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The Five Spot: Sally Woodward Gentle, Executive Producer, ‘Killing Eve’

Season three of buzzy drama Killing Eve launched April 12 on BBC America and AMC. The premiere was initially slated for April 26, but the networks moved it up, with Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks Entertainment Group, saying “we know how keen people are for great content right now.”

Sally Woodward Gentle

Sally Woodward Gentle

With Phoebe Waller-Bridge as an executive producer, Killing Eve was nominated for the best drama Emmy last year. Season three sees Villanelle, the assassin played by Jodie Comer, and Eve, the former MI6 operative, trying to work past their obsession with each other.

Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle spoke with Multichannel News senior content producer Michael Malone in late March about the new season, and how the show has made its mark on pop culture. An edited transcript follows.

How has coronavirus complicated things for Killing Eve? The premiere parties haven’t happened. None of the events have happened. They were all meant to happen in New York last week, and some were on hand for April, which aren’t going to happen.

Luckily, we were not filming. We’re in post. I’ve never encountered people working so hard and with such dedication to get something out. It’s extraordinary. I know television isn’t saving lives, but it’s been quite stressful!

Are you surprised by the impact the show has made on pop culture? It’s always surprised me. You always set out to make something that’s good, something that feels original. We’ve always had such strong backing from Sarah Barnett and Nena [Rodrigue, former BBC America executive VP of programming and production] and Gina [Mingacci, former senior VP at BBC America] to really just go for it. I think we all thought it might fly in under the radar — that we’d all love it and it might have a small but passionate audience. We had no idea it would become as popular as it is.

What about the show sets it apart? I really don’t know. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than something that’s really entertaining. Yet it’s got real attitude about it and that started off when Phoebe wrote that first season. She really was engaged by the genre nature of it, as well as the fact that it had women at its core. I don’t think we ever set out to be radical. We just wrote what felt exciting and appropriate and truthful.

Do most viewers connect with Eve or with Villanelle? I think everybody would really like to be Villanelle. They’d like to wake up every morning and not feel fear and see how liberating that is. She just seems to have so much more fun than Eve.

What we really wanted to do with Eve is for her to discover, or rediscover, the brilliance that she had when she was a younger person. All of that sense of opportunity that for most of us gets bashed out of us through disappointment and poor choices — to have that opportunity to rediscover your brilliance is something we wanted to look at with Eve.

Phoebe is being pulled in a million directions. What does she bring to the show these days? She’s always there. She’s always incredibly supporting to the writers if they need a touchstone. Maybe they’re struggling with a certain relationship or how Villanelle would respond or what Eve might do, and she’s there on the end of the phone if they ever need it.


TV shows in your queue?
I’m trying to find Succession to finish it as my husband finished it on a flight (remember those?) without me.
All-time top TV shows?Brideshead Revisited, Girls, Succession, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Destination on your bucket list? If it wasn’t unenvironmentally sound I’d love to visit orangutans. If not, I’m a home girl and am happiest in West Penwith, Cornwall.
Book on your nightstand? Daphne du Maurier’s Vanishing Cornwall.
Favorite podcast? Rather partial to Off Menu.