Two roads diverged in a wood, and Anya Taylor-Joy took the one that wouldn’t lock her into the hard-to-escape child star box...And that has made all the difference. Yes, the actress known for her quick wit in Emma., edgy portrayal of a drug addict chess player, and her affinity for horror thrillers almost gave it all up to become a Disney Channel star. The actress just revealed that, in one day, she had to make a decision that would ultimately define her career and set her on a path to become the star she is today.
In a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Taylor-Joy recalled the moment when she booked her first major role, as the lead in the A24-produced Robert Eggers horror film, The Witch. After auditioning, and landing, a few bit roles in TV shows, The Witch opportunity finally came along as a sign that maybe, she was doing something right, but it wasn’t the only offer that came in that day.
“I remember [The Witch offer] was the same day I got asked to be in a Disney Channel pilot, and it was so exciting to be offered anything at all that I ran around the house like a loon.” For an actor struggling to break into the industry, getting one offer is cause for celebration, but two in one day is fairly unheard of. At that point, of course, Taylor-Joy was forced to make a decision. Take the safe route of Disney Channel, or the indie road less traveled. Luckily, she chose the latter.
“I just had this really good feeling about The Witch that made me willing to forego the Disney experience for the thing that felt unknown to me, the thing that felt sacred.” Of course, The Witch was a triumph, with a critic from The Washington Post placing it in the horror cannon among films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, adding that Taylor-Joy elevated The Witch “from the impressive to the revelatory, delivering a performance that is delicate, steely, vulnerable and potent all at once.”
From there, Taylor-Joy would go on to join the M. Night Shyamalan universe in Split and act alongside Olivia Cooke in quiet but powerful Thoroughbreds. Then, there was a role on Peaky Blinders, a new take on a Jane Austen classic in Emma., followed up, of course by The Queen’s Gambit, which officially made her a household name. These days, the actress barely has a moment to herself, constantly bouncing from one major project to the next, stopping only to put her time in as the ambassador for brands like Tiffany & Co., Viktor & Rolf, and Dior.
But let’s, for a moment, imagine what it would have been like had Taylor-Joy chosen the Disney route. At that point, the hey-day of the channel, defined by shows like Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, and The Suite Life of Zach & Cody was over. Taylor-Joy was nearing 20, and the idea of starring on Disney Channel likely seemed less like a dream and more like a death sentence. Yes, she could look at Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, former Disney stars who went on to have successful careers (though have been very open about struggling to shrug off the Disney label). But circa 2014, Zendaya was still starring K.C. Undercover so no one had truly made the Disney Channel star to movie star thing work just yet. Likely, if anyone could have followed in Zendaya’s path, it’s Taylor-Joy, but she just as easily could have faded into the history books as another child star who couldn’t make it in the industry. Luckily, The Witch called to her like a billy goat in the woods of New England, and the rest is history.