How Jodie Comer rose to the top

From part-time Tesco worker to to award-winning leading lady: Jodie Comer’s rise to international fame after fitting in her earliest roles between school and her weekend jobs

  • Jodie Comer has won the first ever gender-neutral WhatsOnStage award
  • The Liverpudlian actress, 29, will soon take Prima Facie to Broadway in the US
  • Read more: Jodie Comer is the epitome of chic at the WhatsOnStage awards 

As Jodie Comer heads for Broadway after fighting off tough competition to win a WhatsOnStage award for her West End debut, her career success seems unstoppable.

When the Liverpudlian actress, 29, began her TV career with roles such as the best friend in Channel 4 comedy My Mad Fat Diary in 2013, few could have predicted she’d soon achieve international fame.

But following the success of the coming-of-age sitcom, Comer went on to star in thrilling BBC Three drama Thirteen where she played a teenage girl who mysteriously returned to her family after being abducted several years earlier. 

Just a few years later she took on the role which catapulted her onto the international stage as psychopathic-yet-endearing assassin Villanelle in Killing Eve, alongside Canadian actress Sandra Oh. 

And while she keeps some aspects of her life, including romantic relationships, extremely private, she has previously revealed the things that make her tick including a love of emo band Fall Out Boy and practising yoga in the mornings. 

Jodie Comer, 29, from Liverpool, picked up the first ever WhatsOnStage gender-neutral award for her role in Prima Facie as Tessa, a young female barrister who specialises in defending sexual assault victims before she is raped

The award-winning actress comes from humble roots in Merseyside where she grew up with her rail worker mother Donna and physiotherapist father James, as well as a younger brother called Charlie. 

In an interview with the Evening Standard last year, she revealed she is very close with her family and wears a locket around her neck containing an amethyst, which she plays with when she is anxious. 

Attending a Catholic school in Merseyside, she formed a close unit of female friends including Olympic athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, with whom she is still very close.

She told the Standard that she and her friends, including the Olympian, share a WhatsApp group called ‘H*** in Different Area Codes’ which refers to how they are all living in different parts of the world. 

After attending drama school from the age of 11, her acting career took off when she caught the attention of a drama teacher at secondary school who put her forward to audition for a Radio 4 play – which became her first acting job.

Following the success of the play, Comer hired an agent and was soon making brief TV appearances on shows including Waterloo Road and Silent Witness.

However, despite becoming a rising star at a young age the actress hung onto her part-time teen jobs as a glass collector in a bar and a shop worker in Tesco, The Mirror reports. 

Jodie Comer (pictured as a secondary school pupil) made friends with Katarina Johnson-Thompson at St Julie’s Catholic High School

One of Comer’s earliest roles was as Chloe Gemell, the best friend of Rae Earl in My Mad Fat Diary on E4

Comer went on to star as evil but charming assassin Villanelle in BBC America drama Killing Eve which propelled her onto the world stage

However, one of her first recurring roles came in E4 miniseries My Mad Fat Diary where she played Chloe Gemell, the best friend of lead character Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney).

The characters have a love/hate relationship in the show, as Rae struggles to maintain a friendship with popular Chloe who has a ‘slight but curvy’ figure and ‘gravity-defying boobs’, as Rae describes.

Although a supporting role in the show, Comer shone as the slightly spoilt and sometimes cruel friend who, ultimately, is someone Rae wants to keep in her life.

When the series ended, Comer landed roles in BBC dramas Doctor Foster, where she plays the young mistress of Suranne Jones’s husband, and in Thirteen as troubled teenager Ivy Moxham, which earned her a nomination for the BAFTA award for Best Actress in 2016.

As Comer’s first leading role, she demonstrated her range playing the mysterious teenage girl who has lived through an unspeakable time at the hands of a captor who abducted her and held her prisoner in his home for years.

The glamorous actress is extremely private about many aspects of her private life including romantic relationships (pictured in 2020)

As she began to make her mark on audiences and critics across the board, the talented rising star had support from a close friend and fellow actor from Merseyside, Stephen Graham, who acted as a mentor to her.

After the pair shared a single scene together on the set of BBC drama Good Cop in 2012, Graham was so impressed by the young Comer’s performance he introduced her to his agent, who ended up representing her too.

Speaking with Lauren Laverne on Radio 6 last year, Comer said: ‘[I was] just like chatting to him throughout the day, picking his brains, asking him lots of questions.’

‘I remember at that time feeling like I needed to take elocution lessons,’ she said. ‘I don’t know where I got that from but he was like, “You’re kidding me, don’t you dare ever lose this accent!”.’

She went on: ‘He’s so true to himself and it was so good to have someone exactly like him, who is from where I’m from, and celebrates how they are in an industry where there are probably less working class actors. To have someone like him is amazing.’

The actors and friends would later go on to star in harrowing Channel 4 Drama Help, which told the story of care homes during the first wave of the Covid pandemic, with Comer playing a carer and Graham a resident with early onset Alzheimer’s. The role earnt the actress her second BAFTA award in 2022.

The Liverpudlian’s first BAFTA came in 2019 for the role with which many have come to associate her – the charismatic assassin Villanelle in Killing Eve.

The BBC America drama, which debuted in 2018, saw Comer become a household name on both sides of the Atlantic as audiences were charmed by her witty performance as the psychopathic yet likeable killer.

Comer will soon head to Broadway in New York to perform in Prima Facie after breaking records with the play at the Harold Pinter theatre on the West End

The drama ran for four seasons before it was cancelled last year, with the stories of MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle finally reaching their conclusion in a ‘will they, won’t they’ plot.

While playing the trained killer, the actress impressed audiences by showing off several different accents – and Comer has previously revealed she learnt how to master the skill in an unlikely way.

Speaking to Time Out magazine last year, Comer revealed she practised accents as a child while watching different TV adverts.

She said: ‘Me and my dad would always mimic them, purely just to make each other laugh.’ 

However, she added that her ‘toes curl up’ whenever she is asked to mimic her iconic Killing Eve character in public and rarely obliges when someone asks her to ‘do Villanelle’. 

As the actress has achieved international fame, she has landed roles on the big screen in Hollywood as well, starring alongside Ryan Reynolds in Free Guy and appearing in Ridley Scott’s epic The Last Duel.

Comer’s stage success in one-woman play Prima Facie has earnt her yet more critical acclaim as defence barrister Tessa, who specialises in representing men accused of sexual assault, before she is raped. 

The play, written by Suzie Miller, broke records after it was screened in cinemas as a National Theatre production and became the highest-grossing event cinema release ever, pulling in nearly £4.5 million.

After bagging herself an award for the performance in What’sOnStage’s first ever gender neutral category, Comer will now take the play from the Harold Pinter theatre in the West End to broadway in New York.

Speaking to British Vogue last month, Comer revealed she was a little nervous ahead of her Broadway debut as she has not had any theatre training – describing the stage as ‘exhilarating’ but ‘terrifying’ in equal measure.

The actress, who has previously said she would live at home forever with her parents if she could, revealed she sees herself as a ‘Pisces through and through’, as an emotional person.

She said: ‘I think they feel things quite intensely, and I definitely relate to that.’

After playing the role of a woman who fails to get justice after being raped, Comer has also revealed how Prima Facie has led her to want to fight for justice for rape victims.

In an interview with The Times she said: ‘All my life I’ve been intimidated by and depressed by lad culture, but never said anything about it. You’re taught to laugh it off. It’s only now at 29 that I feel confident speaking up about what’s wrong.’

Despite ideally wanting to live with her family, Comer now owns a flat in London, although it is unclear if she lives with a partner, a roommate, or on her own.

In 2020 the star was reportedly dating James Burke, an American lacrosse player she is thought to have met on the set of Free Guy.

At the time, she spoke about her relationship with the Sunday Times Style magazine, where she would not confirm the name of her partner but added it was a romance that felt ‘like nothing else’. 

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