Casting directors, take note: Dame Harriet Walter is 100% up for playing a Bond villain.
Season three of Killing Eve introduces us to Dasha, the Russian assassin played by Walter – and it’s quite a departure from the actress’s most recent role as the Countess of Brockenhurst in ITV’s Belgravia. But the 69-year-old has relished the chance to play a violent, inventive killer who is utterly without remorse.
So would a role as 007’s nemesis appeal to her?
“Actually it would,” Walter told RadioTimes.com and other press. “Yes, of course. Of course it would. It’d be funny.
“But yes, there’s always a twinkle in the eye. I don’t really think I want to get into a very serious character where you’ve got to get really psychologically involved in somebody who’s a murderer, I think that would be very horrible. Whereas this is sort of playful, there’s always a playful tone in Killing Eve.
“Even though dangerous things happen, it’s always on a pretty fantastical level, and that makes it entertainment And, for me, Bond villains always have a twinkle in their eye, you know.”
Walter’s long career has included notable roles in Sense and Sensibility, Star Wars movie The Force Awakens, The Young Victoria, Atonement, Succession, The Spanish Princess, The Crown and Downton Abbey.
But alongside a recent role as suicidal Edie Henley in dark comedy drama The End, her performance as Dasha in Killing Eve has marked a bit of a departure.
“I think it’s so rare that when you’re older you get to play somebody badly behaved,” Walter said. “And also, somebody who’s got a lot of energy, physical energy, and still can pack a punch…
“Normally I would probably play some sort of cool top ranking person, possibly in the Russian establishment or MI5 or something. And instead, it’s great for me that somebody had the imagination to make me into such a wacko.”
Speaking of packing a punch, Dasha’s entry back into her protégé Villanelle’s life involves plenty of them. We first meet her during a wedding reception in Spain, when bride Villanelle (Jodie Comer) spots her old teacher in the doorway and lunges for her in a fit of rage. Soon they are rolling around on the floor as a riot practically breaks out.
“We had a lot of goes at that!” Walter said. As for how it was shot, “no real bones were broken. And we had a team of stunt people and stunt doubles… obviously nobody particularly wants any of the stars to get actually damaged, so it’s all very sort of carefully choreographed. It’s like choreographing a dance.”
By bringing Dasha into the story, Killing Eve’s season three head writer Suzanne Heathcote gives us a new character who is almost Villanelle’s kindred spirit – though that doesn’t mean they always get along.
“They have some things in common. They have a sort of fierce individual streak,” Walter told us. “A fierce defiance.
“I think they’ve probably both had a very tough childhood, and we know Villanelle has, and I think that you see my younger self, Dasha’s younger self, really kicking off because of naked ambition… so anybody who’s going to weaken my game has got to be eliminated, and I think that’s rather the same mentality as Villanelle has.
“Some of which I’ve obviously imparted to her in her training, but we have quite different centres. I think my centre is kind of old fashioned love and loyalty to the Soviet Union, and something quite patriotic and outdated, whereas Villanelle is of a very different generation, is much more interested in the high life and great clothes and good hotels. And Dasha lives in quite a simple flat and doesn’t really mind about those things so much.”
As for the future of Dasha’s role in the story of Villanelle, the actress added: “Their relationship actually could spin out because it’s such an amazing mixture. Sort of rivalrous sisters, and a possessive mother and rebellious daughter, and scheming colleagues.
“And I think Dasha has a certain jealousy for Villanelle because she was her trainer, but Villanelle’s kind of superseded her and is obviously going her own way. So it’s quite a complicated relationship and you could spin it out even more.”