Fiona Shaw has said she “lost a lot of sleep” over her Killing Eve role, and doubted whether the character could hold the audience’s “imagination”.
The stage and screen actress, 61, plays enigmatic MI6 chief Carolyn Martens in the BBC America spy thriller, which is returning for a third series.
Shaw said she was initially “terrified” by the part because she worried the show’s creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge had written a character that was too “unknowable”.
She told Radio Times: “In the beginning (when Killing Eve started in 2018) you just wanted to believe (Waller-Bridge) and follow her.
“I was terrified of the piece. I wasn’t sure whether it was funny or not funny. And, of course, it’s both funny and not funny.
“I lost a lot of sleep over her. I wasn’t sure that allowing Carolyn to be so unknowable would hold in the audience’s imagination.
“But it more than holds. People want to be chasing her down the rabbit holes of her mind.
“Normally, I play somebody who holds the moral argument. And there’s something about Killing Eve where nobody holds the moral argument.
“There’s a ruthlessness to the power of those people.
“And of course, it plays a brilliant trick, which is that the characters are charming.
“And they’re charming because they’re full of wit. And you’re left slightly hooked on them, because you just don’t know where they’re going next.
“They have all the charm of virtuous people, so they lead you up the garden path, and then sometimes they’re not.
“It’s like juggling: There’s always a ball in the air. And you don’t know where it’s going to land.”
Among the show’s new cast members is Game Of Thrones star Gemma Whelan, who debuts as Carolyn’s wayward daughter, Geraldine.
Shaw said: “Gemma is utterly superb. But oh my God, Carolyn and Geraldine have a terrible relationship – really terrible – and I can only say what a pleasure it was to film those scenes with her.
“Unlike Kenny (Carolyn’s MI6 spy son) who is so like Carolyn, with that slightly spectrum-like focus and maybe lacking certain social gifts, Geraldine is entirely an emotional creature, who tends towards the spiritual, and therefore drives Carolyn utterly insane.”
New episodes of the spy thriller, which stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, began airing in the US on April 12, then at 6am on April 13 on the iPlayer in the UK.