Los Angeles – Anya Taylor-Joy must have something special to make half of Hollywood sigh for her. She triumphed with “The Witch” (2015) and “Split” (2016), will be “Furiosa” in the prequel to “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), and now debuts on Netflix with “The Queen’s Gambit”, but on the road to stardom also faced necessary challenges.
“I think (to be an actress) I sacrificed having a normal adolescence. But, in essence, I do not regret any of that: this was the life path that I was destined to have,” she assured EFE.
With a very peculiar family tree (she has Spanish and English blood from her mother and Scottish and Argentine from her father), Taylor-Joy brings us “The Queen’s Gambit” which is now streaming on Netflix. The limited series is about a young woman who becomes a chess prodigy in the 1960s.
Accompanied by Marielle Heller, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Melling, the Latina shines in this wonderful screenplay by Scott Frank (creator of “Godless” and scriptwriter of “Logan”, both from 2017) that combines a classic tone and a fine setting, with reflections on mental health, feminism, family trauma and addictions.
I didn’t know much about chess before doing “The Queen’s Gambit.” What do you think about chess after this series?
I had always been vaguely fascinated with chess in the sense that it seemed seductive to me, but I feel very fortunate to have been invited to enter this magical and secret world.
And I have had amazing teachers. Bruce Pandolfini (famous player and coach who was portrayed in the 1993 film “Searching for Bobby Fischer”) is like a chess god and is genuinely the kindest and most understanding person. The email he sent me after watching the series is something I will keep forever. He is simply a beautiful soul.
When we meet Beth, your character, she is involved in traumas and problems, but she finds something in chess.
I think that Beth, unfortunately, life has taught her that people always end up disappointing you. She’s used to being dumped; she’s learned that she can’t really trust other people.
I think that a big part of the seduction of chess is that, if you learn its rules, you can understand how someone is going to react and have moves for it. She responds well to having rules, knowing what to do, and she finds a sense of security in that.
Then her fascination grows, but she begins to feel uncomfortable when human beings do not react like chess pieces. I think that’s where she gets into trouble …
She seems very confident playing chess, but she is not so confident off the board. How do you learn to survive in a real world without the rules of chess?
Beth is forced to grow very quickly, perhaps not necessarily at the rate she would have if she had not started playing chess professionally.
But it’s fascinating because, as a performer, I really enjoyed conveying her story through her looks and the way she interacts with other people: This is Beth after she likes a guy for the first time, this is Beth after seeing an Audrey Hepburn tape for the first time … it was wonderful growing up with her.
Beth is also the only woman in a man’s world. How does this series talk about feminism and discrimination against women in sport?
What’s beautiful about Beth is that she is so far removed from society that she doesn’t really understand why people talk about her gender instead of her skills as a player. Having the opportunity to play this person at that specific time felt very liberating and I really enjoyed it.
We soon see that Beth does not accept defeats very well …
Oh no. She doesn’t like to lose too much (smiles).
And you? How did you learn to accept disappointments in your career?
I don’t know why my brain works like this, but I’ve been very lucky that when I learn lessons, I tend to really learn them.
The first time I was rejected, at my first audition, I cried a lot, I was sobbing, I was very upset. But at the end of that it was like, “I won’t react like that anymore.”
To survive in this world, I had to understand that if you are destined to play a role, you will, and it will happen. And if you don’t get the role it’s because it wasn’t for you: you wish them the best and you just disconnect and don’t beat yourself up with it.
In a gambit, a player sacrifices a piece to have a better position on the board. What have you sacrificed to become the actress you are now?
Mmm … I think I sacrificed having a normal adolescence, a normal youth. But, in essence, I do not regret any of that: this was the life path I was destined to take. I was never very good at “normal”.
I am very grateful to have a path that fits with my sensibility.