Jodie Comer 'became a woman' by starring in 'Prima Facie'

The Emmy-winning British actress won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play for performing in the one-woman legal drama by Suzie Miller on Broadway.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

On the face of it, one would think Jodie Comer is a seasoned stage veteran. But the 30-year-old actress, best known for Killing Eve on screen, made her professional stage debut in Suzie Miller's Prima Facie just last year.

For performing the one-woman show in London's West End, she won an Olivier Award (London's equivalent of a Tony). For taking it to Broadway this spring, she won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play, cementing her as a global stage and screen star.

"It's very surreal because I feel like, throughout this process it's just been about putting one foot in front of the other," Comer said in the press room after her win. "When I started in London, I was so fearful, and I didn't know how I was going to get there but was willing and really wanted to take the journey."

Any new venture, like a stage debut, is bound to be daunting, but Prima Facie's journey is a particularly tough one to start on. Comer's character, Tessa, is a savvy young lawyer who made her name defending men accused of sexual assault. After she gets assaulted herself, audiences go along with Tessa as she attempts to win her own case in a male-dominated court.

Winning awards for taking on such a taxing role — not only emotionally, but physically as the play requires "fierce and focused" commitment from Comer for 100 minutes — is "not what you set out to achieve," the actress admitted. Her goal, by way of Miller's script, was to raise awareness about survivors' experiences — and she's done that, too.

Comer said the response has been overwhelming, with the Prima Facie team receiving hundreds of weekly letters from women who share how the show has helped them heal.

"There was one particular woman who had seen the play in London, and she came to see it on Broadway," Comer recalled. "She told us how her life evolved in that year: She was able to speak to her family, she went to a sexual assault survivors group, and she felt like she had gotten rid of her shame and her guilt."

"It's been remarkable to see the response that we are getting from the audience members," Comer added. "How this play is actually helping change people's lives means more than anything."

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What resonates with Comer about Prima Facie is the one-woman format, which allows Tessa to be "in control of the whole narrative" — unlike in the courtroom, no one else is twisting her story for her. "I was really moved by that, and I think that is why it resonates deeply with people is that you're experiencing every single moment with her, through her," Comer said.

Comer said she leans on "hot baths, good food, [and] good friends" for self-care and the predominantly female Prima Facie team, which provides an environment "full of love and safety" to help her cope with the role. Her Tony Award is one other "cherry on the cake" that has made the experience a positive one, she said, and the personal growth she's experienced from playing Tessa is another.

"I feel like I became a woman through her," Comer said. "There are parts of myself that I celebrate so much more now... this sense of self-confidence that she had, I really had to uncover within myself. Because of that, I've kind of stepped into a version of myself that I didn't really know before."

Top image credit: Jodie Comer at the 76th Annual Tony Awards. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
In-line image credit: Jodie Comer in Prima Facie on Broadway. (Photo by Bronwen Sharp, retouch by Caz Lock)

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