Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr. and director Olivia Newman talk about the drama “Where the Crawfish Sing”, adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Delia Owens.
Released in 2018 in the United States (and two years later in France), Where the crayfish sing of Delia Owens only took a few years to be brought to the big screen. Thanks to the director Olivia Newman and the revelation of Normal People, Daisy Edgar Jonesheadlining the cinema for the first time in his young but promising career.
Alongside its partners Taylor John Smith, Michael Hyatt and Sterling Macer Jr., as well as the director, the actress returns to this very physical role: that of Kya, a young girl who grew up in a swamp far from the city, and who finds herself involved in a story of murder. And all evoke the very topical themes of this story that intertwines several genres.
AlloCiné: The film is both a romance and the portrait of a marginalized woman, a love letter to nature or a drama coupled with a trial story. Which of its aspects spoke to you the most at first sight?
Daisy Edgar Jones : I’m a big romantic, so I liked the love story part. But the murder story makes you want to turn the pages of the book, and I think it’s the same with the movie, because it keeps the suspense going and it’s been interspersed throughout the story. But the epic love story is what I liked best.
Taylor John Smith : When I was younger my favorite movie was stand-by-me. And I found elements of this beautiful coming-of-age story in Where the Crayfish Sing. But I also like the romance, as the story progresses.
Michael Hyatt : Social awareness is what spoke to me the most. social and racial consciousness. And the consequences of acceptance, the need to be accepted, or the truth of living on the margins, and how that affects your life and your socialization.
This is what I see in Where the Crayfish Sing, which is about a young woman who chose – because nothing forced her to – to think outside the box, and an African-American cut who lives outside the boxes in which society wants him to live. Seeing these three people come together, sharing their marginality to discover how it serves them while being a challenge.
It’s a chance to be able to go back in time to experience what our predecessors experienced. Because we appreciate more where we are today, while being aware of the path we have to go
Sterling Macer Jr. : These historical films that look at the experience of African American people and how we persevered in the face of Jim Crow laws [en vigueur de 1877 à 1964, et à l’origine de la ségrégation, ndlr] are always captivating to me. It is, in a way, a chance to be able to go back in time to experience what our predecessors experienced. Because we appreciate more where we are today, while being aware of the path we still have to go.
The humanity of these characters also spoke to me. Especially the relationship between Kya and us. Or the fact that, within this community, we are pillars of this humanity, whereas we did not have to be. And that’s a dichotomy that interests me as well. The questions I had to ask myself were how ready I was to accept the pain of that time, and if I could get anything out of it that I would be proud enough of.
Olivia Newman : The fact that the film contains all of these elements is what attracted me as a director. It’s very stimulating to be able to explore all these different genres, but the biggest challenge was to manage to link them. But every day of filming was different: we could film the romance between Kya and Tate one day and then be more focused on the murder story the next… It allowed me to use different muscles throughout the takes. views.
Was it necessary to make many changes compared to the book? In order to mix all these elements in the same film?
Olivia Newman: In the book, you go from one character’s point of view to another. And you don’t get to the trial until the end. So the biggest change we made was to stay as close to Kya’s point of view as possible, and that’s why we moved the start of the trial forward in the story. So whether you’re in the plot of the present, in court with her, or in the past to see how she survived and fell in love, it’s always her character that you follow.
As much as possible. Because we also had to transpose all the elements of Delia Owens’ book onto the screen and make sure we remained as faithful as possible to the original material, so the challenge was to find a way to keep as much of it as possible. During all the versions of the script, the shooting and even the editing, when it was necessary to cut scenes so that the film was watchable (laughs)
A role like Kya’s seems physically demanding, because of what it requires in terms of strength or even accent. Was it, and what did you have to learn for this Daisy role?
Daisy Edgar Jones: I was lucky because we spent a month in New Orleans before shooting, and I had never had so much time. So I got to learn how to drive a boat – which I loved because you can go fast (laughs) I also learned to fish or tried drawing, but working on the accent was important. It had to look authentic. I had a lot to do.
Nature sometimes presents itself as a character in its own right. Is that how she was approached, or did she influence the way you shot the film?
Olivia Newman: A bit of both, each influenced the other. What excited me the most was to be able to feel this particular landscape through Kya. How she feels in the swamp. She may very well feel a great freedom in it at one time, and find it overwhelming and powerful when she gets lost in it as a child. The expanse of the marsh is impressive. But she manages to feel free, alive. So we always filmed trying to transcribe Kya’s feelings, that was our guideline.
But, of course, when you shoot on location, things happen. And you can’t control them, so you end up capturing them in the picture, because that’s what nature dictates to you. Mother Nature is a very powerful and difficult force to control (laughs) So she influenced our way of filming her.
Taylor John Smith: The swamp is indeed a character in its own right. If we hadn’t shot on location, it would have been difficult to convey that through the characters. It changed everything to be able to be in the swamp or the estuaries, even if the climate was a real challenge. But it also explains the resilience of the character of Kya, who managed to live there. To survive since she was young.
If we hadn’t shot in the swamp, it would have been difficult to make its power felt through the characters
Daisy Edgar Jones: When you are there, you can hardly ignore the enormous power of nature. We faced storms that forced us to stop filming for hours, our sets were flooded. But Kya is in love with this nature that surrounds her and from which she learns a lot. Especially in the way it can make you feel very small within it. Being able to shoot in these conditions was a blessing, and my respect for nature grew out of it.
The story is set in the past, but it remains very relevant to today. Because he speaks in particular of racism while the trial evokes movements like #MeToo and these women who rose up against a system. Have you also seen it like this?
Michael Hyatt: The film shows the beauty of defiance. The brilliance of this mistrust. I am thinking in particular of the book of barack obama : “The Audacity to Hope”. That being brave enough to say “That’s your way of thinking, I’m going to do it differently. I’m going to tell my truth. And I don’t care if it’s not like yours. I have the right to live mine.”
I love that this movie shows both who does and who doesn’t. And what happens in each of the two cases. It is important to allow yourself to be rebellious, if the stated truth does not speak to you. That’s what I like with Mabel and Jumpin: we created our reality despite those around us. We allowed ourselves to bond with this woman, when it could have been dangerous for us at that time. This is where the story is beautiful.
Daisy Edgar Jones: The film takes place in the 1960s, in a South subject to Jim Crow laws. But elements of the story are, alas, still relevant. As you say, people don’t understand Kya, and judge her because they’re afraid of her. Especially in this time when a woman had to conform to what society expected of her, lay low to fit in with a man.
Olivia Newman: What the film tells is, unfortunately, still relevant. The law is not always on the side of justice, as we often see in our country. This, alas, makes the story timeless: it is about a person judged for reasons that escape him, because biases and prejudices are at work. And, at that time, there was no law in the United States to protect women victims of domestic violence.
Having seen what happened to her mother, and seen the strength that is hers, Kya understood that she had to find a way to protect herself and save herself, so as not to live in fear like her mother did. . These are things that still resonate today, that we still see, even if there have been some very small improvements.
Daisy Edgar Jones: I found this aspect all the more interesting as the team was mainly female. There were women leading key departments, so it was very exciting to be on this set to talk about women’s empowerment and to see these women in leadership roles. I hope this will continue in this industry, to become the standard for representation behind the camera.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on July 8, 2022