Some spoilers for Josie below.
You’d be forgiven for failing to recognize Sophie Turner when she first appears in Josie. She’s blonde, for one, ditching the red hair that she’s famous for as Game of Thrones’s Sansa, she’s sporting multiple tattoos, and she’s got a Southern drawl that places her miles away from Westeros. “This is one of the most transformative roles I think I’ve done so far,” Sophie Turner says of Josie, a young woman who turns a sleepy Southern town on its head when it seems that her relationship with an older man (Dylan McDermott) may be more than just platonic. But don’t let appearances fool you: In Josie, much like in Game of Thrones, nobody’s quite who they say they are. Before the movie’s March 16 release, Vulture caught up with Turner to talk about the ins and outs of learning an accent for the film, method acting, and why she’d love to do a comedy.
Without spoiling anything, I’m curious to know how this movie was pitched to you, because it has so many layers to it. Did they tell you the whole story straight off the bat, or did you read the script first?
I was pretty much sent the script straight away — there was no real pitching. I knew the references that Eric [England], the director, had for me were like Killer Joe and True Romance, so I kind of brushed up on those movies. I read the script, watched the movies, and then I implemented a little bit of Alabama Worley in True Romance into it, and obviously the Killer Joe part.
When I spoke to Eric after I read the script, he wanted it to not even give any real hint of a thriller until the very end. We wanted it to be light and bright, and have Josie be this beacon of fun and laughter and light.
The movie also reminded me a lot of Ellen Page’s Hard Candy, insomuch as it features this young woman who’s really weaponized her sexuality. Was there anything that you were kind of wary of in playing this part, particularly because of how young the character’s supposed to be?
Not really, because that’s kind of the whole point of the character. She has to be young and it has to be questionable. It has to be incredibly intriguing that this young girl is so sure of herself, owning her sexuality and completely independent. That’s the alluring thing about her for [McDermott’s character] Hank. There was really no discussion about aging her up or anything, because it felt like it had to be that. Also, actually, the real Josie — obviously “Josie” is this facade that this girl has put on — I think we discussed that her real age was 21, and pretending to be 17. So it was all part of the plan.
What were the conversations like during filming between you and the director, as well as with Dylan McDermott?
Dylan was in character pretty much from the get-go. He went pretty method, actually. It was really, really interesting to see; I’ve never worked with someone who’d kind of gone method before. But going around to his house and having rehearsal, he would have it set up, like, he would be playing country music, and he would open the door and he would have his boots on, and he would talk in a Southern accent. He was 100 percent committed to the role. We would have rehearsals, and Eric and I would talk about the script, but honestly, that was the most interesting thing for me. He would be in his trailer smoking cigars, listening to country music. It was fascinating.
Is there anything that would push you to also try method acting?
Yeah, definitely. I’d definitely be open to trying method, I’m always up for trying different kinds of techniques. I think it would be really fun, if it was a really extreme role, and the only way you feel that you can play that role is to live that life. For movies, like the ones that I’m working on at the moment, if a character is very secluded individual who doesn’t really leave the apartment, I’m one of those people that will just not leave the apartment for a month or a few weeks, and just order in food, and live my life like that, just to see how it affects you mentally. But I’ve never gone full method. I’ll be interested to see if I do it.
As you mentioned, Josie is kind of a facade, so you’re playing someone who’s playing somebody else. What was it like to prep for that?
I spend my life playing other people, so it wasn’t too difficult. Part of it is that she has to be completely convincing, that’s what makes her so good at what she does. She says at the end of the film, she’s done this before with plenty of guys, she’s kind of an expert in it. She’s been doing it her whole life, ever since her mum died. She really is very into it, and it wasn’t a case of double layering, because I never had to really play the difficulty in playing someone else — because she actually is really convincing to Hank and to the audience.
I imagine it’s one thing to do an American accent, but was it at all the more of a jump to do a Southern drawl? Was there anything in particular about the accent that you found tough, like a vowel pronunciation or a turn of phrase?
It’s totally different, I think. I had a lot of time with a dialect coach. I’m constantly around the standard American accent. The people I work with are pretty much all American, and some of my family are American, so I slip into that pretty easily, but to do a Southern accent is a complete change. It was tough.
I think it’s the melody of it, the real Southern drawl, the way it’s timed out and how lengthy everything is, how melodic it is. That was definitely the hardest, because with a British accent, everything is so clipped and precise and quick. It’s tough to do something that sounds a lot nicer than a British accent, a lot more sing-song-y. It was great, it really helped me transform into a different character. This is one of the most transformative roles I think I’ve done so far.
One of the things that I like about the movie is, as you were saying, before it shows its hand, it has touches of levity. I loved the tortoise race scene in particular. Can you tell me anything about filming that?
The tortoises were not good actors. We had real tortoises and we were really racing them throughout the whole day, it was actually really fun. But they were pretty bad — they just kept turning around, reversing and backing up, and we were like, “No, you’ve got to move forward, we’re trying to have a race here!” It was a little tough. Don’t work with animals or children. That’s the rule, right?
So I’ve been told! Josie plays the part of both a mediator and someone who stirs up a lot of trouble. Would you say that you’re more one or the other in your real life?
I think I used to be one that would stir up trouble. Now, I don’t think I’m that so much; I’m more of a mediator. To be honest, I just stay out of everyone’s business. I stay out of everything, I’m very impartial. I’m definitely not a troublemaker anymore, but I’m sure I was when I was 17, 18. I just wanted to get into trouble. Now I’m an adult, you know? I’m grown up.
Speaking of growing up, have you found yourself looking for different things in roles from when you were 17 to now?
I think I have. I think what I’ve learned over the past few years is that, there’s always a common denominator in all of my roles, where I want them to be very strong, independent women. But recently, as time has gone by and as I get older, I’ve realized that the strongest women are often the most broken, or the people who deal with the most hardship. So I find strength in women that other people probably wouldn’t find strength in.
For instance, the role that I’m doing right now is the role of this young woman who struggles with addiction and is completely codependent on her lover, but there’s a strength in her. She had a terrible upbringing, and a terrible experience in college, so there’s strength in just the fact that she’s still alive and she’s still taking it step by step and day by day. Even though, to the outside world, she may seem completely broken and a complete mess, the fact that she’s still putting one foot in front of the other is just such a strength. So I’m finding strength in different aspects of completely different characters, and finding strength in a lot of people.
What’s the project that you’re currently working on, the role that you just described?
I don’t know if there’s been a press release yet. Has there been a press release yet? (Publicist: No, I don’t think we can say just yet.) Oh, yeah, I can’t. Sorry. But it’s great.
Is there anything that you’d like to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?
I’d love to do a comedy, just because I feel like it would really stretch me. All of my roles seem to be very dark, and I think it would be really fun to do a comedic role, not because I feel like it’s lighter or anything — which obviously it is — but because I think comedy is one of the hardest things to do, to get the timing right. I’m not even sure if I have comedic timing. I think it would be a real challenge. You know when people say, “It’s easy to cry on camera, but the hardest thing to do is laugh on camera?” I think it’s one of those things where people assume that comedy will be easy, but for me, crying and being completely depressed and a victim of darkness, it’s so much easier for me than being funny. So, a comedy would be the most challenging thing, I think, for me to do. To be honest, a musical would be the most challenging thing for me to do, but I can’t sing.
Would you still try to do one regardless?
If I could get Shakira to dub over my voice, that would be really good. That’s the only way I would do it. I definitely wouldn’t rule it out. I’d need voice coaching.