“I was devoured by the story, and I was devoured by this character,” admits “The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy in our recent webchat. She continues, “I just knew how to play Beth Harmon the moment I read her in the book. I’ve never had such little skin between myself and a character before.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“The Queen’s Gambit” has been nominated for 18 Emmy nominations, including Best Movie/Limited Actress for Taylor-Joy. She plays an orphan in the cold-war era who develops a love for chess. The captivating and distinctive performance has already won her a SAG award. The actress reveals, “The first thing that struck me was her inherent loneliness… It hurts because it’s honest, and I can relate to that. I had spent all of my young adult life apologizing for my differences. Then, about the last year, that thought first came into my mind of, ‘wait a second, maybe that’s not a bad thing.’ If you can own who you are, and not necessarily apologize for it, there’s a genuine power there. We have an obsession trying to categorize things because it makes us feel like we have a sense of control. There’s beauty in allowing yourself to show every shade of grey that every human being is, or Turquoise or whatever your favorite color is.”
As Beth pursues her quest to be the world’s best chess player, she contends with inner demons of loneliness, loss and addiction. Taylor-Joy explains, “I loved it being a story about somebody who’s greatest adversary was themselves. As a woman in the 60s, you kind of assume that it’s going to be about her railing against people, but she’s very good at destroying herself. I definitely battled against that in in my life. I learned how to be kinder to myself. I’m really grateful to Beth for that. I could look at Beth and be like, ‘you’re being too hard on yourself, you have to loosen up;’ then sit back and go, ‘you should probably take that advice for yourself.’”
For all their similarities, Taylor-Joy grew up with a different fascination with chess than Beth. She says, “I always looked at the board and thought it looks really beautiful. As a kid I would play out fantasy scenarios with the pieces. I didn’t know how to play, but I kind of like created my own little kingdom.”
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