Fans of The Queen’s Gambit: Don’t give up hope yet!
On Sunday night, one week after picking up a Golden Globe, Anya Taylor-Joy collected a Best Actress Critics Choice award for her work in Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. And during a backstage chat with the press via Zoom, she addressed repeated calls for a second season of the much-loved show.
“It is obviously incredibly flattering that people want to spend more time with characters that we care so much about and that we poured so much love into,” she said, “but we did intend it to be a limited series, so we were all quite surprised when people started asking for Season 2. That being said, never say never.”
The show, which follows chess champ Beth Harmon through the trials and tribulations of child stardom and life for a female star in the 1950s and ’60s, saw Taylor-Joy embracing chess for the role.
Asked what chess taught her about life, she said, “It’s such a beautiful metaphor. I guess that you can have a plan but you have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to pivot. …it’s important to attack but also to defend, and you have to learn when to do both. And you need all the pieces on the board. It’s not just the queen roaming around. You need every single one of them.”
Category: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
“The Queen’s Gambit” just said “checkmate” to its first big awards.
Netflix’s hit chess adaptation took home two top prizes at Sunday night’s Golden Globes: limited series, anthology or TV movie and limited series/TV movie actress for star Anya Taylor-Joy. It marks the first major prizes for “The Queen’s Gambit,” as well as the first prominent award for Taylor-Joy.
During her speech, Taylor-Joy especially thanked co-creator, writer and director Scott Frank.
“Scott Frank, my god, I love you,” she said. “Thank you for letting me be part of the journey and thank you for trusting me with Beth.”
“It’s obviously wonderful that everyone has seen the show, but I would do this project again and again and again,” she went on. “I learned so much. I’m so grateful, and thank you to the audiences that have watched it and supported the character. It meant the world.”
Taylor-Joy was a double nominee at this year’s Globes, winning for her portrayal of addict and chess prodigy Beth Harmon in Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” but she was also in the running on the film side of the ballot for “Emma.” (She lost the film award to Rosamund Pike from “I Care A Lot.”)
Taylor-Joy is the first Latina to win in this category. She was nominated alongside Cate Blanchett (“Mrs. America”), Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Normal People”), Shira Haas (“Unorthodox”) and Nicole Kidman (“The Undoing”). “The Queen’s Gambit” was nominated alongside the same streamer’s “Unorthodox,” Amazon Prime Video’s “Small Axe,” Hulu’s “Normal People” and HBO’s “The Undoing.”
From the moment she put down Walter Tevis’ book The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor-Joy knew how she would portray chess genius Beth Harmon, who blazes a trail and explodes glass ceilings during the Cold War-era 1960s as a femme champion in the testosterone-dominated game-peg playing world.
“I said to myself, ‘If we were shooting tomorrow, I know exactly what I’m doing, I know how I want to do it, I understand this woman so well’ “, said Taylor-Joy, the American-born Argentine-British actress who received not only SAG and Golden Globe nominantions for the role but also, Globe Best movie actress nom for her turn in Focus Features’ update of Jane Austen’s Emma.
“With Beth, it was instincts on a whole other level, I never had to reach for anything,” Taylor-Joy said. “They just had to yell ‘action’ and something would happen.”
On playing the ferociously ambitious, complex young woman, whose orphan life and death of her mother (and adopted mother) triggered a drug- and alcohol-addled life, Taylor-Joy describes Harmon as someone who “had this singular focus, this kind of drive and hunger for something where nothing else mattered. A priority such as ‘I hope this person doesn’t think me rude, if I’m more abrupt with them’ — that doesn’t figure [into her]; she’s thinking about her goal.”
After the Netflix show amassed 62 million viewing households around the world in its first 28 days, becoming the streamer’s most watched limited series ever, who doesn’t want a second season of The Queen’s Gambit? But, alas, creator Scott Frank and EP William Horberg have indicated there isn’t apt to be a second season given the series’ being faithful to the parameters of the 1983 novel.
“It’s so surreal and very wonderful that people want a second season, because we never thought about it, there was no discussion about it,” Taylor-Joy tells Deadline. “That said, never say ‘never’ in Hollywood.”
Given how Taylor-Joy has lived in Harmon’s skin, what are her hopes for the character’s future? Is it one of global-winning chess tournaments or a tragic fate? “It would be very interesting to see how Beth would be as a mother, now that she’s sober and more cognizant of the demons that pull her down,” she said.
As to why The Queen’s Gambit hit a nerve with mass audiences, playing far beyond the sophisticated demographic at which it was aimed, Taylor-Joy says, “There’s something to be said of a character whose biggest enemy is herself. I think all of us living at home and being locked up, we’re probably confronting a lot more of ourselves than we’re used to, because we are used to being distracted. When you’re locked up in your house, there’s only a certain amount of room to run away from yourself. That is potentially something people were a bit more open to at the end of the day. The show also has a wonderful message: Even if you’re brilliant, you still need help. We work better with support, and I think Beth sees the beauty in the support that she garners eventually.”
While Taylor-Joy’s career was already on an upswing before Queen’s Gambit, breaking out in Robert Eggers’ 2015 Sundance hit The Witch and continuing with M. Night Shyamalan in Split and Glass as well as pics like Edgar Wright’s upcoming Last Night in Soho, the actress has catapulted herself from one stratosphere to the heavens in regards to her demand. Post Queen’s Gambit, George Miller selected Taylor-Joy to play Furiosa in the Mad Max prequel, a role made famous by Charlize Theron. In addition, Taylor-Joy is currently shooting David O. Russell’s new film in Los Angeles, neither project of which she can talk about at this time.
She is also expected to reteam with Queen’s Gambit‘s Frank on a feature adaptation of Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov’s 1932 novel Laughter in the Dark. The plot centers on a young aspiring actress who plots against a married middle-aged art critic to make off with his money.
In regards to how Queen’s Gambit has impacted her career, the actress says, “It’s been really strange as I’ve been sheltered from all of that because of the nature of the time we’re living in. I understand on a cerebral level, but on a physical level, I’ve been quite calm. What makes me the happiest is that every year I spend working, I fall more in love with what I do, and I’m more certain that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and it’s just where I want to be. I think there was a part of me, especially from what other people were saying around me like ‘if you keep working this way, you’re going to burn out, you’re going to become jaded, you’re really not going to love what you do anymore,’ and I see it as the opposite. I’m getting more fascinated with what I do, I’m getting more excited to push boundaries, and I want to test myself more.”
Anya-Taylor Joy, Moses Ingram, Harry Melling, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster detail their new Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit”, which follows orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon and her struggles with addiction.
Following the astonishing rise of an unusual chess prodigy, Netflix’s new limited series is a welcome change of pace.
In order to be a truly great chess player — not just a good one, but one of the greats — you need to possess a canny combination of concentration, acuity, and nerve. What seems like a simple board of 64 squares quickly becomes a battlefield; the key to winning the ensuing fight is being able to analyze and anticipate an opponent’s moves without your face betraying a single calculation. Chess is such a mentally punishing, esoteric game — which makes it extremely hard to portray onscreen with half the thrill it might have in reality, especially if the viewer doesn’t know all the rules (and chances are, you don’t). But “The Queen’s Gambit” manages to personalize the game and its players thanks to clever storytelling and, in Anya Taylor-Joy, a lead actor so magnetic that when she stares down the camera lens, her flinty glare threatens to cut right through it. Most crucially, the series uses chess as its engine for a more complicated narrative about female genius, the allure of addiction and the gift of autonomy.
From writer and director Scott Frank (“Logan”), and based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel, “The Queen’s Gambit” tells the story of a taciturn orphan whose unflinching demeanor and analytical brain reveal her to be a lethal chess prodigy. When we first meet 9 year-old Beth (Isla Johnston) in Kentucky circa the early ’60s, she’s adjusting to life at a Kentucky orphanage while quietly mourning the sudden death of her mother (Chloe Pirrie). Then, a chance encounter with the custodian (Bill Camp) introduces her to chess, and it’s as if the game unlocks a secret room within her own mathematical mind where everything makes sense, a place where she can be safe and in control. That Beth discovers this about herself at the same time as the orphanage is giving her a daily tranquilizer only intensifies her obsession. She spends years lying awake at night, high as a kite, staring at her ceiling where ghostly apparitions of chess boards appear to let her play as many games as she wants. In these moments, “The Queen’s Gambit” almost becomes an “Alice in Wonderland” story — except in this case, the heroine is an unsettling orphan playing chess on her ceiling through a drugged fog.
The series, written and directed entirely by Frank, sometimes threatens to get overwhelmed by these breaks in reality and format, and the CGI chess pieces are only occasionally as sinister as they’re supposed to be. At the show’s bluntest moments, Beth’s time in the orphanage and early childhood flashbacks often feel like they’re of an entirely different show. But as Beth grows up (and is subsequently played by Taylor-Joy), “The Queen’s Gambit” becomes very shrewd about its choices and keeps the narrative going at an impressively fast clip — making it a sharp, welcome contrast to the all too many lethargic streaming dramas out there.
Unfolding over seven episodes, the limited series follows Beth’s rise to the top of the competitive chess world and all the work she does and the suffering she endures to get there. Growing up, her closest ally is the custodian and her bunkmate Jolene (Moses Ingram); once she leaves the orphanage, her confidante becomes her adoptive mother Alma (Marielle Heller), a lonely woman in need of company outside her spiteful husband. Ingram makes the absolute most of sometimes clunky dialogue (Jolene is the only major non-white character in the series, and it shows). And while Heller’s mostly known for her patient, empathetic directing of films such as “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” she brings the same qualities to her acting here, deepening Alma’s characterization into something so painfully tender she might as well be a walking bruise. Both flesh out characters that most obviously show Frank’s limits as a writer, giving them welcome depth beyond the page.
While Jolene and Alma get the closest to cracking Beth’s heart, she’s otherwise constantly surrounded by men. She resents that fact being pointed out to her with every chess match she obliterates, but with her shock of bright red hair and increasingly glamorous wardrobe (courtesy of costume designer Gabriele Binder), Beth also takes some pleasure out of drawing everyone’s intrigued eye. Along the way to the top, she collects the hearts of men equally frustrated and enthralled by her: a sincere local boy (Henry Melling), a fellow cocky prodigy (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), a kind-eyed writer (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) who comes the closest to stealing her heart right back. Even the steely Russian champion (Marcin Dorocinski) whose face rarely moves an inch finds himself drawn to this strange girl and her astonishing mind. Countless chess matches begin and end on Beth’s face as she stares coolly across the board at her opponent, waiting for the moment she can strike him down. In most actors’ hands, these scenes would become too boring for words. In Taylor-Joy’s, they’re mesmerizing.
It’d be easy for the show to indulge too much in Beth’s allure and make her some sort of Manic Pixie Dream Genius, and it doesn’t always resist the temptation. But more often than not, it dives deep enough into her psyche and reveals enough weaknesses that she’s never invincible or unknowable. She’s a mastermind, but also an angry obsessive with a healthy ego and a love for obliterating herself before anyone else can do it to her. She wants to win, but more than that, she wants some place — someone — to call home. When “The Queen’s Gambit” gives both Beth and Taylor-Joy the room to tap into the twin veins of her fury and longing, it’s the best kind of bildungsroman. What could’ve just been a clever show quickly becomes a portrait of a special, flawed person that reveres her fire as much as her brilliance.
“The Queen’s Gambit” premieres Friday, October 23 on Netflix.