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Warning: Spoilers for Where the Crawdads Sing ahead.
You don’t have to read far into Where the Crawdads Sing to know that isolation is one of the novel’s most prominent themes. Relaying the story of Catherine Danielle “Kya” Clark, Delia Owens’ book follows a solitary young woman who’s been shunned by her community, save for one young boy named Tate Walker, who sees Kya’s gentle, tender nature. Normal People‘s breakout star Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sharp Objects‘ Taylor John Smith bring those characters to life in the newly released film adaptation, and the two discussed exclusively with SheKnows how they built the foundation for their characters’ bond.
“There’s so much in Delia [Owens’] beautiful writing that creates that relationship between the two of them — their love for nature and the marsh and their curiosity,” Smith shared with SheKnows, referencing the novel that was an early Reese Witherspoon book club pick. (The Oscar-winning actress, producer, and bookworm serves as the film’s executive producer.)
“Tate, as well, had some traumatic moments in his life (losing his sister and his mom),” Smith continued. “I think he can, not in the same way Kya does, express that sympathy for abandonment.”
Indeed, as Kya peels back the layers of her upbringing, audiences see just how much loss has been an ever-present aspect of her young life, as actress Daisy Edgar-Jones agrees.
“[Kya] experiences a lot of loss through her life. She’s abandoned time and time again,” Edgar-Jones explained to SheKnows.
When Tate shows a small gesture of kindness and respect, trust is slowly rebuilt — and to evoke that bond, Smith and Edgar-Jones spent a lot of time together prior to the film’s production.
Smith credited “getting to spend as much time as we could before we started filming, about a month-and-a-half pre-production, [having] movie nights, going on walks, learning how to drive a boat together, fishing, and just laughing,” as the catalyst for the actors’ relationship.
“It’s kind of the perfect experience,” Smith continued. “It felt like a little vacation before we started filming.”
The deeper their bond became, however, the more painful it was for Edgar-Jones’ character to process Tate breaking her trust by abandoning her on the Fourth of July.
“I think her experience with Tate is so devastating to her because he comes into her life and he gives her so much by teaching her to read and they connect so deeply, particularly on their love of nature,” the actress observed. “So for her, it really is such a devastating loss. It kind of numbs her. She becomes all the more closed off from others after that experience.”
While navigating that introspection, Edgar-Jones credited Lucy Alibar’s screenplay and Owens’ novel for serving as her North Star.
“Luckily, like Taylor said, the script was so beautifully written and we had such an incredible map of, for me particularly, Kya’s inner life to refer to. In those scenes, you’re able to really know exactly how your character is feeling.”
With time now separating the young actors from their respective roles, they’ve each found one quality from their characters they want to hold on to for as long as they can.
“I think Kya’s so hungry to learn as much as you can about this environment that she loves and respects so much. I hope to continue being [curious] as an actor,” Edgar-Jones mused. “What I love doing is being curious about how other people think and feel and [I] want to try and embody that.”
As for Smith, the actor noted “Tate’s gentleness and his kindness,” as the character’s most admirable qualities. “Just trying to interact with life in a sweet way as much as possible.”
Where the Crawdads Sing hits theaters on July 15.
Before you go, click here to see 10 of Reese Witherspoon’s best book club picks.