CODA Star Emilia Jones Breaks Through

The actress opens up about working on the intimate film, which tells the story of the only hearing child in a deaf family.

Interview by Lynn Hirschberg
Photographs by Tim Walker
Styled by Sara Moonves

Emilia Jones wears a Max Mara dress; Falke tights; the Row shoes.
Emilia Jones wears a Max Mara dress; Falke tights; the Row shoes.

In CODA, which is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults, the 19-year-old Welsh actress Emilia Jones stars as Ruby Rossi, the only hearing person in a deaf family. You might recognize Jones from the Netflix series Locke & Key, or, if you’re a particularly sharp observer, as a child in One Day, the 2011 romantic drama starring Anne Hathaway. And you’re definitely about to see a lot more of her: the CODA cast recently received the SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Performance with Jones generating buzz for her portrayal of Ruby, a teenager from a family of fishermen who have trouble coming to terms with her passion for singing. Here, she discusses her background, the Charlize Theron role that made her want to become an actress, and what was on her mind when she met Tom Hanks last year.

What drew you to this project?

I loved the story. I loved the character. It's not every day that you get to learn four or five skills. You're lucky if you get to learn one skill for a movie. So when I read the script I thought, Okay, whoever gets to play this role is an incredibly lucky actress. Little did I know it was going to be me. So I sent four dialogue scenes, and I sang “Landslide,” by Fleetwood Mac, which was meant to be the song at the end of the movie. And then Siân, the director, asked me to sing three extra songs. I'd never had a singing lesson before. So I just kind of recorded into the Voice Notes app on my phone, in my bedroom. Then she sent me a link to a video of her friend signing and asked me to copy it the best I could.

How old were you when you started acting?

I started acting when I was 7 or 8. My first job was One Day with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. I had such a good time. They were so lovely to me. I remember when we wrapped, I cried for a very long time. I still do, though. Every time I wrap a movie, I'm like, Oh no. I think with films, especially independent films, there's so much heart, there's so much passion, there's so much creativity, and it's so intense for such a short amount of time. That's why I think I get emotional when it's over. You become like a family, and you're all so close, and then you have to go your separate ways.

Jones wears a Louis Vuitton jacket, blouse, skirt, necktie, and belt.

Was there a movie that you saw growing up that made you want to do this for a living?

I saw Charlize Theron in Monster. That was the point in time where I was like, okay, I want to do this. I think it's so cool how she transformed for the role. So I admired her for a very long time.

Have you ever been starstruck?

I went to the opening gala for the Academy Museum not that long ago, and I met Tom Hanks. I was really starstruck because I loved Toy Story. The whole time I was talking to him, I was like, Oh my god, it's Woody from Toy Story. Obviously, I didn't say that. He'd be mortified.

Who was your celebrity crush growing up?

I watched The Notebook and fell in love with Ryan Gosling. I guess everyone did, right? He's still my crush now, I would say.

And do you have a girl crush?

Yeah. Viola Davis. Huge girl crush on Viola. I think she's an incredible actress. I really admire her. I follow her on Instagram, and she's so cool, and she posts positive quotes and happy videos. he's got such a great energy. I would love to work with her, and I would love to meet her.

Hair by Ali Pirzadeh for Dyson Hair at CLM; makeup by Daniel Sallstrom for Chanel at MA+ Group; manicure by Michelle Saunders for Nailtopia. Set Design by Gary Card at Streeters. Produced by Wes Olson and Hannah Murphy at Connect the Dots; production manager: Zack Higginbottom at Connect the Dots; photo assistants: Antonio Perricone, Jeff Gros, Morgan Pierre; digital technician: Michael Preman; lighting technician: Keith Coleman; key grip: Scott Froschauer; retouching: Graeme Bulcraig at Touch Digital; senior style editor: Allia Alliata di Montereale; senior fashion market editor: Jenna Wojciechowski; fashion assistants: Julia McClatchy, Antonio Soto, Nycole Sariol, Sage McKee, Josephine Chumley, Rosa Schorr; production assistants: Tchad Cousins, Juan Diego Calvo, Gina York, Brandon Fried, Nico Robledo, Kein Milledge; hair assistants: Tommy Stanton, Sol Rodriquez, Andi Ojeda; makeup assistants: Tami Elsombati, Bridgett O’Donnell; manicure assistant: Pilar Lafargue; set coordinator: Sarah Hein; set assistants: Olivia Giles, Seth Powsner, King Owusu; tailors: Suzi Bezik, Cardi Mooshool Alvaji; tailor assistant: Elma Click