TV

‘Killing Eve’ Actor Owen McDonnell Talks To Us About That Not-So-Killer Twist

Two weeks ago, Killing Eve seemingly killed off a long-suffering character, Niko Polastri (portrayed by Owen McDonnell), via a pitchfork attack. I say “seemingly” because, well, viewers now know that Niko ain’t dead. Eve’s long-suffering husband is alive and (mentally) kicking, and although he may not be able to speak while sitting in his hospital bed, he stared dead-straight at his wife and tapped out a message: “Piss off forever.” It’s a declaration that’s been a long time coming. Niko’s had enough of everything that he’s endured since Eve met Villanelle, which includes not only infidelity but finding himself, repeatedly, in harm’s way. Not only that, but Niko’s been nursing a bad case of PTSD after last season’s gruesome events. Even after fleeing to Poland, Eve’s actions came back to haunt him again, and the poor guy just can’t catch a break.

As of this week, Eve hasn’t fully pieced together who attacked Niko (Dasha), but this mess probably serves as final nail in the coffin of their already dead marriage. That’s ironic, given that Dasha actually meant to drive a wedge between Eve and Villanelle, which might be an impossible feat. Owen McDonnell was gracious enough to speak with us to discuss his character’s miraculous survival and what’s going on in Niko’s head, along with what it’s like to be “pitchforked” by a real-life dame on TV.

Well, Niko’s looking very alive right about now, so congratulations on that.

Yes! Funny that he could survive a pitchfork, huh?

It seems like on any show, an actor should be prepared for their character’s demise, but especially on a show like Killing Eve, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Niko go, right?

Yeah, I think with Niko being married to Eve, and with Eve’s obsession with Villanelle, he’s very lucky to have made it this far in every case.

Were you shocked that he survived this type of injury, though?

I was a bit because we get the scripts in two-episode blocks. So I read the end of the fourth episode, and I thought, “Oh, he’s dead!” And then when I got to the read through, producers said, “No, no, no, he survives!” And I thought that wasn’t possible, so it was very weird. I was sure that they’d killed him, finally, and I was okay with that, but no. And who knows what the future holds for him.

One thing that I found striking about the pitchfork scene, well, other than the sudden, blunt-force trauma that we’re talking about…

[Laughs]

… is that you got pitchforked by a real-life dame, Harriet Walter. Did you guys just launch into action mode when you rehearsed?

Yeah, we rehearsed it before but not much because we wanted it to be fresh, so when you see it for the first time, she was, well, you saw how Dasha-Harriet stabbed him in the neck… I think she enjoyed it. She got vicious with that pitchfork, and I was genuinely in fear for my life… she was really into it! She tried to run around the back of the barn, and I had my back to where she was, and I thought that she’d better give me a signal before she thrust the pitchfork. So yeah, it was terrifying, just terrifying!

Harriet is so brutally good, and so funny, as Dasha.

Ah yes, she’s fabulous.

After all Niko’s been through, were you in any way proud of him for telling Eve to “piss off forever”?

[Laughs] He tried to say it in so many nice ways in the past episode and the previous season, and going to Poland should have been enough. Yeah, he’s just in a space where he can’t keep doing this. He needs to break all ties with Eve, his job, his colleagues, and his friends and see if there’s a possibility of having some future happiness after all of the business with Gemma, Eve, and Villanelle. I think he’s starting to see that — he’s had a lot of thinking time at the start of Season 3, and after the pitchfork, he’s trying to be as clear as possible that he does not want to be anywhere near his wife. He can’t make her go away, so it’s a very stark request.

He did answer a few of her text messages before Dasha swiped his phone and delivered the Poland invite. Did he really want to talk to Eve at all?

Well, I think he really loves her, and if he was given the chance to still be married to Eve, pre-Villanelle, he would take it at the drop of a hat. He can’t be with her when she’s in the grip of this obsession, and he no longer trusts her because she’s unable to let go. So I think that, yes, part of him would love for them to be together, but they’re not breaking up because she had an affair. They’re breaking up because he doesn’t feel that she can keep him or herself safe, and she will always put their lives at risk because of Villanelle and because of her obsession. So, it’s a split based upon self-preservation more than falling out of love with someone.

Do you think, in your heart, that Niko and Eve would have made it if Villanelle never materialized on the scene? They had been together over a decade.

Yeah, they were together twelve years before Villanelle came along, and they were happy. They were at a point in their relationship where they absolutely loved each other and were in a very good marriage, but they were kind-of, not quite getting everything that the other person was doing. They were at a point when they needed to give each other a good shake and say, “Look, this relationship could go either way, what are we gonna do?” And I think they would have probably had that conversation and hopefully made efforts to be there for each other, to stimulate each other both equally, but that chasm grew deeper, wider, and that’s the point where Villanelle came into their lives. It’s like she just ran into those cracks in their relationship.

On this show, the gender stereotypes are flipped in multiple ways, and with what Niko deals with, do you worry that he suffers the brunt of, you know, that flip? Like an unintentional scapegoat effect.

I don’t think he’s a scapegoat, but as far as the gender flipping, a number of people have mentioned it to me. I didn’t really see it like that going in. I just thought, “This is a guy who really got a kick out of making his wife happy.” And they were in a situation where she was the one who was more of the financial provider for awhile. I also didn’t see it like that, though I can understand why people do. With regards to being a scapegoat, I think it’s more of anyone, whether they’re male or female, and regardless of what role they fulfill in the marriage, ends up being way more obsessed with something other than the person that they’re married to. That person’s going to suffer, and Niko (in the marriage) is mentally and physically suffering. If anybody has an obsession that takes over their lives, it will do it to the detriment of the partner. I think that’s [actually] one of the nice things about their relationship. Even though with what’s happened is very extreme, [the writers] try to make it so that everything in their relationship is recognizable.

Do you have any advice for Niko on how to handle life from here?

Oh, run Niko, run!

Is there anywhere he can go and be safe?

I don’t know, I mean. His life is such a mess, and I don’t know where he goes next. He thought he was going somewhere safe when he went to Poland, god, but I do know that he’s not a quitter. He’s gonna try, and what shape that takes, I really don’t know.

It would be nice if he actually ended up being the last one standing, though.

Hahahaha! It would be nice, but I’m not sure that’s gonna happen.

BBC America’s ‘Killing Eve’ airs on Sundays at 9:00 PM EST with simulcasting on AMC.

×