Daisy Edgar-Jones has had a hell of a year. After hooking audiences with her charming, enigmatic performance as Marianne in Hulu’s Normal People opposite co-star Paul Mescal (and his chain) she’s been consistently popping up on our timelines. Sometimes, it’s for a horror-comedy that compares modern dating to a literal meat market, a la Fresh. Other times, it’s thanks to the hype surrounding a book-to-screen adaptation of a best-selling novel beloved by Reese Witherspoon’s book club posse, as with Where The Crawdads Sing.
But most recently, it’s for her work in FX’s true-crime thriller Under The Banner of Heaven. Based on a true story about a closed community of Mormons living in Utah that’s rocked by a gruesome double homicide committed by some of its own members, the show stars Andrew Garfield as a devout LDS detective wrestling with his faith while investigating the case while Jones plays the woman at the center of the crime. Brenda Lafferty was a young mother with a bright future whose quiet rebellion when it came to strict religious doctrine marked her as a target for the men in power. Her story doesn’t end well, but for Jones, that just means it all the more worth telling.
UPROXX chatted with her about deep diving into Mormonism for her latest role, hiking with bears in the Canadian Rockies, and why, after this year, she’s ready to have a laugh.
This feels like one of those stories where, if you’re not in that community, you’d never know about it. So did you learn anything surprising when you signed on?
So I knew nothing about this story prior to getting the scripts. I read them, like, in a day. And then I read the book immediately after and was really, really gripped from start to finish. And I mean, there was a huge amount that was surprising because I didn’t know anything about the Mormon community or this story in particular. So the whole thing was really, really intriguing.
Andrew Garfield is an actor who likes to do quite a bit of prep beforehand. How did you immerse yourself in this world?
He was actually a really helpful source of knowledge. He was able to go to Utah and meet with people before filming. I wasn’t able to because of COVID. So he was definitely a sounding board, and we had advisors on set to guide us. And the book is obviously so in-depth. And [Dustin] Lance [Black], who is our showrunner, grew up Mormon too, so he was really helpful. He was very open and very diplomatic and very easy to approach. So yeah, I was just asking loads of questions. [laughs] That was my approach.
Your character is an outsider to this world in many ways. What about who she is and how she navigates this very stifling world for women at the time, drew you to her?
I think one thing the show does really well … because we also have the early founding aspects of the community, it really does a good job of showing the spectrum of experience that these women have. I loved what an enigmatic, confident, intelligent person Brenda was. The fact that she wants to pursue her education … it was really interesting to see her then step into the family dynamic of the Lafferty’s and really watch the way she observes the other women and how much more repressed they are and how keen she is to look out for them and try and give them agency. I think that’s a really important thing to always represent on television, are these women looking out for each other and looking after each other and pulling each other up, rather than trying to squash each other.
How did you and the rest of the cast shake this stuff off when shooting was done for the day?
We ate so much food! [laughs] That was a big part of it. Also, we filmed in Calgary, and it’s surrounded by like incredible … Is it the Rockies?
I know there’s some kind of mountain range there.
[laughs] Yeah, there are lots of mountains. So we did a lot of hiking, which, coming from London, I’m a city gal. I’m not great at long-distance walking. I did enjoy it. Just not the more uphill moments. But on the whole, it was a great bonding experience for all of us.
If not you, who was the skilled hiker of the group?
Yeah on the hike, I actually wore the wrong shoes. And I was like, ‘Go on without me,’ because I had such terrible blisters. But actually, Seth [Numrich], who plays Robin, is a very skilled hiker. He even had a bear bell. I felt very safe with him, high up in the mountains.
Thinking about the characters you’ve played this past year, is there something that connects all of them?
I think that’s interesting and only something I’ve actually noticed through this question, but I think all of those characters are battling with their sense of self. With Marianne [in Normal People], her idea of herself is very different from how she comes across. It’s the same with Noah [in Fresh]. All the characters grow up in a way. And I’m also really interested in how much a person can affect another person’s life. I think we really see that with Connell and Marianne, they fundamentally change the path of each other’s lives and bring such goodness to each other’s lives in the end. And the same with Brenda and the women, Molly with Noah, and Kya with Tate [in Where The Crawdads Sing], that is something I’m always intrigued by. But I also like how different they all are too. And as an actor, that’s something I’m really keen on trying to do more of, is find characters that I haven’t done before, that I can really stretch a muscle that I haven’t yet stretched.
What’s the next muscle then?
I think after this year of filming, I’d quite like to do pure comedy.
Without the cannibalism?
[laughs] Yeah, without any of that stuff. I think it would just be good for me to do just lovely, pure comedy, but also I’d love to play like a really mean character, someone really nasty. That’s something I haven’t done and is very… well, I hope very different from me.
‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ premieres via FX on April 28th.