Taken from the Spring 19 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the magazine now.
“We were filming in Peckham, and every now and again a bus would go past — in the shot — with the Killing Eve advert on it,” laughs Somerset-born actor Edward Bluemel, recalling the surreal task of taking on a new role in the show’s sequel just as its first season dropped in the UK.
Unfolding was an internet-fuelled pandemonium that really overruled the need for those advertisements at all; what seemed like the whole country was dissecting comedy-drama Killing Eve, or hoping you’d bring it up so they could talk about it more. And while they provided an awkward (but fashionably Black Mirror-meta) obstacle for filming on the day, for Bluemel the London bus posters symbolised the ever-looming presence — and inevitable weight — of the show’s critical and commercial success.
“It was a little bit of pressure,” he concedes when we meet in a pub a couple of weeks before Christmas, a couple of weeks after wrapping the show. “But at the same time, it was such a comfortable set. There were times when I almost forgot that I was filming for a huge show, and it just seemed like anything else.”
He describes his character Hugo as “a crafty guy, but quite a low key crafty guy” – in comparison to the series’ leading ice-cold assassin, that is. “He’s very manipulative and he’s definitely got no moral compass, that’s his biggest flaw.”
For Bluemel, it’s the intricately flawed characters of Killing Eve that made it so compelling, a well-timed response to a generation demanding more complex characters for female actors. “Did you watch and love Girls?” he asks: “Writing and performance-wise I utterly hated everyone, and that’s what I love so much, because you saw yourself in everyone. I think Killing Eve has sort of tapped into that.”
The 25-year-old tells me he’s always been drawn to more eccentric roles, anything that forces him firmly out of his comfort zone – an addictively destabilising buzz he first felt whilst studying at the The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. “It just batters your inhibitions out of you so fast, and forces you to be really brave and not care,” he says of the demanding drama course, fondly relaying the mantra of a glamorous Italian teacher who advised him to “live in the shit” – in other words, to thrive under uncomfortable circumstances whilst performing. “She was like: ‘No one likes an actor who’s always comfortable on stage! People want to see people struggle.’”
He’s utilised her words in a wide variety of roles: from scenes filmed at Bestival for his first feature film Access All Areas, which turned out to be a hectic “baptism of fire” (“when people are off their nut at a festival, they’re fascinated by a camera crew”), to Touch – a play where he portrayed a “super ridiculous, kinky sex role reversal” scene live on stage, and the forthcoming post-WW2 drama Traitors, which was filmed in the 49-degree heat of the Sahara desert.
Bluemel’s also writing relatable comedy, turning his “stay in the shit” stories into material he hopes will become a script of his own. He’s apprehensive about showing anyone yet, but I doubt he should be so cautious – who better to write piercing satire than someone who’s grown up learning to embrace awkward experiences, worked on dark and progressive comedies like Killing Eve, and developed the sense of humour necessary to get lost in those roles? “Being willing to laugh at yourself is so important,” he agrees: “What you’re doing as an actor is quite silly anyway, you’re already a bit of a joke. So you should embrace that.”