You’ve certainly seen her on TV. Her striking features and all-in-character portrayals amid dark plot lines have made this woman one of the most sought-after talents today. Meet Anya Taylor-Joy, the actress taking Hollywood by storm.
Anya Taylor-Joy Was Raised as a Bit of a Nomad
Anya Taylor-Joy was born April 16, 1996, in Miami, Florida. She is the youngest of five and her father was a banker-turned-speed boat racer while her mother worked as a psychologist. Anya’s boat racing career uprooted the family on several occasions. They moved to Argentina and stayed in Buenos Aires until she was six. Then they relocated to the London area when Anya was 8. She stayed there until she decided to leave the nest at the young age of 16.
Anya Taylor-Joy told the Standard UK that she was bullied as a child while at school in England. “I used to get locked in lockers, you know, barred from classrooms, not invited to things. It wasn’t pleasant,” she said. Her schoolmates at one point tagged her on Facebook in a picture of a fish, mocking Anya for her now famously wide-set eyes.
Despite getting bullied incessantly in the age of social media — a cruel reality for anyone in the Z generation — Taylor-Joy managed to maintain straight-A’s. She had studied ballet but wasn’t trained in theatre. However, Anya told W Magazine that she knew she’d be an actress since at least the age of 7. She also had an uncanny understanding of what that would entail.
Anya Oddly Prophesied Her Future Fame at Age 7
“My mother has a video of me at age 7 declaring, ‘I’m going to be an actor,’ Anya told W Magazine. “She asks me, ‘Are you going to drama school?’ and I reply that I’m going to be in the right place at the right time. Thank God it happened.”
At age 14, Taylor-Joy moved to New York with money she’d saved. Two years later, she quit school to focus on acting. She told Harper’s BAZAAR that she wrote a detailed letter to her parents explaining the life-changing decision. Her older siblings were “terrified” and warned her she was “ruining” her life.
At the age of 17, Anya seemed to confirm what her 7-year-old self had once said. She was in the right place at the right time but admits that the situation could have gone horribly wrong. While back in London, she was walking down the street when a black car started slowly following her.
“This guy just stuck his head out of the window and shouted, ‘If you stop, you won’t regret it,’” Taylor-Joy told the Standard. And so, she actually stopped. “Which is so stupid, so dumb, the worst slasher-flick line ever,” she admits. Inside the car was Storm Management’s Sarah Doukas. Doukas is credited with discovering Cara Delevingne as well as Kate Moss. She gave Anya her business card and invited her to come into her office. Doukas added that she could bring her parents along if she wished.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s Connection With Her Characters Is a Blessing and a Curse
It wouldn’t be long before Anya Taylor-Joy was recognized for her offerings. Those include not only her physical presence but a unique understanding of character development and the dark side of human nature. She’s admitted on numerous occasions that she never intended to become a method actor. Despite that, she admits she resonates with her characters on a profound level. That is an amazing quality for an actress while working. But it can have a harsh effect on one’s emotional and mental health.
“I’m finding it harder to disconnect between what is occurring for my [character] and what is occurring for me,” Taylor-Joy told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s never a problem on set because I like to make my sets a really happy and supportive place to be. It’s more when I go home; I just have all of these feelings.”
In 2014, Taylor-Joy appeared in a minor TV role on a single episode of Endeavor. She also landed an uncredited role in the film Vampire Academy. The next year, she portrayed a teenage girl in the 1630s who is accused of witchcraft in The Witch. When she saw the premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, she thought her career was over. But that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
“I thought I’d done a really bad job, and I saw myself failing miserably with this dream I’d had for such a long time,” she told BAZAAR. “I guess I’m not always the best judge of my own work.”
From The Witch to The Queen’s Gambit: The Roles Keep Coming
That same year, Anya Taylor-Joy was cast as Cassandra in the TV series Atlantis. In 2016, she played Casey Cooke, a young woman kidnapped by a man with dissociative identity disorder in the film Split. She was Petronella Brandt in the TV miniseries The Miniaturist. Anya did voice work for a variety of projects including playing Brea in Netflix’s The Dark Crystal prequel series and Marla Brenner in Playmobil: The Movie. She recently did a voice part in The Super Mario Bros Movie. In 2020, she portrayed the titular character in Emma Woodhouse. But it was her role in The Queen’s Gambit that shot her to superstar status.
Portraying Beth Harmon, a genius chess player addicted to drugs, Anya’s role in The Queen’s Gambit happened to align with the COVID lockdown. As such, most of the modern world was simultaneously locked away in their houses. They had nothing to do but watch TV. The show was watched by 62 million households in its first 4 weeks. Everyone suddenly wanted to learn more about or work with her.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s Awards and Accolades Are Extensive — And She’s Only 26
Anya Taylor-Joy received a multitude of nominations for The Queen’s Gambit, winning several including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award. At the age of 26, she already has a separate Wiki page dedicated to her awards. She’s received 38 nominations and 15 wins to-date, including for her roles in The Witch, Emma, and The Menu, which was released in 2022. Anya has a few forthcoming projects including Mad Max spin-off Furiosa, The Gorge, and Laughter in the Dark.
As for what’s next, Taylor-Joy admits that she’s transitioned to a point in her career when she can be more discerning.
“Saying no is genuinely difficult for me, because I always want to do everything,” she told BAZAAR. “But I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can ask myself, do you feel passionate enough about this to spend seven months living all the way across the world, away from everyone you know and love? Will that sustain you? And if the answer’s yes, you should probably do it.”