always find it comfortable to be pushed out of the uniform of Carolyn. Sam had been pushing for these little stubby shoes for a long time, and slightly shorter trousers that are not necessarily tapering down but actually wide trousers. I was like, "God, how am I going to wear these and still hold on to the character?" But when you have a character that's as sure as Carolyn, it made sense to step on the surfboard and surf with the young designers because they’re in tune with something else. Sam certainly took me into different fashion areas!
I think one of my favorites is the red coat that I think is absolutely iconically Carolyn. It’s beautifully made, beautifully cut, it sits beautifully. There’s another white coat you’ll see later in the season that has winter trees on it, it was almost like a set for a Chekhov play. It’s very clever of Sam to have this iconography of the characters, so much so that they're almost beyond clothes — they're a dream perfection. Opera does that. It's very near opera. The design has a meaning beyond some domestic realism, you know?
Q: I’d love to talk a bit about the relationship between Carolyn and Konstantin. We learn more about the nascence of their relationship this season, but would love some clarity from you about what you believe the true nature of their relationship is. It’s a friendship, it’s business-adjacent, but there are also other emotions running rampant there...
A: Yes, they focus on that one, but Carolyn's had many relationships! [Laughs] Carolyn isn’t somebody who found it easy to stay with anybody. That doesn't mean that the relationships weren't very intense, but sex itself was not important to Carolyn. She may have had sex with many, but her connections are only with a few. If anything, I would say that perhaps Konstantin was more involved with her than her with him. I've always thought that he was the father of Kenny. But it doesn't matter. I mean, that's part of the game of it, that she might not even know!
That these things that ground so many of our lives, like who we live with, who we love, and who we're true to, is not the universe that Carolyn inhabits. It doesn't make her flaky or careless entirely, but it makes her free of some of the emotions that we agree culturally are the things that keep us grounded. So, of course she's involved with him and she nearly killed him, but she also let him live because of their connection. He should have been shot, but she didn't do it. So I don't know whether solving the relationship she has with Konstantin would really solve Carolyn, because she's much more interesting than that.
New episodes of Killing Eve Season 4 air Sundays at 8/7c on BBC America, and Mondays at 9/8c on AMC. Each episode will be available to stream one week early on AMC+. Full episodes are available to stream now on amc.com, the AMC apps for mobile and devices, and a week early on AMC+. Sign up for AMC+, which is available through several providers, including AppleTV, Prime Video Channels, DirectTV, Dish, Roku Channel, Sling, and Xfinity.
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