“I lived to tell the tale.”
On “Killing Eve,” not many can boast as much after a violent run-in with the assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). But for now, actor Henry Lloyd-Hughes can say his character Aaron Peel survives —albeit with a very bloody nose — after Sunday’s episode.
This season, “Killing Eve” introduces the idea of a different kind of threat, one that doesn’t operate as boldly and colorfully as Villanelle does. Aaron enters the picture after his father, the owner of tech giant Pharaday UK, is suspiciously murdered. When MI6 investigates, they suspect Aaron of patricide (through a paid assassin) and then hire Villanelle to go undercover as “Billie” to sniff out more information.
IndieWire spoke with Lloyd-Hughes about playing the enigmatic new character who’s created so much havoc but kept his hands visibly clean. “There’s a real kind of tangible sense of someone who is complex, quiet, and also mysterious almost in the same way as with Villanelle,” said Lloyd-Hughes about his character. “Here’s someone whom you’re not entirely sure how many layers there are to this onion, as it were. With Aaron we just wanted to have the same sense that this guy has resources and could be capable of what you’re not entirely sure of.”
Oozing arrogance and even more arrogance, Aaron is a taut, bespectacled genius who acts as if he’s untouchable. And perhaps he is. Through Pharaday UK, he has access to everyone’s deepest secrets, and that gives him leverage and power on top of his vast wealth.
During a quiet family supper with his sister Amber (Shannon Tarbet) and “Billie,” he becomes suspicious after he catches her snooping in his home. He questions her about her background and challenges inconsistencies in her story. It doesn’t end well, as can be seen in the clip below:
“It’s a testament to how much of an absolute, dyed-in-the-wool professional Jodie is. She was incredibly considerate with her stunt work,” he said about getting smacked in the face with the book. “We had like a special wibbly-wobbly fake book so she could hit me as hard as she possibly could and not leave an imprint.”
Lloyd-Hughes is an actor known for his roles in “The InBetweeners,” “Indian Summers,” and most recently as Pontmercy on “Les Misérables” on PBS. For his audition as Aaron Peel, he read for this exact scene where he confronts Villanelle. Lloyd-Hughes could tell that “The League of Gentleman” creator Jeremy Dyson had written it, based purely on the scene’s tone of “naughtiness, Englishness, and of course really macabre [quality].”
Of course, when it comes to Aaron and Villanelle, it seems they’re destined for some sort of intense dynamic based on their personalities. They’re both strong-willed, opinionated, and used to getting their own way; there even seems to be something of a predator in Aaron. He put hits out on multiple people and circles “Billie” like a shark, ready to go in for the kill.
“Here is someone who is at the top of a huge empire and certainly is hyper-intelligent and well-read and resourceful and private and incredibly tech savvy — possibly touching on areas which are not necessarily Villanelle’s set of expertise,” said Lloyd-Hughes. “It’s almost like either ends of a magnet or the similar ends of a magnet; they’re either going to combust or be drawn to each other. That is the mystery that will play out.”
Also similar to Villanelle, Aaron is a study in contrasts. “He has a kind of in-built inferiority-superiority kind of complex,” said Lloyd-Hughes. “He’s the kind of guy that would get so involved in what’s the best craft beer that the only way of solving it would be to start his own craft beer company and brew a beer. Then he’d have six crates of it sent to your house just so he could win that argument.”
Aaron and his sister also speak what Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) refers to as “some sort of Greek” so they can speak about “Billie” right in front of her face. In an earlier version of the script, the Peel siblings are speaking contemporary Greek. “They didn’t think that was fancy enough, so then we went to ancient Greek,” he said. “They were both hard. Ancient was even harder because there are no actual examples of it available because there’s no one from ancient Greece around. But we had a professor of ancient Greek from SOAS to help.”
As for why Aaron is constantly crossing his arms and legs, putting a physical barrier between himself and others, that was a conscious choice on Lloyd-Hughes’ part. “It became clear through the writing that he had a thing about cleanliness and germs,” he explained. “He would sterilize everything and keep a distance and barriers between him and all of the people on the planet basically. And that affected the way I carry myself a lot on the show.”
And yet, like Villanelle, Aaron is also appears childish at times. During the dinner, when his sister offers the Bisto — a type of packaged gravy for the Yanks reading this — he leans back to indicate she should pour it on his plate for him. After dinner, they all play Dixit, a children’s storytelling card and boardgames.
“When you are so elitist about the company you keep, and the world in which you operate at the exclusion of everyone else, it becomes almost a kind of clandestine world and almost quite childlike world,” said Lloyd-Hughes. “It’s like the very famous, the very rich, and the very powerful… They can be childlike somehow because they never have to do that thing of going to the corner shop and buying some milk. All of those things are removed, deliberately, by his machinery.”
Lloyd-Hughes is excited for “Killing Eve” fans to finish out the final two episodes of the season. “The next two episodes are going to be a real blast. We’re going to keep the series up to a place where the people that have stuck with it are rewarded by being even more excited by what’s about to come,” he said. “The various worlds, all the respective characters are swirling around each other in a kind of ever more enticing and kind of fear-inducing way. And Aaron is thrown into this mix.”
”Killing Eve” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on BBC America.