Anya Taylor-Joy says she has a lot in common with Beth Harmon, the chess prodigy she plays in “The Queen’s Gambit,” a new miniseries on Netflix.
“I could see a lot of myself in Beth,” Taylor-Joy, 24, tells The Post. “I thought she’s an inherently lonely person. And I really felt that, especially when I was very little. Her way of coping with it is that she found chess. I found acting.
“I could see a lot of connections with what it takes to be really good at chess and what it takes to do well in this [entertainment] industry.”
Premiering Friday (Oct. 23), “The Queen’s Gambit” is set in the 1950s and ’60s and is based on a 1983 novel of the same name. It follows Beth as she is sent to an orphanage at age 9 after losing her family to a fatal car crash. There, the withdrawn girl soon discovers a rare talent for the game of chess, and rises to the top of the world’s players — all while struggling with an addiction to tranquilizers.
Taylor-Joy, who grew up in America, England and Argentina, says she wasn’t very familiar with the world of competitive chess before “The Queen’s Gambit.”
“I really didn’t know a lot, so I feel really lucky that my introduction to what — to me — was a secret world came from people that are revered as chess scholars,” she says. “When I was first approached [about the role] there was no script.
“But I devoured the book in one sitting. And then I was trying to calm myself down, because I was so connected to the character and very excited to tell the story…I think I lived Beth more than I’ve ever lived a character before.”
Although she’s not a chess prodigy, Taylor-Joy’s story mirrors Beth’s in that she’s risen to the top of her field at a young age. Not yet 25, she’s already starred in hit horror movies helmed by auteur directors (such as Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split”), Jane Austen adaptations (“Emma”) and popular shows (“Peaky Blinders”).
“I had a very crazy 2019 where I played Emma and I had a day off, then I went on to do [the upcoming film] ‘Last Night in Soho’ with Edgar Wright. Then I had a day off, and then it was time to play Beth,” she says.
“She was surprisingly the [character] that needed the least amount of encouragement to come out,” she says. “I wish that I was somebody who had the foresight to go, ‘This is what I want to do now,’ or ‘I want to do something in this time period,’ but I’ve always picked jobs based on a feeling and on whether I think I’m the right person to tell that person’s story.
“I really felt like I could tell Beth’s with a degree of sensitivity and empathy.”
Taylor-Joy has a slew of high-profile projects, including another movie with Eggers (“The Northman” opposite Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke). And, this week, the news broke that she’ll play a young version of Charlize Theron’s iconic “Mad Max: Fury Road” character Furiosa in a spinoff prequel co-starring Chris Hemsworth.
“I am very excited, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the people that originated this world,” she says. “I was swept up in the magic of ‘Mad Max’ along with everyone else, and I just have the deepest gratitude and I’m so humbled that I’m being allowed to join this adventure.”
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