Daisy Edgar-Jones: Her Place In The Sun

‘Normal People’ made her an instant star. Now Daisy Edgar-Jones is seizing the moment.

By Lena de Casparis

Photographer – Rosaline Shahnavaz; Stylist – Magdalena Bryk

Daisy Edgar-Jones loves a mood board. Pinterest, if we’re going to be specific. Before a recent trip to her first Glastonbury, she meticulously curated a board of planned outfits. ‘It was pictures of Alexa Chung and Kate Moss, with a bit of Sienna Miller thrown in,’ she says. When we meet, the week after the festival, her voice is still raspy; her trademark fringe is still a little dishevelled. ‘In my head I was going to be some fashion- ista,’ she says. ‘Of course, I ended up wearing a jumper and jeans most of the weekend. I chose just to have fun.’ 

Glastonbury was Edgar-Jones’ chance to let loose. To stay up all night dancing with her friends and revel in all she’d achieved. ‘It was magical,’ she says. ‘We climbed a hill just as the sun was rising. It had started to lightly rain and I was like, “This is a memory I’ll cherish forever…” Then I looked to my right and a woman was vomiting,’ she says, laughing.

The 24-year-old has a lot to celebrate. She’s spent the last two years cruising to global fame. And this in a period when most of us failed to get changed out of our pyjamas and only ate banana bread. In case you spent the pandemic under a rock, Edgar-Jones has Normal People, the BBC’s horniest drama – and their most-streamed of 2020 – to thank for catapulting her career into the stratosphere. Aired in the first few months of lockdown, the Sally Rooney adaptation made Edgar-Jones and her co-star Paul Mescal the most lusted-after pair on television, and won her a Golden Globe nomination for her nuanced performance as the vulnerable but spiky Marianne. When Normal People aired – and the job offers came flooding in – Edgar-Jones seized the moment and set off on a year of back-to-back filming. ‘I had about 10 days at home altogether,’ she says.

Today, she’s wearing an Adidas tee under a denim jacket with matching low-slung jeans. Squint a little and she could be mistaken for a young Anne Hathaway. And, much like Hathaway, Edgar-Jones is strategically flexing her acting muscles with a wide range of roles. ‘The actors I really admire, like Tilda Swinton, always make the un-expected choices.’

There’s Fresh, a comic thriller about the horrors (literal, in this case) of mod- ern dating, opposite Sebastian Stan, and Under the Banner of Heaven, a buzzed- about crime drama in which she plays a young woman whose murder is investigated by Andrew Garfield’s detective. But the project garnering the most attention is the Hollywood adaptation of Delia Owens’ New York Times bestseller Where the Crawdads Sing, out later this month. Edgar-Jones plays Kya, a young woman abandoned by her parents on the marshlands of North Carolina. ‘This is my second time doing a big book adaptation. I really should stop doing that to myself,’ she says, smiling, clearly aware of the pressure that comes with it. 

The film was produced by Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine, and she visited the set to meet Edgar-Jones. ‘I grew up watching Reese, so it was a big moment. She has such an amazing eye for complicated characters and stories that are predominantly female-led.’ Add a title track written by Taylor Swift and the film has all the ingredients of a box-office blockbuster. ‘If I’d told my younger self that Taylor Swift would do a song for something I’m in… bonkers.’

She hopes the takeaway from the film is the theme of kindness and human resilience; the latter is a trait she’s become aware of within herself. ‘As an actor, you have to be resilient. If I have a bad day of work, it’s judged by a lot of people, and I have to live with it forever. But I still have to make brave choices to have a shot at making something remarkable.’

The actor is excellent company: well-read, quick to laugh and not a glimpse of ego – a rarity in her line of work. She was born and raised in Muswell Hill, north London. Her parents, Wendy and Philip, both worked in television (her mother an editor; her father is now the head of Sky Arts). She is their only child. ‘We get a hard rap but being an only child was great. I’m very good at making friends. I remember going on holidays as a child, seeing kids playing in the pool and having to go up and ask, “Can I play?” It was a good life lesson.’ At 15, her mum suggested Edgar-Jones audition for the National Youth Theatre after she’d said she wanted to be an actor. ‘I think she kind of hoped I wouldn’t get in. Not in a mean way – just because it’s a really hard job.’ From there came an agent and a stream of small TV roles in OutnumberedSilent Witness and Cold Feet, and then Normal People.

Along with the awards and accolades, she says the greatest thing Normal People gave her was her friendship with castmates India Mullen, Fionn O’Shea and Paul Mescal. The group are still incredibly close – they were the ones along- side her at Glastonbury. ‘We really do just love each other. I think because of Covid, we were all the more appreciative of each other. They are golden human beings; I feel very lucky.’ Her verdict on Mescal’s much- talked-about new moustache? ‘Oh, I love it. Paul can pull off anything.’ 

For now, she’s looking forward to spending time at home. ‘I’m shocked by how much I still love London,’ she says. She’s just bought her first flat, down the road from where she grew up, and it’s in need of some renovation. ‘Oh, yes! There’s already a folder of Pinterest boards.’ 

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is out July 22; ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ is on Disney+ July 27


Image: Rosaline Shahnavaz