The Minaturist's Anya Talor Joy: 'I’ve played a lot of characters that have bad bones in their body'
The Miniaturist - BBC One's two-part adaptation of Jessie Burton’s internationally best selling novel
What attracted you to the role of Nella?
I was so enthralled by her tenacity and resilience; she finds herself in a completely new world but she rises to it. I’ve played a lot of characters recently, that, whilst I loved them, have bad bones in their body - and so I enjoyed playing someone who has a good heart and follows it throughout the course of the drama.
Tell us about Nella as a character, and the situation she finds herself in.
What’s interesting is that you have this image of a woman who is, essentially, being bought as a wife - so you think that she’s going to be upset and go kicking and screaming, but she’s actually really excited - and that was surprising to me.
I kept thinking how I wouldn’t have felt that way. But she’s excited to start a brand new life in Amsterdam and to have some ownership of her life. Then she finds herself in this house and there seems to be secret after secret which leaves her on completely unsteady ground.
What are her feelings towards the other people in the household?
She’s desperate for them all to like her and to fulfil her role as mistress of the house. She thinks that entails certain things and then, throughout the drama, the other characters consistently subvert their own stereotypes, and she has to adjust to whatever it is that they’re throwing at her.
I especially love the scenes with Otto and Cornelia, because you’d assume they would be servantly, but they boss her around a lot. When she first enters the house it feels very threatening to her, but eventually she realises it’s the only safe place for all of these oddballs to be who they really are.
Marin isn’t exactly warm to Nella when she arrives, what was it like playing those scenes with Romola Garai?
Romola is fantastic - I was so excited to play those scenes with her but also intimidated because she’s just brilliant. She was wonderful to watch on set because she really speaks her mind, which is inspiring.
There was one scene between them and when we filmed it there were moments when it was hard not to smile because Marin was just being so awful to Nella, and I loved it but I had to keep a straight face.
Had you read the book before you became involved in the drama?
I read the book as soon as I got the script, then I met Jessie and it was so wonderful to meet her. I hadn’t played a character that someone else had crafted and imagined before so I was concerned she might think I wasn’t right for the part, but she believed in me and gave me so much encouragement. If the person who created the character backs you then you feel more comfortable taking on someone who exists in so many readers’ imaginations already.
The Miniaturist is told from Nella’s perspective which means you’re in every scene, what was that like to film?
I was on set every single day, every single second, so that definitely felt that I was going through ‘corset training 101’ or something - but it was an awesome experience and the costumes were beautiful.
Although The Miniaturist is a period drama it was written in modern times. Do you think that helps make the themes and characters relevant?
I completely agree with that. At the centre of it you have characters with incredibly strong relationships. They are real people and they are not stereotypical. I think that streak of affection and familial love between them is something that we all want to see a bit more of in this day and age.
You visited Amsterdam before you began filming, what was that like?
I went out to Amsterdam a couple of days before filming started because I wanted to see the actual cabinet house in the Rijksmuseum and to soak in the atmosphere a little bit. The cabinet house was so intricate I couldn’t quite believe it. We had our own made for our adaptation and we were so excited the day it arrived and to see all the tiny miniatures.
The miniature of Hayley Squires looked so like her it was kind of creepy!
The Minaturist will be shown on BBC One in late December 2017. Watch the trailer for the book below (not the BBC series):