Daisy Edgar-Jones would like the ingenue phase of her career to end now
Daisy Edgar-Jones bravely took the stage, her face horribly white. Under his arm, a human head.
“How can you do this to me!” she bellowed at Henry VIII.
As Anne Boleyn’s ghost, Edgar-Jones, the previously silent child, now covered in face paint and holding a homemade severed body part, suddenly found herself in love with the spotlight.
“It was the first time I remember realizing the joy of being away from yourself,” Edgar-Jones said.
She recounted that crucial school play memory on a blustery June afternoon, perched on a cream-colored couch in a cream-colored luxury hotel suite in West Hollywood. The cream-colored dress she wore for a series of engagements earlier today had started to come undone, prompting a change to an oversized black blazer, t-shirt, shorts and chunky GH Bass loafers, which all now stood in cool contrast to the generic palette that surrounds it.
While auditioning for the role via video, in 2020, Edgar-Jones brought director Olivia Newman to tears and snagged one of the producers, Reese Witherspoon.
“From her first screen test, she felt every moment of abandonment and loneliness that was written on the page,” Witherspoon wrote in an email. “His work is so honest, it breaks my heart every time I watch it.”
The film, shot in Louisiana, required Edgar-Jones to take boating and drawing lessons, and work with a dialect coach to hone a Carolina sled. His own accent is a mixture of soft-spoken vernaculars, thanks to his Northern Irish mother and Scottish father.
She grew up in the northern suburbs of London, in Muswell Hill, the only child of Wendy, a film and television editor, and Philip, the head of entertainment at Sky, the British television network. A few years after his Boleyn revival, Edgar-Jones auditioned at age 15 for the National Youth Theater with a monologue from “Romeo and Juliet” – a loving tribute to Claire Danes’ performance in the Baz Luhrmann iteration.
A perk of the prestigious program, which counts Helen Mirren and Daniel Day-Lewis among its alumni, was members-only open casting calls, including one for Sofia Coppola’s planned adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” As the project fell through before Edgar-Jones got very far, the casting director introduced her to talent agent Christopher Farrar, giving her the representation and confidence to continue. She considered college but ultimately turned down several colleges, instead taking odd jobs as a barista and server while she continued with auditions.
“I had an income and some semblance of hope,” she said. “It was, at first, a sabbatical year, then it became a sabbatical life.”
After a string of small roles in British productions, her big breakthrough came playing Marianne opposite Paul Mescal’s Connell in ‘Normal People’. When the series premiered in April 2020, it was the early days of the pandemic, and Sally Rooney’s adaptation provided an intimate escape for viewers as they navigated their way through a closed world. Mescal’s chain necklace and Edgar-Jones bangs – an impulsive decision by the salon after a string of failed auditions – became overnight sensations.
“I watched Daisy on ‘Normal People’ and was blown away by the subtlety of her performance and the impact of her choices,” Witherspoon wrote, praising “the most honest performance that made me lean and say, “Who is this?’”
But as enthralled as viewers are with the actors playing the show’s terse lovers, the fanfare has been kept at a literal distance from Edgar-Jones, locked up in London.
“I was told things were important or changing, but I was just in my room,” she said. “I had this weird experience of being on Zoom all the time having interviews and then I was taking my daily walk and someone was watching me, but I didn’t know if it was just because they didn’t hadn’t seen another human being or if they had seen me in a show. It was really strange.
She earned Critics Choice and Golden Globe nominations while spending the next year and a half isolated on sets in Calgary, Vancouver and New Orleans. Then, last spring, she experienced what she calls a “baptism of fire,” bouncing from her first red carpet premiere (for “Fresh”) to her first Vanity Fair Oscar party and her first Met Gala in rapid succession.
“You know how a swan, when it’s on the river, it floats very gracefully but under its feet there’s…” she mimicked furiously, paddling. Her crescendo on the steps of the Met wearing Oscar de la Renta “was just like that,” she said. “Maybe I looked calm, but I was terrified.”
Her de facto social debut coincided with the release of “Under the Banner of Heaven,” a true-crime drama series in which she played Brenda Lafferty, a Mormon woman who, along with her 15-month-old baby, was brutally murdered. by religious extremists in 1984.
In flashbacks, we see Brenda performing “The Rose,” pursuing a career as a broadcast journalist, and emboldening other Mormon wives. But despite the heinous crimes at the center of the series, we never see Brenda’s actual murder or her lifeless face onscreen. Contrast that with, say, “The Staircase,” which took every opportunity to show Toni Collette a graphic ending.
“It was something that I thought was really important,” Edgar-Jones said of the omission. “Why would you want to capture the worst thing that can happen to someone? Instead, you let their life be what defines.
She took the responsibility of playing a real person “incredibly seriously,” said co-star Andrew Garfield, noting a certain “sparkle and joy” he sees emanating from Edgar-Jones, on screen and in out.
“There is something unspeakable about some people,” he said. “And, yes, it’s talent. But it’s also a charisma and the kind of instant identification that you feel as an audience member where you go, Oh, I know that person, and I like that person. Even without them saying anything, you can feel their soul moving in a certain way and you want to follow the journey they are on.
The two actors quickly became friends while filming in Canada. Off the clock, Edgar-Jones has taken a special liking to e-bike and scooter rentals. “She was riding these scooters through the harsh winter months in Calgary until her hair started to freeze,” Garfield said. “She’s all about fun.”
This includes regularly importing his own DJ gear to spin house and disco tunes for his co-stars after work. Edgar-Jones is a fan of music in general: she often creates playlists for her characters (Kya was heavily involved in Bat for Lashes and Blood Orange’s “Coastal Grooves” album) and plays guitar. She’s also developed a bond with singer Phoebe Bridgers, who is in a relationship with “Normal People’s” Mescal.
Despite having, as Bridgers said, “every opportunity to have the craziest ego in the world,” Edgar-Jones exudes wide-eyed enthusiasm. She’s extremely polite — and perhaps a sweet liar — happily saying to the waiter who brought her a Pepsi instead of the Coke she asked for during our conversation, “That’s fine. They taste the same. And although she describes herself as shy, those who know her say she can also be extremely discolored.
In the past, her fair skin and brown bangs have led some to describe her as the beloved child of Anne Hathaway and Dakota Johnson. More recently, ‘Stranger Things’ fans feasted on her perceived resemblance to Eddie Munson, the beloved Season 4 character played by Joseph Quinn. “I see it,” she said, adding that she and Quinn once met by chance at a “Soul Train”-themed club night in London. “I think I now know what I’m wearing for Halloween.”
But career-wise, she hopes to emulate Jamie Lee Curtis, Tilda Swinton or Frances McDormand: women who forged Hollywood careers built on longevity and who found some of their greatest successes once they got rid of everything. trace of ingenue.
“These women are able to really transform,” she said, “and also play funny, complicated characters and, at times, the unconventional idea of what a female lead should be.”
Sebastian Stan, who co-starred with Edgar-Jones in the twisty comedy-thriller “Fresh,” sees echoes of another screen legend in his work.
“I give Daisy a lot more credit than I would give myself at 24. There’s an awareness in her that I think at that age is hard to find,” he said and compared her to a young Meryl Streep. “I’d like to think that as he gets older, his performances will only get richer and richer.”
Edgar-Jones has a plan to make it happen. His to-do list includes working with Wes Anderson, Barry Jenkins, the Coen brothers, the Daniels and Greta Gerwig. And she hopes to expand into the unexpected, perhaps playing “someone really evil”, doing more comedy or directing.
“I really just want to learn and learn and learn and make mistakes and learn from them,” she said, “and be free to play and take the journey wherever it goes.”