By the end of filming “Where the Crawdads Sing,” actress Daisy Edgar-Jones’ co-star Taylor John Smith commented on how Jones’ book looked like it had been through a paper shredder.
Based on the best-selling novel by Delia Owens and adapted by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company and Sony’s 3000 Pictures, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” wraps the story of Kya (Edgar-Jones) in layers of a coming of age story as well as a murder mystery, chronicling the lessons Kya learns from nature along the way.
“Well yeah, I read and reread and reread and reread and reread that book,” Edgar-Jones told TheWrap following Smith’s comment. “It’s such a beautiful book and it’s so popular and loved by so many for a reason.”
Smith plays Tate Walker, Kya’s first love interest, who grows up alongside her with the childhood connection to her brother Jodie (Logan Macrae). Kya’s family abandons her to fend for herself, and as Tate and Kya grow up, they bump into each other by boat occasionally, sharing an awe and respect for the marsh where they spend most of their time.
“Delia has managed to paint this world so vividly. And this character is so timeless,” Edgar-Jones said of Kya. “It was really helpful just coming to scenes and knowing your character’s life was mapped out for you in a beautiful book. I think it would have been a disservice to not read it and have it there as a tool whenever we could.”
Several of the scenes that Tate and Kya share jump from the page onto the screen, like when Tate leads Kya back to her house the first time she goes out in her father’s boat alone, and a later scene after they have gotten to know each other better and share a first kiss in the middle of a gust of wind carrying fall-colored leaves.
“[Olivia Newman is] such such a phenomenal director,” Smith said. “And she had this beautiful thing that I’ve never experienced before where she would have us do a scene and when she would give us directions, she would separate us and tell us our direction like it was a secret and so we’d have to come back to the scene and do something really special that the other person didn’t know about.”
Kya and Tate share more special scenes, like when she reads her first sentence out loud after he teaches her the alphabet, birthday celebrations and joyful observations of the creatures of the marsh, particularly birds.
“From the beginning, [Newman] was hands-on as far as character development. And she made sure we had all the necessities we needed, look-books, Mirren [Gordon-Crozier] designing our wardrobe and working with a dialect coach Francie Brown just so we had all these extra pieces,” Smith continued. “And she trusted us enough to let it go. So to have a leader like that, that that really brings you everything you need, and then lets you go play is kind of incredible.”
Tate can relate to Kya’s love of nature as well as her family situation in a way because he lost his mother and sister to a car accident, which he shares with Kya in a moment of sensitivity.
“There’s a line in the book where Scupper, Tate’s dad, is talking to him about what it means to be a man: ‘A real man cries without shame, feels poetry in his heart, opera in his soul and then does what’s necessary to protect a woman.’ And having a father like that, who’s clearly like invested in his child and wants the best for for his son was incredible.”
Tate’s character serves as a foil to Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), whose romantic involvement with Kya and then sudden death taints Kya’s reputation since she becomes a suspect in the investigation.
“Implementing that into Tate kind of shaped his worldview about how to treat others, especially women. That being said, he is not perfect, he’s not cookie cutter,” Smith said. “He does make a huge mistake that he ends up regretting for the rest of his life when he decides not to come back [from college] on the Fourth [of July]. I think he spends the rest of his life trying to make it up to Kya.”
Edgar-Jones bonded with director Olivia Newman early on, explaining that their discussion of Kya felt like they “were both talking about a friend we were really fond of.” And once on set, Edgar-Jones was excited about making a movie with a female director, cinematographer, costume designer and more.
“To see [Newman] in that role and absolutely command that space and lead this big set of other brilliant women — a lot of our heads of department were women too. I feel like that was really exciting about a story about female empowerment, to have women empowered behind the camera. I think Livi is really special. She has such a kind of gentle, deep view of the world and I think really imbues the character and the film with that.”
Edgar-Jones has made a habit of starring in somewhat dark book-to-screen adaptations like Hulu’s “Under the Banner of Heaven” and “Normal People,” and “Where the Crawdads Sing” adds to that collection.
“I feel like I do need to do a light comedy because I’ve played a lot of characters who are quite sad,” Edgar-Jones said. “The way I tend to work is, I like the saying ‘Take it seriously but wear it lightly.’ I try and do that with all my roles where I do a huge amount of prep and I work really hard and they take it seriously in between action and cut, but also try and enjoy it and have fun and and not sit too long in a in a sad or heavy feeling because I think it’s easier to jump in and out and to be open, to be playful if that makes sense.”