ANYA TAYLOR JOY. 2020-02-19 Photo: Magnus Sundholm
  • Interviews

HFPA in Conversation: Anya Taylor-Joy on a Role That Was Like Therapy

2020 wasn’t too bad for Anya Taylor-Joy. She starred in three films, Emma, Here Are the Young Men and The New Mutants and her Netflix limited series The Queen’s Gambit became a phenomenon. She plays an orphaned chess prodigy on her rise to the top of the chess world while struggling with drug and alcohol dependency. Taylor-Joy tells HFPA journalist Helen Hoehne that the success of the show took her by surprise. 

“When I first read the book, if someone had asked me “do you think people are going to really connect with this, I would have said absolutely”. And that is the last time that I was able to be objective about it as an audience member because from that moment on I was Beth and that obviously makes it harder to think about lots of people watching you do it.”

She got excited about her role as Beth Harmon because Beth is the first character she has played that required a lot of herself. ‘I think we present differently, but at our core, we are very similar and we struggle with a lot of the same things. When I first read her, the reason I knew I had to tell this story was because I felt such sweet pain but it hurts because it’s true and it hurts because I have to exercise it, I have to show it to the light, it can’t stay in my own personal darkness anymore. What a beautiful way to do it as with the character. I feel like I had a buddy throughout all of it and because it was such a cathartic experience I think I actually got to leave a lot of my own darkness with Beth and I feel very grateful for that.“

That’s why she thinks that the show resonates with the viewers. I think the idea that sometimes your worst enemy can be yourself is one that a lot of people connect to, more than they are probably willing to commit. I also think the fact that demons, overcoming your demons is achievable, is a very nice thought and the thought that we are stronger together than we are apart, especially in the time that we are living in right now, that’s something that at least really touched my heart and I hope it’s touched other people’s hearts.”

Listen to the podcast and hear how she learned to memorize chess matches; how her childhood shaped her; why she moved to New York when she was 14; how she became a model and then actress; why she didn’t like school; how she describes home; how she reacted when her first movie role was cut off from the final version; how she got the role in the horror film The Witch and what she learned on the set; how it is working again with filmmaker Robert Eggers in The Northman