Anya Taylor-Joy didn’t hold anything back from “The Queen’s Gambit.” In an interview for Variety‘s Actors on Actors TV issue, the 25-year-old actor said she committed everything she had to portraying Beth Harmon, the 1950s chess champion in the Netflix limited series. In a conversation with her “Emma” co-star (and “The Crown” actor) Josh O’Connor, Taylor-Joy revealed she even let Beth keep some of her own mannerisms.
“I’ve never given so much of myself to a character before,” Taylor-Joy says. “I usually think about a character as so different from me, and I make a real point to make them walk differently, to have a different caliber of voice, to laugh differently, to cry differently. I want them to be their own person. But for Beth, it was the first time that I just thought the only way to tell this accurately is to give bits of myself up.”
She says that this has made fan sightings sometimes awkward. “That’s kind of strange now, because I’ll be sitting at a restaurant, and I’ll hear someone say, ‘Oh, she holds her face the way Beth does,'” Taylor-Joy says. “And I’m like, oh gosh. Me? Beth? What. Ah!”
Taylor-Joy shot “The Queen’s Gambit” after a marathon of jumping from one project to the next. She went straight to the set of the Netflix TV series after back-to-back movies: first “Emma,” and then Edgar Wright’s drama “Last Night in Soho.” She says she thought about Beth frequently while working on these films.
“My relationship with my characters, they’re all very varied but they’re intense, and they’re all incredibly real for me,” Taylor-Joy says. “By the time I got to Beth, I had no energy to put a boundary up between myself and the character. I would wake up in the morning and go, ‘Oh, I feel awful. What is this feeling?’ And then realize, it’s her.
“And you’re just going to be this for the next 18 hours,” she says. “That was wonderful, because it meant I was never reaching for any emotion. I’ve never had a performance before where there was no trying. It was there.”
For more from our conversation between Taylor-Joy and O’Connor, click here, or watch the full video below.