What Made Anya Taylor-Joy Willing to 'Bleed' For Her Latest Role?

Adam Rathe
·2 min read
Photo credit: CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX
Photo credit: CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX

From Town & Country

Chess can be like war, and for Anya Taylor-Joy, the 24-year-old actress who stars in the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit—a stylish 1960s period piece about the fictional Beth Harmon, a brilliant, tortured prodigy, premiering this month—it was a battle worth fighting.

“I was electrified by this character, and I understood her immediately,” says Taylor-Joy, an in-demand ingenue who previously appeared in Emma and Peaky Blinders. "I feel very lucky that it feels like sometimes a lightning bolt takes hold of me. In the case of Beth, I read the book [Walter Tevis's 1983 novel The Queen's Gambit] first; I hadn't actually seen any of the scripts. I read the book in about an hour and then I ran, like physically ran, to meet [show runner] Scott Frank for dinner. We were instantly in the same place."

Photo credit: Pip
Photo credit: Pip

When it came to playing Harmon, Taylor-Joy says, "I understood her immediately. And I really felt like I could tell the story right. It doesn't come from a place of confidence, it comes from a place of like fierce care. I cared about her so much that was I like, 'Oh yeah, I'm willing to bleed for this.'

While bloodshed wasn’t required for the role, Taylor-Joy did train with the legendary chess player Bruce Pandolfini to learn the game, which brings her character from a Dickensian orphanage to the capitals of Europe and an intellectual superstardom that’s unimaginable today.

Photo credit: Pip
Photo credit: Pip

And though she didn’t walk away from the job a grand master, Taylor-Joy says being Beth left her changed nonetheless. “Her experience was so real for me that by the time it finished, it was like waking up from a dream,” she says. “I had just been her the whole time.”

Photo credit: Pip
Photo credit: Pip

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