Daisy Edgar-Jones: “We need to unlearn the conditioning we’ve received from romantic comedies”

Daisy Edgar-Jones talks sisterhood, a shift in Hollywood endings and her new thriller Fresh....
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  • Daisy Edgar-Jones is undoubtedly a woman to watch, and from starring roles in Normal People to Where the Crawdads Sing, everything she touches turns to gold.

    It is cool indie thriller Fresh that got her talking this month however as Mimi Cave’s directional debut landed on Disney+.

    Darkly funny and deeply chilling, Fresh takes modern dating horrors to new heights as protagonist Noa (Daisy) discovers that she’s dating a cannibal (Sebastian Stan).

    But this is no ordinary cannibal thriller – the anti-romance film also has a surprising level of depth, with sisterhood at its core and important feminist messaging throughout.

    Think Promising Young Woman meets cannibalism. In short – this film is a millennial must-see.

    MC Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot sat down with Daisy ahead of Fresh‘s release to talk filming horror, a shift in Hollywood endings and working with female powerhouses…

    FRESH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

    What was it that drew you to Fresh?

    The first thing I came to was the script – I had never read anything like it. Then, Mimi made a kind of sizzle reel trailer for Fresh before I signed on and it was amazing. When I saw it, I knew this could be something really cool. It’s really its own thing – that’s what I loved about it.

    There’s a surprising level of depth and important feminist takeaways…

    I think the social thriller aspect of it means you can use this genre to say something deeper but in a way that’s very subtle. At no point does this film hit you over the head with its messaging. You can watch it and be very entertained or you can watch it and take something a little deeper away. I really thought it was fascinating to delve into the female experience of the day to day anxiety of letting your guard down and meeting new people. But also of being aware of the sort of general threat that women do experience without really talking about. Even the scene where Noa walks home with a key in her fist – just feeling that she had to do that and not really thinking about it too much or how strange it is that we live with that anxiety. Interrogating that was definitely a draw. I really like that once you finish watching Fresh, you keep thinking about it – I’ve heard a few people say that.

    Hollywood has always instilled in us what a happy ending should look like but this film normalised the idea of finding happiness alone or with a friend. Are we starting to see a shift?

    I hope so – I think it’s really refreshing. Also the fact that none of the women are saved by anyone – they save themselves and they save each other. So, it would be cool to think that we are now beginning to explore different ways of ending films – that it doesn’t have to be that they find their knight in shining armour and that’s it. With this, the true love story is actually between Noa and Mollie.

    FRESH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

    Sisterhood and female friendship was obviously a key theme…

    Oh very much so. I mean, you could even say that Fresh is a ‘buddy movie’. I really love that it is championing female friendships and I think it’s so refreshing to see them so lovingly represented on screen. It’s hard to say more without giving it away but I also think it’s really cool that the three women overcome and outsmart Steve through this shared female experience. And that’s really wonderful, so it definitely was a really important aspect of the film that I was so excited to explore.

    I loved the line, “You don’t need a man, we’ve just been raised by Disney films”. Was that an important message for you?

    In the rom coms that we’ve grown up on, so often the man is basically just incredibly persistent until the woman says yes, which seems to be a real common thing. So interrogating that has given us a really skewed idea of how real love works. Real love isn’t like in the movies – there isn’t a recipe for it. It isn’t just glossy and shiny and also, nor should it be. I think it’s nice and refreshing to sort of unpick that and try and unlearn some of the conditioning that we’ve had based on the films we’ve grown up watching. We need to unlearn the conditioning we’ve received from romantic comedies

    FRESH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

    You were re-enacting every woman’s worst nightmare. Was it hard to disengage from that while filming?

    It is funny finding different ways to disengage. I think at the time, Ru Paul’s Drag Race with Bimini Bon Boulash was on and I just went home and watched that most evenings – I think I needed a bit of home to relax. But yeah, it’s such a funny job that we do. Your brain knows it’s not real but your body is still experiencing screaming and running, so you definitely need to have a good method for unwinding. I have found reality TV and a cup of tea is really what does it for me.

    Filming such an intense project must have been a particularly bonding experience…

    Oh very much so, and we had all been through this strange shared experience of quarantining ahead of filming. We were filming in Vancouver and we had to quarantine for two weeks beforehand, so we would just Zoom each other every day. Jojo and I got to know each other very well and it was really exciting when we could come out of quarantine and actually meet in real life. But yeah, I think that it was a really wonderful filming experience – and very fun. And I think that fun and joy that we were having when making it does translate on screen. You really see that we have all got great chemistry with each other. Like, my and Jojo’s banter is very similar to our actual banter, and it’s the same in the moments when Steve and Noa are getting on – you can definitely see that me and Sebastian do too. It’s really nice that that translated on screen.

    FRESH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

    What was it like working with Mimi?

    I loved working with Mimi. She’s so brilliant, really funny and has great taste in music, which you can probably tell from the film. She actually made us all a playlist so each of our characters had our own soundtrack that we would listen to, which I loved because music is a big part of finding who the character is for me. I just loved working with her. I think she’s very special and I feel really privileged that I was in her first feature – I think that’s really cool, so I’d love to work with her again and again and again if I can.

    Is directing something you would ever explore yourself?

    I would love to. I love working with actors on camera but I also really enjoy the process behind it too. And I actually do wonder if it would be really lovely to go behind the scenes and be able to just concentrate on the performance. To capture it the way I want rather than also having to worry about whether my work is good as well. I would love that – I really would. I’m massively into camera and I’ve really enjoyed working with Pawel who shot Midsommar and Hereditary. I was already a big fan of his work and I think his camera is so interesting in this film. You can really see that it starts in a very standardised way and then as the film goes on the journey that it does, the camera does too. It starts to get a bit more strange and the angles are off and it’s out of focus at times – I really love that stuff. I learnt so much from working with him and Mimi because she’s very visual too, so yeah I’d love to direct.

    Sebastian Stan in the film FRESH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

    What is it like to work with these female powerhouses whether it’s Mimi or Reese?

    The first time you see a woman command the space – command the set – like a really good director does and the incredible work that Reese does – you really go, “Oh actually I could do this”. It’s always the way but once you start to see someone doing it, you think, “Oh that is actually an avenue that I could go down that I never thought I could”. It gives you confidence which is really important. So yeah, I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to work with such incredible women. I hope I can follow in their footsteps in some way and take every bit of knowledge they can give me.

    You have played some iconic literary characters. How does that compare to playing completely new roles like this?

    It’s funny – there are positives and negatives for both. In a way there’s an amazing thing about being on set and being able to refer to an incredible book. For Where the Crawdads Sing and Normal People, I was able to really have such an insight into the character and basically have their brain in my hand in a book, which was really sort of wonderful. But then at the same time there’s also that added pressure. This is a character that a lot of people have already realised and loved in their heads – and I’m the one going, “Well this is my version of it so I hope you like it”. There is a little more freedom I guess with a character who isn’t already known by people. Like, when I read the script for Fresh, I was able to go: “Well the audience is none the wiser as to whether I’m doing Noa properly or not”. So, there are real positives and negatives to both.

    Did you envisage yourself as those characters when you were reading Where the Crawdads Sing and Normal People?

    I actually read both books auditioning for the parts, so I came to them both really trying to imagine myself in their shoes. But I’ve always been that way reading books – I always try and put myself in the character. I don’t know if that’s because I’m an actor or if that’s something that we all do, but definitely with those two books I was really imagining and hoping that I would be right for them.

    Being in such high profile and successful projects must add a layer of pressure when choosing your next move…

    It’s been described to me before as the second album – you know that the first album was good and you think, “God I hope the second album is as good!” There is definitely a bit of pressure and that’s why I think it’s so important to choose great people to work with who can really hold you, protect you and look after you. I feel so lucky that I’ve worked with other brilliant actors – it helps so much. I often think you’re only as good as the actors you’re in the scene with and I’ve been so privileged to work with brilliant people. It’s the same with everyone behind the camera too – I have worked with such kind and generous crews and directors. I think that for me is the key – to try and find people to look after you and help you through that scary kind of second album feeling.

    Fresh is out now and available to watch on Disney+.

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