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Anya Taylor-Joy Says Scary Movies Are Like Yoga

The Split actress explains why the genre's so addicting, and why it's annoying to go from blonde to brunette.

By: Samantha Sutton
Photography: Alec Kugler

Talking to Anya Taylor-Joy is sort of like watching a suspenseful movie. With each passing moment, you're sure something crazy's about to go down—or, in this case, that the star can't possibly this sweet and genuine—but with Anya, the big reveal never comes. She happens to be the real-deal: an insanely talented actress, who's so passionate about her job, she starts to question if she sounds crazy while explaining it.

Anya's newest film, Split, however, is full surprises you'd never (in a million years) expect, and not all of them are scary ones either. Some will make you think, and “the twist” will have you Googling, but it's earning M. Night Shyamalan praise once again—and making us even bigger fans of Anya.

When we caught up with her, she explained why she enjoys doing scary movies so much, along with her process for getting into character (spoiler alert: it seems intense). Anya also shared the struggles of going from blonde to brunette, and why a friend asked if she was balding one night at dinner.

On the movie and why she chose to take on this role:

The movie is about a man called Kevin, or at least his host body is called Kevin. He kidnaps three teenage girls and a situation that is pretty crazy to begin with just gets crazier and crazier. My character is Casey—she’s definitely a little different from the other two. She is, unfortunately, uniquely prepared for this position she finds herself in. I wanted to play her because I just fell in love with her. She gets deeper and deeper and more complex. I knew that I would have to be very quiet and communicate with my face and my eyes, so that was something I was attracted to.” 

How she was able to get into character:

“Each character [I’ve played] has required something different from me for me to get to know them. I really do see them as real people. I know that makes me sound a littlebut they feel real to me! With Morgan [in the movie Morgan], it was more of a physical thing. But with Casey, I just spent so much time inside of her head. I would sit down in my room and just thinkOkay, how does Casey look at a room? Where does she go when she can't cope with this? When she can't deal with this?’ She says this in the movie, she loves to be alone—her entire life she has tried to be invisible. I basically worked from the inside out, if that makes sense.” 

On her own different identities:

I definitely have an on-set superwoman strength, which is weird! I love film so much that I just do stuff and, afterwards, I look back at it and am like, ‘I'm terrified of heights and I jumped off what?!’ But if the camera is rolling and it's part of the story, I'll do it! I wish I had a little bit more of that in my real life, but yeah, I think I'm semi-fearless in front of the camera.”

How acting in a scary movie is almost like therapy for her:

I recently did an interview—my mom sent a picture of it and was like, you sound like a psycho!—I was like, ‘Some people do yoga, I make scary movies.’ But it's true! It just purges me of everything. When you have a safe, controlled environment, you really do get to that core of who you arewhat kind of sounds you make when you’re in pain, or when you hit a wall of frustration or sadness. You connect to something deeply humane within, very animalistic, and it releases that. Then I can go home and feel more normal.”

On whether or not she was always into magic and sci-fi:

“As a kid, I was happiest when I was in the woods and I was with my imagination. I so desperately wanted magic to be real, and I think magic is real! In a sense, I think life is pretty magical. I was always making potions. I never got anyone to drink one–I'm pretty sure that would be disgusting. But I was very, very into that world." 

The struggle of becoming a brunette for the role:

”If you are a natural brunette and you dye your hair blonde, your roots come out, you look grungy, you look cool. When I did it, my blonde would just come out white and it just looked like my hair was falling out. That is not sexy, not cute! So I had to get my roots done all the time because my hair grows back really fast. I went back to blonde mainly because I couldn't sit in another hair and makeup chairIt sounds silly, but I went out to dinner with a friend of mine and she was likeAre you okay? Is your hair falling out from the stress of your job?!’ I was like,My hair is not falling out! It's just white!’

Why everyone should see Split, in her own words:

“It's unpredictable! It's really entertaining, with a stellar performance from James McAvoy that will just blow your brains out! If you want to see an actor really get to play and enjoy himself and have fun with the audience, this is the film to go and see. I am genuinely so proud of it! I love this movie! It's super quirky, it's super cool, I love it.” 

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