Anya Taylor-Joy once played characters, like her steadfast Thomasin in The Witch, icy Lily in Thoroughbreds, or empathic Casey in Split. Her performances have always been precise, engrossing, and clear we’re watching a young master of the craft.
Lately, she’s played icons. She took on the “handsome, clever, and rich” protagonist of “Emma,” the latest film adaptation of the 1815 classic Jane Austen novel, released earlier in the year. Then, of course, she starred in Netflix’s record-breaking series, “The Queen’s Gambit.” 96 million people escaped pandemic stress and election madness by immersing themselves in her performance as Beth Harmon. Beth takes the chess world by storm, grapples with addiction, and stuns in amazing coats and bold eyeliner.
While we’ve been shuttered inside, cultivating a newfound love of online chess (speaking for myself), Taylor-Joy’s gotten the chance to find her first real home in six years. Previously, she’d been living out of a suitcase, playing one role during the week and memorizing lines for the next on the weekends. “I can never be grateful for the pandemic, but I’m grateful for the space it afforded me,” she explained. “I’ve been working back-to-back my entire career. That’s been wonderful, and I wouldn’t change anything about it, but it’s also meant that I haven’t had time to digest what I’ve been through... Now, I feel more grounded in myself and what I’ve been doing for the past six years.”
Taylor-Joy sat down with Byrdie to reflect on her big year and reveal what's making her happy in her new home.
The One “Superpower” She Learned from Beth Harmon
"Beth has the ability to realize that she’s not somebody’s cup of tea, accept that, and move on. It doesn’t affect her self-esteem. It’s kind of a superpower—I don’t have that naturally. I’m working towards it. She’s like, ‘Okay, I am not for you. I’m going to move on. I am myself, and that’s fine.’ That’s something I admire about her."
The One Skincare Secret She Took Away from "The Queen’s Gambit"
"I had a wonderful makeup artist, Daniel Parker, who I adore. He’s just become a family member and I will love him forever. He’s a huge proponent of witch hazel. The first thing he did on my skin as I was playing Beth is that he would always prep my skin with witch hazel. I love that you can find that in any pharmacy—it’s so accessible and really does wonders for your skin. It really is such a good way to wake up skin without it being too aggressive."
The One Thing That’s Kept Her Grounded in Her Travels
"Candles are a huge part of how I’ve managed to stay grounded. I just travel with candles everywhere. There’s something about lighting one in the evening and having a smell that makes you feel like you’re at home, that I’m able to kind of carry home with me.
The One Scent That Reminds Her of Home
"My mom and I have an obsession with popcorn. When I was a kid and I’d come home from school, that was usually the first thing I smelled. My mom would make popcorn, and I’d be like, ‘Hey, where’s my share?’ It just reminds me of home, and it reminds me of the place I most love to be—in a movie theater or on a film set. It’s a very evocative love for me."
The One Thing She Looks for in Fragrances
"I’ve always been a huge fan of scents you wouldn’t necessarily put together, but because they’re so different, they complement each other in a really beautiful way, and it becomes something unexpected. I love something as classic as a rose being mixed with something like gunpowder. That makes me excited—the gunpowder in Flowerbomb Nectar really excited me. I’m a huge fan of patchouli, too, so patchouli in anything just makes me happy. I’m a nerdy smells person—I don’t know quite how to put that in a more delicate way."
The One Perfume That Feels Like a Second Skin to Her
"I like the fact that you can choose your intensity with [Viktor & Rolf's Flowerbomb line]. You have the Flowerbomb Dew which is like a second skin, a misty morning in spring. Then you can go all the way to Midnight, which has night-blooming jasmine and black currant. It’s a more sultry scent. I love the fact that it’s inclusive in that way. If you’re somebody that likes lighter scents, there’s a perfume for you in this range."
The One Book That’s Inspiring Her Right Now
"The author Olivia Laing—I just love her. I hadn’t read her until this year, and she has a book called, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency. It’s a series of essays about how different artists have communicated their trauma in a way that helps the collective. I hadn’t read something that filled me with such hope in a while. I’ve been reading a lot of feminist literature, which I adore, and it’s really important. But as I’m reading, I find myself getting angry about the patriarchy, which is also a wonderful experience and I’m grateful to be more knowledgeable. But it’s been nice to read something else that’s hopeful, and hopeful about the place that art has in making people feel less alone."
The One Thing She’s Missed the Most During the Pandemic
"I’m so excited to go back to the movie theater. I have so much love and respect for them. They’re places of such magic to me. I’m a huge lover of going to the movie theater by myself. I love to go with friends, but I also love to just take myself out on a date and surrender to the vision of whatever artist I’m watching onscreen. I can’t wait to get back in."
The One Takeaway She Wants to Bring into 2021
"I feel like everyone I speak to is in a whole bunch of “new” right now. That can be exciting. It can be terrifying. Nobody likes change, but sometimes change is necessary. I hope that in the new year, we can all adjust and adapt to whatever that brings with as much grace and strength and resilience that we can muster. Of course, the pandemic has been a terrible thing, and so many people have suffered, but I’ve also noticed people being more gentle with each other. I hope that sense of community doesn’t go away. It’s beautiful to see people supporting each other."