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Anya Taylor-Joy: Life and Career before The Queen’s Gambit

by Conor O'Brien
Anya Taylor-Joy

Anya Taylor-Joy has received widespread critical acclaim for her role in Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit. Courageous Nerd looks at the star’s past projects and why she may have seemed familiar to viewers binging the popular series.

Although primarily raised in London, England, actress Anya Taylor-Joy was in fact born in Miami, Florida and also spent time in Argentina. She moved back to the United States at 14 years of age, spending time between New York and London.

Prior to The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor-Joy had been working as an actress professionally for six years. Her debut television role was in an episode of ITV detective drama Endeavour, based on the character Endeavour Morse created by Colin Dexter. Meanwhile, Taylor-Joy’s first film was Vampire Academy starring Zoey Deutch, however, her scenes were deleted from the finished movie.

In 2017, Taylor-Joy appeared in the leading role of Petronella “Nella” Brandt in BBC miniseries The Miniaturist. Also starring Romola Garai and Alex Hassell, Taylor-Joy’s character was a real-life Dutch woman who lived during the 17th century and became known for her elaborate doll’s house.

Anya Taylor-Joy
The Forge/BBC/ Laurence Cendrowi

In 2019, Anya Taylor-Joy furthered her television career with two other major roles. She appeared as “Gina Gray”, Michael Gray’s (Finn Cole) American wife, in the long-running BBC period crime drama Peaky Blinders. She was credited as a series regular for the fifth season.

Taylor-Joy also voiced the character of “Brea” in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, an animated fantasy series produced by Netflix. The cast also included Taron Egerton, Mark Hamill, Jason Isaacs, Simon Pegg, Nathalie Emmanue and Hannah-John Kamen, among others.

Anya Taylor-Joy
Anya Taylor-Joy in Split (2016)/Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

At the same time, Taylor-Joy was also starting to build up her reputation in the film world. After roles in The Witch, Morgan and Barry, Taylor-Joy landed the role of ‘Casey Cooke’ in 2016’s Split, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring alongside James McAvoy, Taylor-Joy reprised the role of Casey in a further film, Glass (2019).

Also in 2019, Taylor-Joy played another real-life figure; Irene Curie, daughter of celebrated French scientist Marie Curie, in Radioactive. Returning to animation, she also voiced “Marla” in Playmobil: The Movie.

Aside from Queen’s Gambit, one of Taylor-Joy’s other 2020 projects was the feature film Emma, based on Jane Austen’s 1815 romantic novel of the same name. Taylor-Joy starred as the title character, with Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley, Mia Goth as Harriet Smith, Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse, Josh O’Connor as Vicar Elton, and Callum Turner as Frank Churchill, among other ensemble cast members.

Anya Taylor-Joy
Emma”/Focus Features

The Queen’s Gambit premiered on October 23 2020 and is streaming on Netflix. Deadline reported that the show had become Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries. Taylor-Joy stars in the leading role of troubled chess player Beth Harmon. The cast also includes Bill Camp (Joker), Christiane Seidel (Boardwalk Empire), Harry Melling (Harry Potter) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Maze Runner).

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