Arriving a little early for my interview with Jodie Comer, I scope out our meeting point: a small coffee shop in the hubbub of Hampstead Village. Sadly, it’s closed – a broken espresso machine, or so I’m told. Minutes later, Comer strolls up, full of big smiles and bear hugs. I’m telling her we need a new venue when the barista pops her head out again. ‘Oh, don’t worry, we can get you a coffee,’ she says, with a grin. ‘If you’re sure...’ Comer squirms, keen not to make a fuss. ‘...I’ll have a cappuccino.’ Being a big-time A-lister may have the occasional benefit.

Caffeine fix in hand, we ascend the Heath and settle at the top of the hill. At 31, Comer cuts a striking contrast to the many famous actors and pop stars I’ve interviewed over the past 15 years. There’s no caressing a herbal tea in a boujie hotel lobby and talking in bland platitudes. She takes cow’s milk in a takeaway coffee on a park bench, while apologising for ‘wanging on’ and later saying, ‘as an actor you never want to sound too pretentious or woo-woo’, all with her Scouse accent still in full, glorious swing.

It’s a predictable trope: the celebrity who feigns to be ‘just like us’. But, sitting here, Comer nattering away about the joys of womanhood and days off with Sunday roasts, it feels more like an overdue catch up with an old friend, even with the awkward red light of my audio recorder glowing between us.


Comer has just returned home after a few nights in New York for our ELLE cover shoot, having ticked off a bucketlist entry by working with photographer Cass Bird. But she assures me we won’t be losing her to America any time soon. ‘As I’m getting older, I always want to keep my link with home,’ she says. Today, she has arrived wearing boots, washed-out blue jeans, a navy pea coat and a sporty bum bag. ‘Oh, it’s for the dog – full of chicken treats,’ she says. In fact, bar the dewy, symmetrical face of a supermodel, she could be any other north Londoner out walking their pooch.

This isn’t the first time I’ve met Comer in Hampstead. Two summers ago, fresh from a dip in the ponds with my sodden swimsuit still on, I’d headed off for a recovery wine. While ordering at the pub, I spotted Comer at the bar, deep in conversation with a man. We had met during her first cover shoot for the magazine, back in 2019, but not for long enough to warrant disturbing her. As I returned to the beer garden, Comer bounded over with a ‘Hiya, it’s me, Jodie...’ She was having a drink with her dad and wanted to come say hello. It was then that I was first struck by how immediately likeable – and radically un-Hollywood – she is.

And yet, Comer is very much a fully-fledged movie star, complete with all the successes, accolades and a load of award gongs back at her place. Since her breakout role as the charismatic psychopath Villanelle in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Killing Eve, which earned her a Bafta and an Emmy, there has been Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, the comedy Free Guy with Ryan Reynolds, Jack Thorne’s Covid drama Help and then, last year, in what was perhaps her biggest challenge to date, Suzie Miller’s play Prima Facie, which won her an Olivier Award and a Tony. From our spot overlooking the vast metropolis of London, I can’t help but think that I’m sitting with someone who is on top of the world in more ways than one.

Right now, Comer is preparing for the release of The Bikeriders, a motorcycle movie set in 1960s Chicago, also starring Austin Butler and Tom Hardy and directed by Jeff Nichols (of Mud and Take Shelter). Replete with chase scenes, violent brawls and love triangles, it hits all the notes of a big American blockbuster. But it’s the depth of the characters that makes it a true knockout. Comer plays Kathy, the narrator of the film (with an impressive Midwestern drawl), who gets drawn into the dangerous biker gang after falling for Butler’s blue-eyed character Benny.

Much of the filming took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Comer had to learn how to drive on American freeways.

‘Everything’s so spread out, so I was like,“Right Jodie, you have to get in a car, put on your big-girl pants and do it.”’ So she did. She also learnt to smoke for the part, as seeing anyone faking things on screen isa pet peeve. ‘One is when they don’t really smoke, and the other is when they don’t eat the food,’ she says. On the flight back from New York, she saw someone in the seat in front of her watching Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell in the romcom Anyone But You.‘There was a scene where they were eating a cheese toastie, and they bit it from the crust side. I was like, “Nobody f*cking does that!” With smoking, you can tell if they’ve not inhaled. Kathy literally ate [cigarettes]for breakfast, so I had to get it right.’

Working with Nichols on the project was a big draw; Comer says she recently found an old manifestation board from years back filled with pictures from his films. The pair built a bond, and whenI email Nichols later to get his take on Comer, he replies with reams of admiration: ‘Jodie is very graceful on set,’ and ‘She’s a hard worker who shows up prepared and focused, but she is quick to laugh. Jodie will be one of the most celebrated actors in the world. We have decades of incredible performances to look forward to – I’d bet my career on it.’

Unlike many, Comer built her career without industry contacts or drama school. She grew up with her parents: Jimmy, a sports-massage therapist at Everton FC,and Donna, who worked for Merseyrail, as well as a younger brother, Charlie. ‘I was very confident as a kid, and I feel like my mum and dad encouraged that,’ she says.Her confidence (and, likely, some natural talent) led a drama teacher at her girls’ school St Julie’s to suggest she start auditioning as an 11-year-old. From there, bit parts in Holby City, Doctors, Silent Witness, Casualty and My Mad Fat Diary followed.‘My parents don’t come from the business – it’s not like I was pushed into this. It was something I took to them and said,“This makes me really happy,”’ she says. ‘It has always fed my soul in a way that nothing else has.’

In 2018, when Comer was 25, she took on Villanelle and discovered that there could be huge fulfilment in politically charged work. ‘I was blessed with Killing Eve. Playing someone who was so multi-faceted and complex really opened things up. Now, I always want to end a day of filming feeling invigorated. I want to feel proud.’

I remark to Comer on how unaffected she seems by the celebrity aspect of the job. ‘It’s probably a load of crap, but I don’t believe it changes people. It’s just a magnifying glass that almost feeds a monster,’ she says. ‘I love acting. I’ve had some amazing experiences. And, yes, these opportunities are huge and glossy, but they’re so far from the life that I live. Going to things for the sake of it and losing my anonymity – I really don’t enjoy that. In fact, it makes me incredibly anxious.’

And so, Comer remains private. ‘I’ve had moments in my life where I don’t think you can underestimate the lengths people will go to invade that space.’ She proves as much later, when I ask her team for the name of her dog to include in the piece and I’m told it’s a boundary. It’s also why her social-media presence is full of work updates rather than her personal life. ‘I think it’s important as an actor that people connect with the work and not, “Oh, did you know yesterday she had eggs for breakfast?”’

Mostly, though, her family and friends would tell her if she became too affected by any of it. ‘The majority of my friends are from school,’ she says, reeling off names (the heptathlete Katarina Johnson- Thompson among them) and where they’re all based now, with regrets that they can’t hang out more. ‘My roots are the people in my life. I don’t have a lot of yes men around me, which I appreciate.’ Protecting those relationships is increasingly what matters. ‘That’s what I realised when I finished on Broadway. I was like, “I need to go home, to be a better sister, a better friend. I needed to be a more present daughter.” It’s easy, when you love what you do, to get lost in it.’ They’re also the first to call her out if her accent starts to fade. ‘When I go back now, people like to say, “Your accent’s changed, why are you talking like that?”’ Comer says, laughing and still sounding plenty Scouse.

That said, she believes the experience of starring in Prima Facie, a gut-wrenching one-woman show, changed her forever. The story follows Tessa, a defence attorney turned rape survivor, and the performance won Comer an Olivier Award (for the play’s time on the West End) and a Tony (after it transferred to Broadway).

One night, as she was ending the show, Comer locked eyes with an older woman in the audience and delivered the lines to her. Rather than holding her gaze, the woman looked away. ‘I remember coming off stage and being really upset. I felt guilty. Like I’d aimed this at her, and she couldn’t handle it.’ A few weeks passed, then, on the way in to an evening performance, she grabbed the top letter from a pile of fan mail to take to her dressing room. ‘It was from the woman. She’d written to me to say she was sorry she looked away, and explained her abusive experience.’ Comer says she will never forget the women she met during the show’s run, many of whom survived similar events.

The day of our interview, the internet is awash with the news that the New York State Court of Appeals overturned Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 sex-crime conviction.And it’s hard not to feel as if women’s rights are regressing everywhere, that the progress of the #MeToo movement is unravelling.‘It’s so incredibly depressing. I read an article a couple of days ago about a woman who had been raped by her father, and it took the police over 30 years to convict him.’ Does she have hope? ‘Where do we go from there?’ Despite the setbacks, she says it’s important for women to continue to speak up and share their experiences. ‘Whether it’s through letters or people I’ve met at the theatre, seeing tiny changes in people after being able to speak to loved ones about what they’ve gone through is huge. Those little lights flick-ing on everywhere will ultimately make a change. But it’s hard to see when there is very little positive news being reported.’ During our time together, we cover a range of women’s issues, from reproductive rights (‘I just feel like, if it were men who were having to get abortions, I could never imagine women being so concerned with having an opinion or dictating what they should do’) to how playing the lead in The End We Start From, a film about a woman’s journey into mother hood during an environmental crisis, helped her come to terms with her own maternal side. ‘I’d always had this narrative of not feeling motherly. Maybe that’s because I was in my mid-twenties, but I was so curious as to why I’d been telling myself that for years. Certain [maternal] aspects are there, but they haven’t had the chance to flourish yet.’ Acting is Comer’s form of soul-searching and self-discovery. She learns more about herself with every role.

As we chat about her life and work, it becomes clear that Comer loves women, and this plays out in the projects she chooses to take on. ‘In the past couple of years, I’ve met so many women who have become integral to my life, and who all nurture parts of me. I think it’s all about surrounding yourself with people who can see something within you that you can’t.’ She confesses that, after experiencing a kind of solidarity with the female community around the play, returning to set as the only woman on The Bikeriders was tough.‘I went onto that set and it was all men, and I could feel myself shrinking, but not because of anything that was being done. It was fascinating to witness myself doing it. I had to have a word with myself.’

Comer says this is something she’s working on: standing up for herself and learning what it means to have a healthy sense of ego. ‘It’s important not to go through life constantly self-deprecating. You can feel lucky to be there, but also f*cking show up. Own your space, honour yourself in that way. Don’t run away from it.’

The play helped her to do this in her own life. ‘Never mind the accolades given to me, but in the sense of figuring out who I am as a woman, my desires andwhat I want for myself next,’ she says. It also helped her shed some insecurities about her appearance. ‘Growing up, I had a very unhealthy relationship with my body, and I’ve always had a tendency to hide it. Anything revealing or that showed my arms just wasn’t in my comfort zone,’ she says. ‘I went through periods of being consumed by what people thought of me – less so now, because I’m much more focused on myself. I do think the play was a huge catalyst for that confidence. It was the first time I’d truly respected my body, or at least fully took time to care for and nurture it. I was so grateful for what it was enabling me to do, and that bled into all aspects of my life. It taught me grace!’

Our time is ending; Comer needs to pack. This afternoon, she’ll head to Newcastle to begin rehearsals for her latest role in the film 28 Years Later, Danny Boyle’s third instalment in his zombie-horror trilogy, alongside Ralph Fiennes and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The part means she’ll get to add another accent to her repertoire: Geordie. She has been watching clips of Cheryl on The X Factor with her dialect coach to prepare. ‘I’m excited to get the first day done,’ she says. ‘Danny just seems like such a confident, intuitive and intelligent director. The original was so loved, so I’m trying not to think of that too hard. I’m not putting too much expectation on myself.’

I’m struck by the deep sense of calm within Comer, as if she has it figured out. Or, as Nichols also pointed out: ‘You get the overwhelming sense that she’s got things handled.’ It’s possible this might change – with bigger roles, bigger fame – but, for now, she has found a happy equilibrium between celebrity and normality: one day shooting a fashion story in New York, the next walking her dog in the park (yes, wearing a bum bag).

Later that day, I get a text from Comer. She wants to recommend an Anna Mary Howitt quote about sisterly solidarity from a Jennifer Higgie book she’s read- ing that she thinks I’ll like. I do, so much so that I’m ending this story with it: ‘What schemes of life have not been worked out whilst we have been together! As though this, our meeting here, were to be the germ of a beautiful sisterhood in Art, of which we have all dreamed long and by which association we might be enabled to do noble things.’

The Bikeriders is in cinemas from June 21.

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