In the premiere, Villanelle (Jodie Comer) reunites with Dasha (Harriet Walter), the woman who trained her to become an assassin.
Speaking to OprahMag.com, Walter gives her take on the characters' complicated relationship.
Watch a new show this spring, and you're bound to encounter Dame Harriet Walter's steely, yet playful, face. From Killing Eve to Belgravia, Walter is everywhere.
In Julian Fellowes' new miniseries Belgravia, 69-year-old Walter plays Caroline, Countess of Brockenhurst, a woman with Downton Abbey-approved costumes and Real Housewives-approved schemes. Walter exchanges her typical Received Pronounciation for a thrilling Russian accent while playing Dasha, a Russian assassin, in season 3 of Killing Eve.
Aside from their unyielding strength, the duchess and the killer do not have much in common. However, Walter sees a connection between Dasha, Caroline, and all the other unforgettable characters she's been behind as of late—including Lady Margaret Beaufort in The Spanish Princess and Caroline Collingwood of Succession.
"I like characters that don’t show everything that’s going on in their head. I like to have a secret inside that I don’t give out—because I think that’s how we all are," Walter tells OprahMag.com.
With her cheetah-print shirts and gold chain necklaces, Killing Eve's Dasha is an outlier among the ladies, countesses, and Jane Austen characters that populate Walter's IMdB page.
Dasha is the key to understanding Villanelle (Jodie Comier), the erratic yet endearing assassin at the heart of Killing Eve. As her trainer, Dasha taught Villanelle all the tricks she prides herself on today. In season 3 of Killing Eve, Dasha returns to help Villanelle cultivate a new generation of criminal talent. Then, and only then, can Dasha move back to Russia.
Killing Eve excels in capturing twisted, idiosyncratic dynamics between women not seen anywhere else on TV. Dasha and Villanelle's decades-long relationship shares DNA with Dance Moms, sibling rivalries, kung-fu movies, gymnastics memoirs, the fading stardom of Sunset Boulevard, and the bittersweetness at time passing found in the Fiddler song, "Sunrise, Sunset." It's a lot—in the best way.
We spoke to Walter about their relationship and the joy of playing a badly behaved woman—which Killing Eve's Dasha, who put a baby in a garbage can, most certainly is.
OprahMag: How would you characterize Dasha and Villanelle's relationship?
She's part show biz mom—nurturing the talent, and proud, but doesn't like the fact that [Villanelle] has passed the point where she'll listen to her. Dasha’s been watching her all this time, rather like I’ve been watching her on TV. She's also very fond of Villanelle in a certain way, because they have a history together. She doesn’t really have any friends that she can be real with—it's quite a lonely life. She’s also quite jealous of Villanelle, I think, because she’s young and successful. She's where Dasha’s glory days were. Every time she sees Villanelle, she’s reminded of how far away her own past is. There’s a like there’s a bit of fear, there’s a bit of love, there’s a bit of anger, there’s a bit of jealousy, there’s a mother-daughter, there’s sister. It's a lovely, complicated mix.
And their relationship is so physical! They take their job with them.
Yeah, you see guys doing that—having a little bit of a spar for a joke. You don’t often see women doing it.
How did you get the timing right on that chokehold in the premiere?
Isn’t that funny? We had a few go's. There is a rhythm in the scene, where you anticipate when it's got to happen—which makes it easier than real life, where I'd have been strangled. It’s all to demonstrate that this the older woman still has quick reflexes that’s she's very proud of, and that she's still very competitive with Villanelle.
You mentioned liking characters who have a "secret" to them. How did you develop Dasha's backstory, and cultivate those secrets?
She's a paradox. You'd think a sleeping spy like Dasha, someone planted into the community, would be trying to blend into the background. But she is very flamboyant wears golden tracksuits with her name on the back, and does outrageous things in the street. It's a double bluff, because you think—that woman can’t be doing anything mysterious behind stage, because she's so out there. I played on that clever masquerade.
Her flat gives you the feeling that she, unlike Villanelle, is not interested in luxury. She is nostalgic for some awful, drab Soviet time when she lived in some apartment block. Her inner life is about nostalgia—but she's trained assassins, more than did stuff herself. The way that Villanelle has used her wit, improvised, and got inside information in other episodes—those are all indications of what Dasha has trained people to do.
One last thing. How did you master the Russian accent?
I’ve been studying Russian anyway, so I know what sort of things they have in their own accent. But it's different—I was trying to sound Russian, and Dasha would be trying to sound English. It's having a good ear, listening to other people, and then, in a funny way, throwing perfection to the air. People are all individuals and pronounce things a bit differently anyway. It's saying, "This is how Dasha speaks,” rather than, “This is a perfect Russian accent.”
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