“Being a young actor is difficult when you’re starting out”: Daisy Edgar-Jones on her life-changing journey to the big screen
20 July 2022
Ahead of the premiere of the mystery film 'Where the Crawdads Sing', leading lady Daisy Edgar-Jones lets us in on how life has changed since 'Normal People'
It’s a Monday morning in London when Daisy Edgar-Jones dials in from London, England. In the last week, she has celebrated her 24th birthday and seen one of her favourite artists, Michael Kiwanuka, in concert. She’s also spent plenty of quality time with family and friends and has put on one of her favourite jumpers—a knitted green number—for our chat.
Despite the normalities and perceived banalities of her 20-something life, Edgar-Jones is one of Hollywood’s biggest breakout stars. She is gearing up for the release of Where the Crawdads Sing, a Reese Witherspoon-produced mystery film based on Delia Owens’s novel of the same name. Edgar-Jones’s character, Kya Clarke—a young girl who grows up alone in North Carolina’s vast marsh—is a steely individualist with an eye for ethology, a factor that adds to the film’s colourful and symbolic display of sea critters, insects and birds.
“I would like to think I’d be an egret. They’re so graceful and gorgeous and they have long, stick-y legs. I guess I have quite long, stick-y legs,” ponders Edgar-Jones before she abruptly pauses. “I know exactly what I am. I’m a bit of a duck. People have said I remind them of one and I have an odd walk. So I think yeah, maybe I’m a duck. But with the view of one day being an egret.”
This self-deprecating analogy mirrors her foray into the world of entertainment. Just three years ago, Edgar-Jones was a 21-year-old National Youth Theatre-trained actress with a healthy stack of screen credits from British comedy-drama Cold Feet to science fiction series War of the Worlds. Then came the audition for BBC Three’s book-to-television adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People.
“I know exactly what I am. I’m a bit of a duck. People have said I remind them of one and I have an odd walk. So I think yeah, maybe I’m a duck. But with the view of one day being an egret.”
“That year was just an interesting year in my life. When the audition came through, it’s quite hard to describe, but although there was a part of me that was so desperate to get it and anxious that I wouldn’t, there was also a part of me that felt like this was going to be a part of my life,” she shares, her eyes widening in recollection. Her hunch was right. Shortly after, Edgar-Jones got the call that she would be cast as Marianne Sheridan alongside Paul Mescal’s Connell Waldron. “[I felt] absolute euphoria but also the terror of like, ‘Oh no, they’ve got it wrong, they’ve got it wrong. Now I actually have to do it’,” she laughs.
The modern-day romance—which racked up 62.7 million views—catapulted Edgar-Jones to global fame. She had become a lockdown ingenue of sorts, capturing the hearts of viewers dealing with the pandemic in real time. When I ask her if she’s sick of talking about the pandemic—something I’ve noticed has dangled in the vicinity of Normal People and her career thus far— Edgar-Jones flashes an earnest smile. I take that as a “not at all”.
Born in Islington, London, to Philip and Wendy EdgarJones—both of whom have held fort in the entertainment industry as a producer and film editor, respectively—the starlet describes a younger version of herself as “middle of the road”. “I wouldn’t say that I was at the top of the class. I also wouldn’t say I was bottom of the class. I was quite confident, but also quite shy,” she recalls of her time in school.
She adds: “I feel very lucky that my parents knew what it was to be self-employed. If you have a child going into the arts, it’s quite a scary thing because it’s not a stable job.” After training with the London-based National Youth Theatre—known for discovering the likes of Idris Elba, Helen Mirren and Daniel Craig—Edgar-Jones made her single episode debut in the British television series, Outnumbered.
Fast forward to today and the starlet has found new steam, namely in Mimi Cave’s Fresh—a chilling depiction of online dating—as well as Dustin Lance Black’s Under the Banner of Heaven. She’s also become a fashion darling, as her recent appearance at the Met Gala—to which she wore a sparkling, fringed Oscar de la Renta dress—attests to.”
There were so many uber, uber famous people there and the whole time I was just like ‘oh my god’. Sarah Jessica Parker walked past and then James McAvoy. It was absolutely bonkers. I think I was so baffled that I was actually there, that I was watching myself there if that makes sense. It was an out-of-body experience,” she gushes. It’s here that Edgar-Jones’s contagious and unarming charm shines brightest.
Red carpet prowess aside, Edgar-Jones alludes to still figuring out her style. “I cannot put my finger on what it is because I love so many different things. One day, I’m like, I’m going to be a rock chick and only wear T-shirts and leather jackets. The next day, I’m going to be a Victorian woman in distress and I’m only going to wear nightgowns. I have such weird fashion sense. I find I get really influenced by the job I’m working on.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t already have an enviable clothing collection, however. When asked about the favourite pieces in her closet, she shares: “I have an old Miu Miu shirt that my mother found in a vintage store. I also have this vintage white dress which has a little collar and it’s got flowers on it which my cousin gave to me.”
“Being a young actor is difficult when you’re starting out. Because unlike any other craft, it’s not like you can do it on your own terms.”
At press time, Edgar-Jones has just walked the red carpet at Tiffany & Co’s Vision and Virtuosity exhibition in London in a sleek, black jumpsuit by Del core. After two years of navigating show business in isolation, it’s a symbolic witnessing of her stepping out into her own. “Being a young actor is difficult when you’re starting out. Because unlike any other craft, it’s not like you can do it on your own terms. Join as many theatre clubs as you can because you’ll be meeting other like-minded people,” she affirms.
As our conversation comes to a close, it’s hard not to circle back to the beginning of it all. While the world awaits the debut of Where the Crawdads Sing tomorrow, Edgar-Jones reflects on what she might have done differently at the start of this life-changing journey. “I was surviving day by day. I would have maybe told myself to not be so anxious. It was a natural experience because we didn’t know what the next day would bring. I would have told myself to try and enjoy the parts of it that were amazing and pause a little bit more.”
Photography Paul Scala
Fashion direction Desmond Lim
Fashion editor Julia Brenard
Hair Yumi Nakada-Dingle
Make up Laura Dominique/Streeters
Manicure Robbie Tomkins/Premier Hair and Make-up
Director of photography Michelle Duijin
Production Emily Lord
Digital technician Morgan Shaw
Stylist assistant Holly Louise Chapman
Hair assistant Akari Matsumoto