ELLE’s November issue, on newsstands 11/3, celebrates their annual Young Hollywood portfolio, profiling the future A-Listers who are lighting up our screens, including The Crown’s new Princess Diana, Emma Corrin, who spoke about her untraditional audition process for the role, Taylour Paige, who stars with the late Chadwick Boseman in the upcoming drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and says: “People are going to be stunned by his performance, but now I feel he should win an Oscar just for acting like he was okay.”
The feature also includes Christian Serratos, who will portray Selena Quintanilla in Netflix’s upcoming Selena: The Series and Ariana Debose—a Broadway veteran who was in the original cast of Hamilton—who will play Anita in Steven Spielberg’s big-screen version of West Side Story. Debose talks about tackling “America,” which takes on a new resonance in 2020. “I can’t speak for Señor Sondheim and what his initial goal for this song was,” she says. “But ultimately the way I view it today is, ‘Things are very, very challenging, but they can be overcome.’”
This summer, Emma Corrin, who joins season 4 of The Crown as Princess Diana, found herself on the same plane as Vanessa Kirby, who starred as Princess Margaret in seasons 1 and 2. “We had this moment of reunion as if we were long-lost sisters. It was so nice,” says Corrin, 24, of the instant kinship. (The pair had only met briefly before.) “It’s because you’re part of a family.”
On what the casting process for The Crown was like: “It was absolutely surreal, looking back. I don’t know how I didn’t go a bit insane. I think I probably did go a bit insane. I initially went in to help read when they were choosing a girl to play Camilla for season 3—they were choosing between five girls and I needed to chemistry read with them. I’d met Nina Gold, the casting director, a couple of times for different things. They called my agent and said, ‘Oh, can Emma come in and help read. We’ll pay her, it’s not an audition, we just need someone to read for Diana in these scenes. Josh [O’Connor] will be there, and all the producers and the director and casting directors will be there.’ It was an absolutely absurd situation. I treated it as an audition—a very non-pressure audition. I think that’s a great lesson in retrospect, on making opportunities your own. I did a lot of work on her and the character and it was a lot of fun because she’s a phenomenal person to read about and to explore.
Then they asked me to go on camera and if they could work on the character a bit with me, which I thought was weird. I remember going outside and calling my agent and being like, ‘Maya, something changed in that room. I think they were interested. The director wanted to work with me and then they introduced me to some people, and they wanted me to go on tape.’ I remember Maya being like, ‘Emma, don’t you dare. Absolutely not.’ She’s like, ‘They are so far from casting. Just leave it.’ ”
It’s not particularly common for a newcomer to land such a big role on such a big series, which I guess is much like Diana, in a way. You’re coming into the spotlight somewhat abruptly. How are you preparing for that?
“I don’t know if you can. I’m being asked this a lot: “Are you ready for it to change?” Which is a bit terrifying, to be honest. I actually remember when I got the part, one of the directors, Ben Caron, came on scene and said, “Hey, whenever you get followed home by photographers or whenever your face is on the Daily Mail or whatever, just use it.”’ All these feelings of excitement, the novelty of it, the fear and the confusion, that’s all what she would have been feeling, almost like play by play. It’s crazy. There’s a lot of people saying, “Oh, I’m really worried you’ll change.” Which is horrible to hear, because I’m like, “I don’t want to.” The one thing I’ve been told by Helena and Olivia is just keep your head down, work hard, keep really good people around you. I live in a flat with my three best mates from university, none of whom are actors. It keeps you grounded. I never want to get lost in it.”
On learning Chadwick Boseman, her costar in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, had died of colon cancer: “I didn’t know he was sick,” says the 30-year-old actress. “People are going to be stunned by his performance, but now I feel he should win an Oscar just for acting like he was okay.” Their characters, Levee and Dussie Mae, “are trying to live in their truth in [the 1920s], when the world doesn’t accept them because they’re Black,” she says. Things are “getting better,” says the Inglewood, California, native, but she believes limitations still exist for Black actresses. “There have been times I’ve been broke or in between jobs, and I go back to working at the weed dispensary or cleaning houses, but I would much rather do that than some silly pilot about cops.”
Right before she auditioned for Hulu’s Normal People, Daisy Edgar-Jones was covered in blood and crying. She had just stepped off the set of the TV series War of the Worlds, shooting the death scene of a key character, to record her audition tape. Luckily, the actress has enough range to seem equally at home amid alien invasions and Trinity College mixers. Playing Marianne “was definitely different from anything I’d ever done before,” she says, and the titanic response to Normal People “felt quite immediate.”
On her latest career milestone: earning a major role in the epic-scale production of Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile: “I welled up when I saw the boat—I couldn’t believe they’d made an actual boat,” she recalls. “It was sublime.” The French English actress made her name in the Netflix series Sex Education, currently filming its third season, and will also play Emily Brontë in an upcoming biopic. Particularly close to her heart is the recently completed Eiffel, her first French film. “It was coming back home to my homeland as a woman and an adult and an independent human being.”
On her role in Grand Army, Netflix’s new series adapted from Katie Cappiello’s play Slut, and her first dramatic starring role: “We’ve all been in high school, so we all know how gross it can be, but then add social media, and it’s a little different,” says A’zion, whose performance as Joey DelMarco, an outspoken, Instagram-savvy student who must navigate a trauma perpetrated by two of her best friends at a Brooklyn high school, is a raw revelation. “Everything that happens is something that has happened, unfortunately, to a lot of people in real life,” she says, adding that after comedic roles in sitcoms like Fam, she was excited to tackle a role that wasn’t “the stupid-funny punch line lady—I wanted a serious role, something real.”
It was abundantly clear to Aisling Franciosi that playing the young nun Sister Ruth in an FX adaptation of Rumer Godden’s novel Black Narcissus would invite immediate comparisons to the 1947 movie, which is revered in film circles. It failed to deter her. That confident approach to the famed part was shaped by the Irish Italian actress’s experience starring in The Nightingale, a film singled out both for its brilliance and its brutality. “I’m like, ‘Well, I can do anything,’” she says. “There will always be challenges on a project, but in terms of the toll this project took on me, emotionally and physically, it would be difficult to find something that was more intense.”
“It hasn’t changed my life. It’s changed my social media presence,” Weruche Opia says of her instantly star-making performance in I May Destroy You. “I’m out and about, but I’ve got a mask on, so nobody can tell that it’s me.” It’s unlikely that her anonymity will last post-pandemic. Playing Terry, the best friend of creator and star Michaela Coel’s lead, Opia demonstrated palpable chemistry with Coel as the pair depicted one of the most loving, deep, and natural female friendships seen on TV. “More than anything, I’m happy to be a Black woman in the industry surrounded by Black women like Michaela, who are making strides,” she says. “Our voices can no longer be ignored.”
“Lead with spice, and lead with love.” That was Rita Moreno’s advice to Ariana DeBose as she stepped into Moreno’s dance shoes to play Anita in Steven Spielberg’s big-screen version of West Side Story. For DeBose—a Broadway veteran who was in the original cast of Hamilton—it was a career high to take on this iconic Latinx role. She also tackles one of the most memorable musical theater numbers: “America,” which takes on a new resonance in 2020. “I can’t speak for Señor Sondheim and what his initial goal for this song was,” she says. “But ultimately the way I view it today is, ‘Things are very, very challenging, but they can be overcome.’” DeBose is also part of another Broadway hit coming to the small screen: Ryan Murphy’s Netflix adaptation of The Prom, in which she plays a lesbian teen. Growing up, DeBose says, “I didn’t get to see a lot of young queer female stories being told onscreen.” She hopes that both parts “will reach exactly the people who need to see them.”
While preparing to portray Selena Quintanilla in Netflix’s upcoming Selena: The Series, Christian Serratos kept returning to footage of the wildly popular Tejano singer performing “Que Creias,”a song about a former lover trying to win back her heart. “She somehow made an arena full of people feel like they were all hanging out together as friends,” says the 30-year-old actress of the singer, who was murdered at age 23. Serratos, whom some might recognize from The Walking Dead, admits that even she, a “die-hard Selena fan,” was unfamiliar with the singer’s early catalog and ’80s hairstyles. But her favorite scenes to film, by far, have been the concerts: “Everyone was so happy to hear this music again.”
[Photo Credit: Greg Williams for ELLE Magazine]