The Transformation Of Anya Taylor-Joy Is Turning Heads

Anya Taylor-Joy is taking the world by storm, and it's no wonder. Her role as Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit was a massive success and the series was, as The Wrap points out, "Netflix's most-watch scripted limited series ever." So, all eyes were on Taylor-Joy.

Her transformation has been remarkable. Taylor-Joy was born in Miami, Fla. in 1996 to a mother of African-Spanish-English heritage and a father of Scottish-Argentinian descent, as Taylor-Joy explained at the Golden Globes in January 2020. She's the youngest of six kids and spent her childhood between Argentina and England. "It was very difficult to leave Argentina when I was kid, so I only spoke Spanish for the first six years of my life," the star told People in 2016. "I refused to learn English for two years when we moved to London hoping to send my family back home."

This transient childhood shaped her future path. "It was tough, but at the same time it has given me a sense of displacement that actually really suits the life that I'm living now," Taylor-Joy told the outlet. "I don't really feel like I belong anywhere, which makes me belong everywhere. Plus they are both beautiful places that I love being able to call my home." 

So, what has Anya Taylor-Joy's life been like since this time?

Why Anya Taylor-Joy related to Beth Harmon's loneliness

Anya Taylor-Joy didn't have the easiest childhood. While she did great in school, thriving in drama classes, English, and the classics, Taylor-Joy told the Evening Standard in 2017, "The kids just didn't understand me in any shape or form, and I was really badly bullied. I used to get locked in lockers, you know, barred from classrooms, not invited to things. It wasn't pleasant." The Witch star added, "We're social creatures, and we don't do well when we're not accepted, or when we feel like we don't belong anywhere." Noting that "kids are mean," Taylor-Joy explained, "If they don't understand something, they're meaner."

While it's completely unfair that Taylor-Joy had to go through this as a child, she reflected as an adult that the loneliness of her childhood made her understand the character of Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit — allowing the star to transform childhood tragedy into character relatability. "I saw a lot of parallels between the two of us," she said to Style in March 2021. "Beth is an inherently lonely person, and that was something I definitely struggled with growing up. She's desperately looking for a place where she fits in and where she feels like she can contribute something. For her, that's chess, and for me, it's acting."

Anya Taylor-Joy took a huge risk for acting

With such an unusual childhood, filled with travel and change, Anya Taylor-Joy seems comfortable uprooting her life and making big moves. While speaking with the Evening Standard, she explained how she used her savings to move to New York at 14, before deciding to quit school two years later to focus on acting. Noting that her family was "terrified" for her, she said, "All of my brothers and sisters called me to tell me I was ruining my life. I cried hysterically."

But The Queen's Gambit star added that being the youngest of six kids gave her a preternatural confidence that she used to her advantage. "I think because my siblings are so much older than me, I grew up around adults and I never thought of myself as a child," she told the Evening Standard. "My parents raised me as if they always trusted me."

Taylor-Joy rose to this trust and her huge risk payed off when she was discovered. "I used to look at the future and I was scared," she admitted to Marie Claire in October 2020. "But I was scared because I hadn't made a home in myself. [Now] I know how to take care of myself in a different way. I finally am like, 'I get it. I get what's important to me. I get what I care about.'" 

The actor's role in The Witch was her major breakthrough

Anya Taylor-Joy is now a major Hollywood player: she's played Gina Gray in the TV series Peaky Blinders, Emma Woodhouse in the 2019 adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, as well as the character of Illyana Rasputin in the 2020 film, The New Mutants, per her IMDb credits. But her big Hollywood breakthrough came when she nabbed the role of Thomasin in the 2015 film, The Witch

Taylor-Joy described when she first watched herself in the movie to the Evening Standard. "I saw myself on screen for the first time and I was terrified," she explained. "I was convinced I would never act again. I never actually figured that I couldn't act." Of course, this proved to be very far from the truth, and Taylor-Joy has gone on to play a whole panoply of characters. 

"Each character is such a gift," she said at the 2020 Golden Globes. "Each one has been so individual and has had such a different way of arriving. There's a moment where everything clicks and just suddenly you are that person. But I couldn't say that one is more rewarding or more taxing cause I put all of myself into each one of them."

What The Queen's Gambit meant to Anya Taylor-Joy

While The Witch might have been her big breakthrough, it was The Queen's Gambit that put Anya Taylor-Joy on the map in a global way. The series earned her a Golden Globe in 2021, which also marked her first major award. In fact, Taylor-Joy became the first Latina to win in the category of best actress in a limited series, anthology series, or a motion picture made for television, according to Variety.

Obviously, her role as Beth Harmon on the Netflix series made Taylor-Joy close to Scott Frank, the co-writer and director of The Queen's Gambit. "Scott Frank, my god, I love you," she said during her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes (via Variety). "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." Taylor-Joy went on to say, "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."

Anya Taylor-Joy's dream gigs

Anya Taylor-Joy has hit the jackpot with TV and film gigs, but she still has some dreams on her horizon, namely in people she wants to work with and what she wants to do. At the 2020 Golden Globes, Taylor-Joy talked about working in Spanish. "I have always wanted to work with Guillermo Del Toro," she said. "I feel his relationship with the supernatural is very much like mine. He understands my brain and my heart very well. So I would love to work with him."

"I am just waiting for the right project," Taylor-Joy went on. "It needs to be something special because it's a very special part of my life, it's a very special part of my soul. Spanish is my first language."

But Taylor-Joy has other dream collaborations. In 2016, she told The Hollywood Reporter: "I would love to work with [Quentin] Tarantino. I'd love to work with the Coen brothers. And Steven Spielberg. E.T. was big for me." If her past is any pattern to base projections upon, it looks like Taylor-Joy will get everything she wants — and we'll be here to watch it!