Anya Taylor-Joy may have haunted viewers with her debut performance in 2015’s "The Witch," a supernatural tale set in Puritan New England, but the 20-year-old actor doesn’t really like scary movies. “I’m such a scaredy cat,” she says. “I thought I was really brave, so I watched ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and didn’t sleep for weeks. I don’t really enjoy being frightened — but I do like making horror films.”
The British-Argentine actor now stars as the title character in "Morgan," a sci-fi thriller about a genetic experiment: a bio-engineered sentient being—that goes terribly wrong.
Directed by Luke Scott (Ridley Scott’s son), "Morgan," out Friday, also stars Kate Mara and Paul Giamatti. We spoke with Taylor-Joy about the pitfalls of A.I., her love of music and how "Free Willy" inspired her to be an actor.
I’m kind of afraid you’re going to strangle me through the phone.
People have been coming up to me and saying they’re quite frightened of me. I guess that’s a good thing! Not usually in real life, but it must mean, the movie works.
The film is a classic Frankenstein story, but it’s also a timely tale about the dangers of technology. How do you feel about A.I. and tech in general?
I’m so technologically challenged; I’m not good with machines at all. In terms of A.I., I don’t really understand this human desire to continue to try and play God. We have so many films that show us the dangers of messing with nature, movies like "Jurassic Park." "Morgan" is a cautionary tale in that sense. Come see our movie and see why we shouldn’t mess with genetics and people.
The character of Morgan is pretty complex. It isn’t human, but it is capable of human emotions. What were some of the challenges of playing a character like that?
I just thought, ‘Who is Morgan?’ I thought about what it must be like to be so young, and she’s just sort of been created and dropped into this world. She knows so much just because of her engineering, and yet she knows nothing from experience. I really tried to look at everything with fresh eyes and from a very pure place.
We read that you’re a good rapper. And we saw you in the Skrillex video for “Red Lips.”Can you tell us about your interest in music?
When I say I’m a good rapper, I mean I can move my mouth really fast and keep up with the lyrics. But I still sound like me, like a white girl — it’s still not awesome. But I can keep up, and that makes me pretty happy. In terms of music, I’m so passionate about it, I really couldn’t live without it. I love all kinds of different music — it just has to make me feel something. My friend Charlie [Heaton] is in that incredible show "Stranger Things," and that soundtrack is amazing! I’ve been listening to that a lot recently.
Besides listening to music, what do you do for fun when you’re not acting?
God, I sound like such a nerd: I act for fun! I read a lot, I see my friends and all that, but I’ve been so fortunate that from the second I started doing this, I haven’t stopped. I love my job, I really do. I don’t even see it as a job — I just see it as I get to do the thing I love more than anything in the entire world every day. I’m kind of living life for fun, right now.
You got your start modeling. When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Ever since I was very very little I’d always be talking in different voices and making up stories, I always talked a lot and my siblings always would go, “Anya please, shut up.” So, I just sort of talked to myself. I never really realized — I don’t remember becoming aware of it — it was always sort of a chip in my brain. I do remember seeing "Free Willy," and seeing that kid ride a whale and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I want to ride a whale.’ Whatever that kid does, that’s what I want to do with my life.