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Dame Harriet Walter: Older actresses don’t get to play badly behaved people

The actress said her role as a Russian assassin in Killing Eve is a rare thing.

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Dame Harriet Walter also stars in Belgravia (David Parry/PA)

Dame Harriet Walter also stars in Belgravia (David Parry/PA)

Dame Harriet Walter also stars in Belgravia (David Parry/PA)

Dame Harriet Walter has said badly behaved characters are increasingly rare for older actresses.

The star of stage and screen, 69, has joined the cast of Killing Eve for the third series, playing retired USSR gymnast-turned-assassin Dasha opposite Jodie Comer’s Villanelle, and believes such a part is hard to come by.

She said: “I think it’s so rare when you’re older you get to play somebody badly behaved and also somebody who has got a lot of physical energy and still can pack a punch, that is pretty rare.

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Dame Harriet Walter in Killing Eve (Sid Gentle/BBC)

Dame Harriet Walter in Killing Eve (Sid Gentle/BBC)

BBC/Sid Gentle

Dame Harriet Walter in Killing Eve (Sid Gentle/BBC)

“Of course we exist, we are just not represented very often and it is quite rare for me to play.

“In the theatre I have played masses of variety but on screen you tend to be a bit more typecast.

“So it’s not the first time I’ve played somebody rather out there, but it is very rare at this age to get that kind of part on screen.”

Dame Harriet can also currently be seen in the ITV period drama Belgravia, and she added: “I always like doing something different, I’m sure all actors will say that, and then it’s pure coincidence they are going out at the same time.

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(Sid Gentle/BBC)

(Sid Gentle/BBC)

BBC/Sid Gentle

(Sid Gentle/BBC)

“It just makes me laugh. That certainly appealed because normally I would probably play some sort of cool top-ranking person, possibly in the Russian establishment or MI5, but instead it’s great for me that someone had the imagination to make me into such a whacko.”

She said she would next like to turn her hand to a Bond villain, adding: “It would be funny. There is always that twinkle in the eye, I don’t think I would really want to get into a very serious character where you have got to get really psychologically involved in somebody who is a murderer, I think that would be very horrible, whereas this is sort of playful.

“There is always a playful tone in Killing Eve, even though dangerous things happen, it’s always on a pretty fantastical level.

“Similarly, Bond villains always have a twinkle in their eye.”

Killing Eve continues on Sunday at 9.15pm on BBC One

PA