“This piece is what I’m most proud of”

(Hollie Fernando/Guardian/Eyevine)

When it came to discussing the Best Actress category at 66e Evening Standard Theater Awards in association with Garrard – reinstated after a two-year pandemic hiatus – the vote was unanimous. Veteran showbiz journalist Baz Bamigboye spoke on behalf of the entire panel saying simply, “Jodie Comer, Jodie Comer, Jodie Comer.”

The 29-year-old Liverpudlian star, best known for her mercurial performance in Killing Eve, stunned audiences this summer with her powerful turn in Australian writer Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre. A one-man show about Tess, a hard-working sexual assault lawyer who is assaulted herself, it was only Comer’s second stage appearance.

She committed to the play despite pandemic delays costing her a gig in Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, and was rewarded with rave reviews and a sold-out run. A film version of the staging released in cinemas in July cost £2million, and next year it opens Prima Facie on Broadway.

“Showtime is the thing I’m most proud of in my life,” Comer says, when we talk. “It’s changed me so much and I’ve learned so much. It really gives me chills because there have been so many steps and it just keeps growing and growing. To have that kind of response” – the award best actress – “from people in the industry who really know what they’re talking about and see a lot of theater…it means a lot. I tell her the last person to win the award was Dame Maggie Smith in 2019, also for a solo show, A German Life.”Perfect,” Comer said, clearly shocked.

Jodie Comer in Prima Facie (Helen Murray)

Jodie Comer in Prima Facie (Helen Murray)

The daughter of a Merseyrail worker and an Everton FC physiotherapist, Comer started attending a local weekend drama club aged 11 and made her professional television debut aged 13, rising from small roles to supporting roles, then stars.

His screen career is on the rise, with starring roles in Free Guy alongside Ryan Reynolds and The Last Duel with Matt Damon and Adam Driver already under his belt, and two BAFTAs to his name, for Killing Eve and Jack. Thorne’s care-home drama Help. But she felt like an impostor stepping onto the stage.

“I got the script during the first confinement and I read it in an hour, because I had nothing else to do and I was blown away,” she smiles. She asked when she could audition for director Justin Martin and was amazed to learn she didn’t have to. “I had only done theater once in Scarborough when I was much, much younger. And I thought, well, that seems like a heavy load to carry given that I have so little experience. I haven’t been taught and I haven’t done a lot of theater auditions. There was a lot of fear, insecurity and ego. I thought, am I capable?

But she was fascinated. “I loved that you lived everything through Tess’ experience and only had a sense of [her abuser] Julian and the other characters through his eyes,” she says. “I thought it was extraordinary and I had no idea how to perform it on stage. It also has a very, very important message. Help was the first project I did to highlight a social issue and I came away from that job feeling fulfilled in a completely different way. When everyone is working with that intention, it creates a really pure work environment.

While Help has approached the welfare crisis through the lens of Covid, Prima Facie shows how rape prosecutions are rigged against women – especially those, like Tess, who are assaulted by someone they have been with. ever had consensual sex. The play revolves around a devastating twist, which I won’t spoil, but which brought home the issue on a personal level to the viewers.

Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer at the Evening Standard Theater Awards (Dave Benett)

Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer at the Evening Standard Theater Awards (Dave Benett)

“We had talked about the stats and I had done all my research and we had been in court and talked to so many people,” Comer says, “but to do that moment in the first preview in a room with 850 people, it made me It hit that we are facilitating something much bigger than ourselves.I heard women crying in a way that I had never heard before, a bit guttural.

She pressed two film roles between the London and Broadway series of Prima Facie: The End We Start From, playing a young woman who gives birth amid a climate catastrophe flooding London, with Benedict Cumberbatch; and The Bikeriders, about a Midwestern motorcycle club in the 1960s, starring Austin Butler, aka Elvis by Baz Luhrmann. This took her to Ohio for several weeks and she will be in New York for two months starting in April.

“Not seeing your family is difficult,” she says. “Two of my best friends actually gave birth a few months ago and one of the babies already looks huge. It’s the christenings and the things you miss, which is hard.

One of the friends belongs to the WhatsApp group called Hoes In Different Area Codes, everyone Comer went to school with, including athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Beyond these snippets, her private life is forbidden, and has been since her alleged boyfriend, American hockey player James Burke, was trolled for his alleged Republican leanings. She won’t even say if she has a place in London now, but concedes Christmas will involve ‘a roast dinner from my mum’ in Liverpool.

Does she miss Villanelle, her convincing avant-garde assassin from Killing Eve? “I think I’ll always miss her a little bit. I loved her unpredictability, never knowing what’s next, and it’s a unique experience to spend so much time with a character. She has Villanelle’s boots in She tried to take the whole wardrobe, but realized that the extravagant outfits of the murderer would probably not be suitable for everyday wear: “Besides, people would think that I had no clothes to wear. me.”

Jodie Comer as Villanelle in the BBC show Killing Eve (BBC/Sid Gentle Silms)

Jodie Comer as Villanelle in the BBC show Killing Eve (BBC/Sid Gentle Silms)

Did Prima Facie make him want to do more theater? “It absolutely ignited a spark in me, even though right now Broadway is all I can think of,” she says. “I love being in the rehearsal room, those four weeks of digging and playing and making mistakes. And the immediate feedback when you’re on stage and the audience audibly reacts to something you have told them. given and they give to you…you can’t really get that anywhere else.

“Shakespeare terrifies me and I would be lying if I said I was extremely knowledgeable about playwrights, but I would love to work with Martin McDonagh. is primarily interested in the team involved in each project, and in “capturing what speaks to me in what I read, what inspires me. These are the kinds of stories I choose to tell.

This year’s Evening Standard Theater Awards were unusual; the winners are mostly young and – in an industry still dominated by those privately and Oxbridge-educated – from diverse and not wealthy backgrounds.

Comer says it was important for the creators of Prima Facie to cast a working-class actress in a working-class role. “They were able to see — and believe in — what I couldn’t necessarily see in myself,” she says. “It’s about giving people the space and opportunity to show what they can do, regardless of their experience or how long they’ve been in school. I feel indebted to them because there are so many actresses they could have done with all of this in their arsenal and they didn’t.

I’m very glad they didn’t, I said. “Me too!” Comer said, beaming again.

The 66th Evening Standard Theater Awards took place on Sunday, December 10; the winners were transported there in durable style through the snow by Polestar. Prima Facie opens at the John Golden Theater in New York City on April 11 for a ten-week limited run; primafacieplay.com

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