Since it premiered last October, The Queen’s Gambit has been one of the most talked-about titles on Netflix. According to the streaming site, 62 million households worldwide streamed the show in its first 28 days, making it their biggest scripted limited series to date. It’s also been a consistent entry to the Top 10 list, not only in the Philippines but also in 91 other countries, proving just how much people loved seeing Beth’s journey.
The Queen’s Gambit is a 7-episode series based on the novel by Walter Tevis. It follows Beth Harmon, an orphan who discovers her talent for chess in the orphanage while developing an addiction to the tranquilizers that the orphanage has been providing her. As Beth journeys through the male-dominated world of competitive chess, she also faces her personal demons while working past her addiction to narcotics.
There’s so much to love about the series — from Anya Taylor Joy’s captivating portrayal of Beth and her iconic fashion, and even to the message of female empowerment that the show brings, especially in a time where males dominate the sport. Luckily, we got to talk about it with Taylor-Joy herself in a roundtable interview with other members of the press.
In our interview, she shared with us her thoughts on her character, the fashion, and her favorite piece from the set and from Beth’s closet as well. Check out the highlights below:
How they filmed the speed chess scenes
Anya shared that her favorite parts of the show were the speed chess scenes as it was “an interesting way to challenge your brain”. As to what it was like to film these scenes, she said that they gave her “this huge book that had 354 plus games”. She eventually realized that the only way she can do these scenes was if she learns the matches five minutes before filming.
And the moment that she nailed these scenes after a take? Anya said that it “was probably one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had on set.”
Beth’s iconic makeup and fashion looks
Something that’s been the talk of the town when The Queen’s Gambit first aired was Beth and her fashion. Every outfit she wore in the series was a symbol not only of the era she’s living in but also of her journey as a woman and as a chess player. This is from the clothes she wore when she was trying to fit into a new school to the iconic Queen-piece-like outfit she wore after winning against Borgov.
Anya said that Beth’s passion for chess and clothes was important to her especially in a world where people think that women can’t have an interest in both. “I really love the journey that we go on with her because if you look at the first clothes that she gravitates towards, they’re clothes that she thinks will endear her to the other girls at school,” Anya explained. “And I love where she ends. I think all of the outfits from Russia, how structured they are, and how they have this beautiful combination of being very sleek and put together, was very Beth to me.”
On Anya’s The Queen’s Gambit wrap gift
With all the cool pieces there is from the set and from Beth’s closet, it’s only natural that the cast would want to have an item or two for their own. Anya shared that she originally wanted to keep one of the die from the Las Vegas set, as well as Beth’s blue couch. “I wanted to use [the die] as a coffee table in my house, but I didn’t have a house yet, so I wasn’t allowed to do that.”
In the end, she took home the iconic black Queen piece that Borgov gives Beth in the final game, as well as her final hat as her wrap gift. “That lives in a place of pride in my home” she added.
As for the clothes she wanted to take home, Anya said that she actually had picks from Beth’s wardrobe. However, since the show was such a success, the clothes are currently on display in a museum in Brooklyn, and she hopes she can get them back — especially Beth’s blue coat — after they’re done with the exhibition.
A scene from the book she wish made it to the series
As it was originally a book by Walter Tevis, it’s not surprising that there are many scenes that didn’t make it to The Queen’s Gambit‘s 7 episodes. When asked about which scene the series could’ve explored more, Anya said that she wished the series gave audience “more time to understand why Beth makes the choices that she does.”
Something from the show which she assured us was in the book, though, was the purple candle that caught some people’s attention in episode 4. “A lot of people think we added is the purple penis candle. That’s in the book [and] you can thank Walter Tevis for that,” she cheekily added.
On Anya’s real-life Mr. Shaibel
In The Queen’s Gambit, it was all thanks to Mr. Shaibel that Beth got to discover her talent and her love for the game of chess. In real life, however, Anya said that she learned a lot from Robbert Eggers (The Witch), M. Night Shyamalan (Split), and Scott Frank (The Queen’s Gambit).
“The individuals not only wanted me to become a really good actor,” she said. “[The] also allowed me to stick around on set. Because I’m very interested in directing and in anything to do with movies, when I’m not acting, I just sort of hang around with different departments and learn about what everybody does.”
What it’s like to work with Harry Melling
In case you didn’t know, Anya Taylor-Joy is a huge Potterhead, so much so that she learned English just by reading the Harry Potter books! We can only imagine how excited she was to be working with Dudley Dursley himself, Harry Melling, who plays Harry Beltik in The Queen’s Gambit.
Of course, her being a fan of the movies was one of the first things she told Harry when they first met, just so they “can have that out of the way,” be friends, and do their jobs. “I think you should tell somebody when you’re a fan of their work,” she explained. “It would have been weird if I hadn’t told him, because then it’s [going to be] a bit awkward.”
Why The Queen’s Gambit resonated with the audience
Although The Queen’s Gambit is a series that is about chess. there’s still something about the show that feels very relatable to the audience who may or may not have a background about the game. To Anya, it’s the way that it portrayed a lone wolf character like Beth.
“I think every human being has a part of themselves — big or small — that believes that they don’t belong,” she said. And while Beth did find a place where she belongs, Anya said that what Beth — and people — should ultimately learn was how “she’s never going to be happy or content” unless she finds a home within herself.
What women of today can learn from Beth Harmon
If there’s anything that women can take from Beth Harmon and her journey in The Queen’s Gambit, it’s to not put themselves in a box. As Anya put it, humans are so “complicated and messy” and life would be so much better if all just accept people for what they are, in all their weirdness and complexity.
“It’s more important to accept yourself as a whole individual rather than attempting to fit yourself into a box that would make people more comfortable,” she finished.
The Queen’s Gambit is now streaming on Netflix.