During a virtual roundtable interview with The Hollywood Reporter, actresses Anya Taylor-Joy (TV’s The Queen’s Gambit) and MJ Rodriguez (TV’s Pose) discussed what it takes to play characters on TV series that can sometimes lead them to dark places.
Taylor-Joy and Rodriguez were joined by other dramatic actresses: Cynthia Erivo (Genius: Aretha), Elizabeth Olsen (TV’s WandaVision) and Sarah Paulson (TV’s Ratched).
For Taylor-Joy, she says there are some characters that you can “very easily snap in and out of” and then there are others like The Queen’s Gambit’s chess champion and drug addict Beth Harmon that stay with you even after you leave the set.
“It was a wonderful experience as an actor to be able to not have to reach for any emotion, but then you also have to go through the psychological warfare of figuring out, ‘Why do I feel so awful in the morning?’” Taylor-Joy said. “And then you go, ‘Oh, it’s not my feelings,’ but I have to sit in them all day and I have to be aware enough to go, ‘You are not depressed, the character is depressed, and at some point, that will leave you.’”
Rodriguez, who plays Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista, a trans woman living with HIV who starts her own ballroom for the LGBTQ community in New York City during the 1980s, says she tries to separate herself from her character as much as possible.
“Especially [because we’re] dealing with immense trauma,” Rodriguez said. “So, when I go home, it’s Michaela Jaé going home, and I bring Blanca to the set. It’s easier that way because it can weigh on you otherwise and wash off on your family.”
Taylor-Joy adds that it’s important for her when taking on a role to ask herself if she is the right person to tell that specific story. “It sounds cheesy, but I really just keep following my heart,” she explains. “And as we all know, you’re that [character] every hour of the day, and when you go home it’s difficult to let go of them, so you have to really love them.”