Dame Harriet Walter Talks Dasha's Relationship With Villanelle In 'Killing Eve' Season 3

In an interview with Newsweek, Dame Harriet Walter talked about playing the athletic and dangerous Dasha, who happens to be Villanelle (Jodie Comer)'s new and deadly handler, in the exciting third season of Killing Eve.

During the season premiere, Dasha showed up uninvited and unannounced at Villanelle's special wedding day. Their surprise reunion suddenly became a knockout brawl, as the two threw punches at each other. After their intense fight, Dasha revealed that the secret organization known as The Twelve wants the cold-hearted assassin to start killing for them again.

In the recent episode, Dasha explained to Villanelle that the Twelve wants to see her take control and be more collaborative. Unfortunately, Villanelle's assignment took an unexpected turn. Unable to play well with others, she ended up assassinating the potential target and her partner-in-crime in brutal style.

Throughout her body of work, Walter has shown off her chameleon-like skills. In 2008's Succession, the 69-year-old English actress played the cynical and outspoken Lady Caroline Collingwood. In 2019's Rocketman, Walter portrayed Elton John's stern and disapproving music teacher, Helen Piena. And now, Walter has completely changed yet again in Killing Eve.

Before an all-new episode airs Sunday at 9pm on BBC America and AMC, Walter hopped on the phone to chat with us about the current season of Killing Eve. We talked about Dasha's hard-hitting fight with Villanelle, mixing up the black humor with dramatic moments, and the true motivations behind her devious character.

Tell me about creating Dasha's accent.

I did a lot of looking through YouTube and there's a documentary about the sportswomen in Russia. I watched that. I mean, she didn't have to be a sportswoman of course. But I just wanted to get something out of the physicality of an athlete and how they might be like now, when they were older. And I also wanted to study how Russians speak English rather than try and learn how, I don't know, how a dialect coach would teach an English person to sound Russian. It's really the other way around. I did a lot of listening, watching, and hoping that my skin would absorb it.

Killing Eve
Jodie Comer as Villanelle, Harriet Walter as Dasha - Killing Eve _ Season 3, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Des Willie/BBCA Des Willie/BBCA

I loved how Dasha was introduced! She started a fight at Villanelle's wedding. Tell me about shooting Dasha's brawl with Villanelle.

That fight scene was a big, as you can see, because it developed into everybody fighting. I knew that it was a day when we had to get every little detail right, like a jigsaw. You can't just run into a fight like you feel you could. The real characters would have just run in and fought one another, like animals. But we had to do the opposite. We had to kind of hold back, and be very disciplined, and very specific. And do things at the much slower pace that would look fast when it was put together on camera, so that we didn't hurt one another. It's all designed to not cause injury. So it's very technical and very careful. And you have to almost leave your instincts behind, because your instincts are to really hit somebody and you can't. So you have to pull everything back. It's quite tricky. It's not like any other piece of acting. It's almost like not acting, more like choreography.

I thought it was interesting how Dasha and Villanelle are strangling each other one second, and then they're laughing together the next. Tell me about balancing the drama and the humor.

Yes! It's written into the script, the first thing. It was quite a thing we could do very spontaneously in the moment, in the scene. We developed quite a strong performance relationship, where we could both be sort of playing the same game. The scene where I have to take my hand away in time, when she's coming to me, it looks like we're shaking hands and I have to take my hand away right at the right moment. That is a perfect example of their mentality.

They're physically doing what they're thinking in their heads. It's like their mentality is, "I'm just going to be faster than you. Or I'm just going to guess what you're going to do next."

It shows you that it's a game, but it's also a little bit dangerous. And if they needed to be serious, they could, but they also know that the other person can break it. It's interesting! It's like playful but dangerous. And that's good to play!

Killing Eve
Harriet Walter as Dasha- Killing Eve _ Season 3, Episode 2 Des Willie/BBCA

From these interactions, I feel like Dasha and Villanelle have a sort of weird sisterly relationship. They have a sibling rivalry where they have to top each other. Was that how you and Jodie Comer interpreted your relationship from the script?

Funny enough, we didn't share too much in terms of talking about it at length. We very much throw ourselves into the scene and just followed our instincts. But I would say, and I can't speak for what Jodie was thinking, but certainly in my mind, it was a kind of sisterly rivalry. Because Dasha keeps saying, "I'm the best. Nobody beats me." And I think Villanelle kind of tolerates her. She knows she could wipe the floor with Dasha really. Or she thinks she could. But she goes, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." She kind of humors Dasha, but you never know with Villanelle, what she's really thinking. So it's quite good that they're both a bit the same that way. They're both full of spunk and braggadocio, and we don't really know what they're really feeling.

As a reward for being her handler, Dasha mentioned to Villanelle what she gets out of their partnership. Dasha wants to go home and return to Russia. Do you think she means that? What do you think motivates her?

That to me was the heart of the character. That's what motivates everything. She's tired and she's been misplaced. She's been alone for decades, and she wants to go back to where her heart is. And she hopes and dreams that she'll retire in some kind of glory where she'll get a hero's welcome. What we don't see too much of, is she was a real famous star in Russia. She was an international star, an Olympic gold medalist. And she did it for for the idea of Russia. And of course, if she went back there now, she'd be very disappointed. But she still has this dream that she'll be remembered, and glorified, and allowed to retire to a beautiful backyard, and live in luxury with peace and quiet. That's what she's dreamed of. But she's really lonely, and she wants to go home, and that drives her, I think.

How has Killing Eve changed you as an artist?

Every part I play kind of expands me somewhere. I usually like to take a role that I've never done before, because at the end of it, I feel I've developed some new muscles that I didn't know I had. And I definitely feel that with this role! Because it demands a certain style. If we just acted how we want to act all the time, we'd be very boring. It's when somebody else demands of you something a bit extra and a bit different, and you have to meet them halfway, that's when you develop something. And it's best not to turn anything. It's best to let fate take you to these strange places, and fate threw to me into Killing Eve. And I'm so happy it did!

Killing Eve
Harriet Walter as Dasha, Jodie Comer as Villanelle - Killing Eve _ Season 3, Episode 1 Laura Radford/Sid Gentle/BBCAmerica

What are you working on next?

Well, I was caught in the middle of shooting a movie that had to be postponed and delayed. And we don't know when we'll pick it up again. So I have that in the queue. I have two jobs that I've got to see whether they're going to resume, or they're not going to resume, and whether they'll fit around one another. I'm sure time will tell, but I'm hoping I'll go back to work quite soon. Well, not quite soon. I want to sit this whole pandemic out so that we're all really sure we're safe, before I go back to work. But I hope we eventually do finish it.