The numbers for “Fool Me Once” keep on growing. Just yesterday, Netflix announced that thriller series — based on Harlan Coben’s novel of the same name — has become the streamer’s ninth most-popular English language TV show ever with a whopping 84.9 million total views in its first 35 days of availability after premiering on New Year’s Day.
More from Variety
“It’s insane,” says series star Michelle Keegan. “I’m not going to lie. It makes me feel a little bit nauseous. This month has been very surreal, I’ll tell you that. It’s been very, very surreal. I’m still a little bit numb. It’s been very overwhelming, but amazing as well in a really great way. But it doesn’t seem real. Harlan texts me a lot and he gives me all these figures and how many countries we were number one in. I pinched myself a lot of times.”
Keegan stars in the eight-episode series as Maya, a former Army helicopter pilot whose husband Joe (Richard Armitage), a wealthy pharmaceutical company heir, is fatally shot in front of her not long after her sister was found murdered. Just weeks after Joe’s funeral, Maya sees footage of her supposedly dead husband playing with their daughter on her new nanny cam.
What follows is Maya trying to figure out if Joe is still alive, as two detectives (Adeel Akhtar and Dino Fetscher) investigate the killing. Maya’s potentially villainous mother-in-law is played by “Absolutely Fabulous” icon Joanna Lumley.
“I knew the audience would like it, but I didn’t expect it to be this huge,” Keegan says. “I knew that the audience really loves [Coben’s] “Stay Close” and “The Stranger” and people are obsessed. Harlan’s got a cult following, so I knew that the followers would love it, but I just didn’t expect it to be so big.”
I caught up with Keegan, most known for her work on the British soap “Coronation Street,” over Zoom from her London-area home.
I first heard about “Fool Me Once” when a friend asked me if I was watching it. He was like, “So there’s an army captain and her murdered husband shows up on a nanny cam.” That’s all I needed to hear. I binged it one weekend.
When I read the book and it got to the end, I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe it.
Was there anything when you were reading the scripts where you’re like, “OK, this is too nuts.”
All of it, to be fair. It is a little bit nuts. But Harlan Coben grips you literally in the first few seconds and that’s why he’s so good. That’s why he’s one of the best of thriller authors of our time. He grips you straight away and you have to finish. You cannot miss a moment because it’s like a big puzzle. There are so many pieces for you to finish that puzzle. And if you miss any pieces, you’re going to have to rewatch it and watch it again.
Maya really is tough. She takes down guys much much bigger than her easily.
We had these amazing stunt guys, who taught me military moves that she could know, that would take a man down. There was a scene that we did with three of the stunt men, but it didn’t make the final cut. Judith was having Maya kidnapped and Maya had to fight off three guys. I shot one and the other two guys ran off. It was really fun to film, but because of time it didn’t make it. At least that’s what they told me. Maybe they thought that would be too much to believe. [Laughs]
Are you upset that you can’t be in a Season 2?
It makes me laugh with some people keep saying it, “Are you going to go back for Season 2?” I was like, “Well, that would be very hard.” But Maya’s not really dead. Maybe she was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Do you think Maya is just as a bad as Joe? Because I kept thinking, “Killer is a killer is a killer.“
A killer is a killer. I think that’s why she couldn’t live with herself. That’s how I read it in the book. That’s where I spoke to Harlan. For Maya, she couldn’t also live with what happened in the past in the military. She couldn’t live with herself. It was the whole guilt. I just don’t think she could have lived with herself.
What was it like your first day on set with Joanna Lumley?
I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit starstruck. My cousin was a huge “Ab Fab” fan. And I used to go around every Sunday and it was just always in the background. We used watch it together. And I remember thinking, “God, if someone told me when I was eight years old that I’ll be going toe to toe with that lady playing my mother-in-law, I wouldn’t have believed it.” She’s so, so funny. And she’s so warm. And as soon as I went on set, I sort of gravitated towards her automatically. And I feel like that’s with everyone. Whoever speaks to Joanna falls in love with her and she just got a really warm presence. And I remember when she was on set, there was just a really nice vibe on set because of her. So for me it was incredible.
Now that the series is so big, are people pushing you to come to Hollywood?
Here’s the deal, back in the day, you’d hit it big in the U.K. and you’d say, “I’m going to go to Hollywood. I’m going to go to Los Angeles.” With something like Netflix, you don’t have to do that anymore. I’ve been to LA. I’ve been in Hollywood for a few months at a time, and I absolutely love it over there. Could I live there full-time without my family? Probably not.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Best of Variety