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Tilly Keeper on starring in ‘You’: ‘making a show like this, you have to laugh’

After making her name in EastEnders, Tilly Keeper is once again stealing the show — in Netflix’s You

By Daisy Jones

Tilly Keeper (Picture: David Reiss)

It was early 2022 and the actress Tilly Keeper — now 25 — didn’t seem to be landing any major roles. She’d spent four years playing Louise Mitchell in the iconic BBC soap EastEnders, where she’d blackmailed, bullied and screamed her way through Albert Square (as she should). But since leaving in 2020, the wheels of fortune just didn’t seem to be turning. “I was having screen tests for really great shows or chemistry reads and I wasn’t getting them,” she remembers, shrugging. “It was like, ‘Oh, you’re too tall, too old, too young’ — whatever the generic excuses are. I really wanted a job on a show that I really wanted to be on. That was the gut-wrenching thing.” 

But then, as these things often go, one well-timed conversation led to another, and before she knew it, she was being considered for the fourth season of You, Netflix’s buzzy psychological thriller about an obsessive romantic/serial murderer, the first half of which came out in early February. “I put myself on tape and then a week later I had a meeting and the next morning I found out I got the part,” she says. One month later, they were filming. And she found herself transforming into Lady Phoebe, a mega-wealthy, albeit sweet and wide-eyed London socialite with a lot of horrible friends. 

Tilly is speaking over video call from a spare room at her family’s place in south-east London, a week or so before the series is due to premiere. She’s fresh-faced and enthusiastic, like someone who gets a lot of sleep and drinks a lot of water — quite unlike Lady Phoebe, who spends a lot of time partying and does “maybe a bit too much Champagne and coke, although you never see her stumbling out of a bar”. They have other differences, too. “I’m a little bit stronger-willed,” she considers. “I don’t mean to be ‘woo woo’, but I’m a Leo with a Scorpio rising. I’ve got that sting in my tail. If you cross me, I’m not going to stand for it. Whereas I think Phoebe is a lot more forgiving. She’s so wanting of acceptance and validation, and she offers that in bucket-loads in return.”

Tilly Keeper (Picture: David Reiss)

For fans of You, season 4 might come as a surprise. This one’s based in London — or, at least, a very specific, almost cartoonish version of the city. Imagine Riverdale or Gossip Girl, but with more murder, and on the sepia-toned streets of what looks like Notting Hill or Knightsbridge, somewhere with tall Victorian houses and clean pavements. The characters — a bunch of mega-rich kids who love nothing more than sex, hunting and being mean to each other — appear even more insufferable than murderer Joe Goldberg himself (played by Penn Badgley), which is, as Tilly points out, kind of the point. “He’s manipulating the viewer as much as the people around him,” she says. “A lot of it’s down to the voiceover aspect and also how charming Penn is on screen.”

As Lady Phoebe, Tilly effortlessly embodies the lilting plummy voice and laissez-faire humour of the upper class — perhaps more so than anyone. I’m interested as to whether she spent any time infiltrating the mansion parties of the uber-elite, gonzo style, for research purposes. She says that much of her character was down to imagination, script, and a largely American production team, “No matter how much research you do, it’s always going to be an Americanised version of this British aristocracy scene.” How did that American lens inform the characters? “I think British socialites back in the day were probably a bit more rock’n’roll…” she says. Indeed, they allude to this in the show without fully leaning into the debauched attitude that informs so much of British culture. “We’re a lot punkier than they give us credit for, I think,” she adds, eyes glinting through the camera.

Phoebe will most certainly be Tilly’s biggest role to date. EastEnders may still be on the TV in every nan’s living room at Christmas, but the global viewing figures for You have been consistently staggering across the board — season 3 was Netflix’s most-watched original series in history. Was she prepared for that level of attention? Is it something she’s been thinking about? “As long as the show is being well-received, that’s all I care about,” she says steadily. She’s been doing this long enough now. She won’t be checking comments or getting sucked into any online social media vortex. “If you listen to the noise, it distracts you from what you’re trying to do. All I want to do is be an entertainer. If it gets a conversation going, then that’s great — but I don’t need to hear what that conversation is.”

Viewing figures aside, I get the sense that Lady Phoebe was an extremely fun role to play. Tilly’s face softens when speaking about other cast members, some of whom she already knew, and she says that there was a lot of giggling off screen. This one time, she remembers, a gust of wind blew her skirt up and attached itself to her jacket in front of the entire cast, crew and production. “I was crying with laughter that day,” she says. “But genuinely, on a show like this, you have to laugh.” Otherwise, it would just be murder, murder, murder. She views the character of Lady Phoebe as a bit of comedic light relief in an otherwise dark tale, where not much good comes of anyone. 

After our chat, Tilly will not be drinking Champagne or doing keys at some country manor party in a sparkling dress that cost a few grand as Lady Phoebe might have done. Tilly’s life is generally a lot more wholesome than that. She’ll be hanging out with her niece, she says, or doing some stretches; enjoying a moment or two of tranquillity before You hits our screens and swallows everything in its twisted, destructive — although also quite funny — path. 

Does she think Joe will return to London for season 5? “I don’t think so,” Tilly says, smiling. “But Joe’s made contacts and connections in London, so he could always go back. But with how the story goes, I think he’ll probably go back to his roots. Maybe he’s done his time in London,  like, ‘I’ve eaten the pub food, I’ve had my fish and chips and now I just want to go back to New York…’”

Credits: Photographer – David Reiss
Stylist – Farrah O’Connor
Hair – Paul Jones
Makeup – Maria Asadi

Tilly wears:
Ivory Silk and Wool blend suit jacket and trouser, ANEST COLLECTIVE
Black Patent leather ankle strap sandals, £595,
Diamond, Mother of Pearl and Onyx earrings, £1995,
 Gold earring, Tilly’s own.

Oversized raw edge blazer, £575,
Flares, £380,
Pleated, Polka Dot Bra, £490,
Shoes, £140, By Far,