Emma movie: Anya Taylor-Joy is sick and tired of playing “likeable” female characters

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Emma star Anya Taylor-Joy is going to be big in 2020. During a recent podcast interview, she explained exactly why she wants to play characters who aren’t “immediately likeable” – and it’s got us excited about what she’s going to do next.

Emma is the latest Jane Austen classic to undergo a fresh turn in Hollywood. From Gwyneth Paltrow’s beloved take, to Alicia Silverstone in the 90s Clueless retelling – Emma Woodhouse is a character who still proves to engage with women over 200 years after her story was first written. Now, Anya Taylor-Joy is portraying Emma in the new adaptation of the period drama.

Taylor-Joy is an actor we’re going to be seeing much more of in 2020, and it’s not just because of the Emma movie. She finished filming three films in 2019, and will star in the upcoming The New Mutants and Last Night in Soho. You might also recognise her from breakthrough TV roles such as Gina in Peaky Blinders and Nella in The Miniaturist.

Fans got to know more about Taylor-Joy in an interview with Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast (which has just done a live episode with Outlander star Sam Heughan, FYI).

Taylor-Joy, who quit school to become an actor when she was 16, explained exactly why she felt it was so important to take on the role of Emma.

She said: “When I said yes to Emma, I said ‘yes’ but under the umbrella of ‘I want to play her the way that Jane Austen wrote her, which is – and there’s an actual quote – ‘I’ve written a character I’m not sure anybody but myself will like’.

“I want to play this character in a way that isn’t immediately likeable. Because I’m sick and tired of women having to be, not just likeable, but easily likeable. 

“And I want to create a flesh and blood human being that can celebrate when she does something good but also shake her head and be like ‘no that was a bad thing to do, that was a bad action’.”

Emma Movie Jane Austin 2020
Emma movie: Anya Taylor-Joy plays Jane Austen's heroine in the new film.

To quickly recap: Emma is the “handsome, clever and rich” matchmaker who meddles in the romantic lives of her friends and loved ones. Independent and financially stable, she insists that she does not ever wish to marry. But she soon finds herself in love with her neighbour and sister’s brother in law.

Describing her character, Taylor-Joy continued: “You have to think about the context in which she grew up: without a mother, with an absurd amount of privilege, with a father who’s basically just said yes to everything she’s ever wanted. And she’s never been told no. And she’s incredibly bored. 

“So when she starts playing around with people as if they were dolls, even if she has good or selfish intentions, it doesn’t matter – she doesn’t know that she actually has the power to hurt people and that her actions have consequences. 

Taylor-Joy also shared her admiration for Little Women actor Saoirse Ronan

Watch the trailer for Emma

Asked who her favourite actors were, she replied: “Saoirse Ronan was big for me when I was maybe 13 because she was the first person that I saw at the age who I thought ‘you’re a similar age to me and you’re doing to kind of films that I’m interested in – it’s not just fluffy.”

She then described the time they met saying: “I massively embarrassed myself but she was really sweet about it, so no I think I’m OK.”

Listen to the full Happy Sad Confused podcast with Anya Taylor-Joy

You can catch Emma in cinemas from 14 February.

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Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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