How Jodie Comer Crafted Her Intense, Tony-Nominated ‘Prima Facie’ Performance

Article Image
Photo Source: DFree/

In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and senior editor Vinnie Mancuso for this guide to living the creative life from those who are doing it every day. 

Earlier this month, Jodie Comer scored a Tony nomination for her work in Suzie Miller’s one-woman play “Prima Facie.” In the show, which debuted on the West End last year, the actor plays Tessa, a barrister whose sense of self is upended by a sexual assault. It’s an astonishing 100-minute performance in which Comer—best known for her Emmy-winning turn on BBC America’s “Killing Eve” and her role in Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel”—doesn’t leave the stage once. Given the skill with which she takes audiences on that journey night after night, it’s easy to forget that this is her Broadway debut. 

“When I took on this role, I didn’t know how I was going to do it, truth be told. And I think that was a huge draw,” Comer tells us. “I was completely in awe. I thought, How will I ever execute this? I was really interested in that journey of: How do I get from where I am now, having no idea how I’m going to do it and struggling to imagine it, to performing this eight nights a week?”

On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Comer dives deep into how her performance took shape and the realities of carrying a Broadway show on your back eight shows a week. 

Comer’s leap into theater involved accepting that no two performances are the same. 

“The first preview we had was euphoric. I really only remember the last 10 minutes of it; it was like someone was literally carrying me around the stage. And then the second night, I remember just thinking the whole way through, Just get to the end; just get to the end. Because I felt like I was pushing it, you know? It was so hard. It’s about learning that every show is so different. It will be what it will be. It’s kind of throwing it over your shoulder and letting it go, then getting the next opportunity the next evening or the next afternoon. I’ve really enjoyed embracing that. I think there’s something really healthy about having to embrace that mentality.”

She has also embraced rolling with the kind of mistakes that only happen in live theater. 

“We had a night a couple of weeks ago where it actually just became hilarious. The jacket fell off one of the chairs. And I was like, When am I going to get that? When am I going to pick that up? So I picked it up and put it on the wrong chair. It would have been the chair she uses as the bathroom when the assault happens, so that wouldn’t have been great. So then I was figuring out, OK, how do I get the jacket off? Then I picked up the wrong folder, and the folder wouldn’t go back in the wall. I forgot to take my coat off. This was all one night. I came offstage, and we were all like, ‘What the hell?’ 

But there was something wonderful about that. It really enabled me to go, Right, this is my space. It’s not the end of the world. I’m in control of this. Once you have those kind of moments, you realize, Oh, I have permission to command this space.”

Prima FacieCredit: Helen Murray

More important to Comer than awards recognition is the impact “Prima Facie” is having on the audience.  

“We get so many people reaching out and writing letters. There was one lady who had seen the play in London and said she was moved; she was crying in the audience, and the play had enabled her to have conversations with their family about her own sexual assault. She then came to the show on Broadway and wrote to us saying how her life over the past year had drastically changed. And then she was in the audience in [the show’s] final moment, in a very different point, surrounded by other women who were having the experience that she had the year before. I thought, There’s something so poignant about that—how it is helping people and what that experience is for people when they’re sat watching surrounded by everyone else. It’s really powerful.”

Comer’s goal with every project she takes on is to stay true to herself.   

“As long as I go into something for my own reasons, with integrity and a clear view of what it is I am getting from it and what it is that I wanted to do, I feel like it is much easier to then accept when things don’t necessarily resonate with an audience or isn’t critically acclaimed or people don’t think it’s good. It’s much easier to separate myself from that when I know that I did the job because I believed in it, I love the character, and I was proud of the work that I did. 

If I’d taken ‘The Last Duel’ because it was guaranteed to change my life financially and I’d never have to think about anything ever again, and then it flopped? Then I have to live with the fact that I haven’t been true to myself. 

With ‘The Last Duel,’ I was so proud of it, and so honored to get to work with Ridley. I’d always wanted to do a period film. When I met my agent in London for the first time, I remember [her] sitting there going, ‘What is it you want to do?’ I essentially was just like, ‘I want to be Keira Knightley.’ I think that is what I literally said. So that was a huge moment for me, personally. So of course, to be a part of something like ‘Prima Facie,’ which is resonating in this way and has been nominated and won awards, is amazing. But I think if you just stay true to yourself, it's easier to let that kind of thing slide over you.”

Subscribe to In the Envelope to hear our full conversation with Comer: