Mr. Malcolm’s List Actor Zawe Ashton Taps Into The Feminine Mystique [Interview]

You’ve spoken before about your attraction to more extreme characters. Is that what attracted you to Julia?

Well, do you know, I loved … when I read [the script], I had 24 hours to read and decide and meet with Emma, our director, because two fantastic actresses had not been able to do the role. And Lyvie, I have no ego about that kind of thing because filmmaking is an intricate process that has lots of just twists and turns. But as an actor, the way that you come onto a project is often so influential. So having that very, very short decision time kind of made the decision easier in a way, because you go straight to the heart of things, I think. So I instantly read the intersection of genres present in this film. I’m a rom-com fan, I’m a fan of the new Regency-core journey that we’re on as an industry, so that was an intersection that was a tick.

I also was like, “There’s something so contemporary about this woman, Julia.” We meet her at a point in her life where she’s four seasons without a match. Her mother’s starting to give her the side eye at every opportunity, reading out the latest matrimonial news at every opportunity. And that’s something I think women can really understand, when society starts to kind of close in on you with that messaging of where you’re supposed to be at in your life versus where you might be.

And I think I said to Emma in one of our initial interviews — or our only interview — I was like, “She feels like the Regency Bridget Jones.” And that’s a wonderful place to start. And then she becomes this protagonist. And then she becomes this humbled figure who lets her guard down and finds love and gets that intention that she sets off in the beginning of her life with, which is to marry for love. And I just really embraced the arc of that. I embraced the lightness and the kindness of the movie. We were in the second wave of lockdown and I knew that it was going to be a really wonderful spiritual reset to do something this fun.

And I have a very, very strong intentionality when it comes to supporting first-time filmmakers from underrepresented intersections. So it was just like “tick, tick, tick, tick, tick” in the space of 24 hours. And then I found out who the cast was and then I said, “Definitely. Please yes, I’ll do this.”

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