The actress on swapping blood and gore for petticoats and picnics in the sumptuous new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.
In Claire Denis’ orgasmic space epic, High Life, Mia Goth is so suddenly compounded by a black hole that she turns to mush in her space suit. In Luca Guadanigno’s gory 2018 reboot of Suspiria, her shin bone juts though her leg as she lets out a blood-curdling scream. For all the darkness and entrails and unnerving scenes, many may have been surprised to see Mia Goth among the magnetic ensemble cast for Autumn De Wilde’s new adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic Emma.
A stylish, saccharine tiered froth of an adaptation (expect strawberries and cream, carriages and longing looks over picnics), Mia Goth plays Harriet Smith, a naive new acquaintance of the eponymous Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor Joy) – whose love life is duly meddled in by the latter.
We caught up with Goth about BFF Anya Taylor-Joy, Tinder, and Emma as her first period drama…
Congrats on the film. How did you first get involved?
I had a three-hour meeting with Autumn, and I was completely blown away by her and how inspired she was by the story. She presented to me this beautiful handmade box.
I keep hearing about this box!
Yeah, and her storyboard had all these handprinted and hand-drawn images and I was so moved by it. I felt this immediate connection to her and really got the sense that if anyone was going to make an Emma adaptation that felt fashionable, vibrant and new it would be Autumn de Wilde.
You play this kind of wide-eyed naive character Harriet – how was it evoking these characteristics?
I was drawn to the journey that she goes through. She does start off as this very wide-eyed impressionable curious young girl and by the end of the story you really feel like she has come into her own, and starts to listen to her gut and use her voice and improves her own life drastically by the end. I really love the arc that happens there. On one level she could be seen as a somewhat silly two-dimensional character but I wanted to do right by her and really give her platform to exhibit herself in a way that I’ve never seen in the past.
The friendship between Harriet and Emma is sweet and endearing, but there is a class privilege element involved which allows Emma to meddle so uninhibited in Harriet’s love life…
I think that’s one of the reasons why Jane Austen and her novels are still resonating with us today, because they are dealing with social issues that are prevalent in our society. People with a lot of money can get away with things a lot more. And people that are struggling and just kind of get by are really constrained by laws and kind of get the worse end of the deal.
What do you think keeps period dramas relevant?
I definitely think that it’s a form of escapism. And I think there’s this level of nostalgia. We tend to romanticise that period of time and look through it with rose-tinted glasses and I think these classic novels are real social commentaries and that’s why they’re so powerful because they’re dealing with issues of class, and austerity, and gender, and heartbreak, and love, and they’re told in these really beautiful settings and these vessels of characters that are really complex, and we watch these movies and read these books and really connect to them.
Are you a romantic?
I think we all are. And that’s one of the things people will really enjoy about this movie. We’re all romantics at heart but I think romance is dead. With Tinder and all these dating apps and so on, it’s really killed courtship. So it’s nice to watch films like this and be swept up in these world and reminded of somewhat simpler times.
Compared to your other darker roles, how was it working on Emma?
I wouldn’t say it felt easier, I’m always really terrified before starting any movie. I think there’s something really replenishing and quite wholesome when you’re on a set such as Emma, when you are really laughing a lot and having so much fun with these scenes.
And is this your first period drama?
Yes, and I loved it. And I’d love to do more. And in that sense there was something very therapeutic about it. And something very healing in being able to laugh and create humour on set everyday, and it was very rewarding and I would go home each night and feel pretty good about myself. Whereas on darker material, there are days more challenging than others, but those are equally as rewarding and they can be very therapeutic too. The job of the actress is the same whether it’s on Suspiria or if it’s in Emma. You have to find the truth of that character and present it in a truthful way, so on that level I don’t there is too much of a difference.
Were there any points during filming where you couldn’t keep a straight face?
It has to be Miranda, she’s absolutely hilarious and so talented at ad libbing.
Have you ever taken bad romantic advice from a friend like Harriet only to regret it later?
Not really! I feel lucky about that.
You’ve worked with Anya before and I heard you developed a really close friendship…
She is one of my best friends. It’s really like we’ve been prepping Emma for the last three years, because by the time we got to set, we had such a understanding of one another and had a dialogue with each other that wasn’t even words any more, it was a look and it could be body language. We’d saved all that time you’d usually spend getting to know each other and playing catch-up really quickly, and instead we were able to explore scenes in a way perhaps we wouldn’t have been able to, and we felt really safe with one another. We had such an understanding, rhythm and a flow to each other – it was a dance.
I heard you have an Emma WhatsApp group, what was the last thing you posted on it?
I think I posted a Kit Kat photo. Have you heard about the Kit Kat story? About how you eat one?
Like some people nibble the ends and stuff…
Is that how you do it?
No! How do you eat them?
Split it in half and then you either dip it in tea, or just cold as it comes.