After Feeling Like An Outsider For Years, Anya Taylor-Joy Finally Felt 'Valued' & 'Appreciated' When She Started Acting

May. 5 2021, Updated 10:08 a.m. ET

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For Anya Taylor-Joy, becoming an actress was a saving grace.

While talking to ELLE for their Rising Stars issue, the Queen's Gambit lead, 25, revealed she always felt like she didn't fit in as she grew up in London.

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"I joke about this, but I’m kind of serious when I say that the characters in the Harry Potter books were my friends. I spent the first two years in England playing hand-clap games with plants — if you slap them hard enough, they clap back — and learning how to read," she shared. "That was my existence. I didn’t hang out with other kids. I was clearly a very normal child."

anya taylor joy covers elles may rising stars issue
Source: Zoey Grossman/Elle
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Luckily, she found acting during her late teen years, and she suddenly felt like she had found her purpose.

"Much the same way as Beth needed chess, I needed acting. I needed to believe in a place where I could be valued and appreciated, and actually have something to contribute rather than constantly feeling like, ‘What is wrong with me, and why do I not fit in?'" she recalled. 

In 2015, she landed her first starring role in the supernatural horror flick The Witch.

Taylor-Joy expressed that stepping on set "felt like taking a breath for the first time in a really, really long time."

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anya taylor joy covers elles may rising stars issue
Source: Zoey Grossman/Elle

Despite her success, the Golden Globe winner admitted she still gets nervous when filming — though she's come to realize that experiencing anxiety is just her body's way of sending her a signal.

"I’ve learned to recognize that feeling of, like, ‘Oh, you care. You really care, and so you should probably do this,'" she explained. "It’s a chemical imbalance in my brain. It’s not a choice. It’s not attention-seeking. If I could not have it, I would not have it, but I do."

She detailed one instance when she had a panic attack on the set of the period drama Emma — but of course, she pulled through.

"I was just like, ‘I’ve got you. Release the corset! Sit the f**k down. We can do this,’" she said she told herself at the time. "It’s when you’re trying to pretend that you’re something you’re not that people get hurt."

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