Where the Crawdads Sing became one of the best-selling books of all time after its release in 2018, with 12 million copies sold and a record number on the US bestseller lists.
The story, which unfolds over two timelines, follows Kia, a young girl growing up alone in the North Carolina swamp who later becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation when a local star quarterback is found dead.
Kiya, played by the “Normal People” star. Daisy Edgar-Jones, judged and shamed by the locals, who call her a “swamp girl”.
Although fortunately not many people grow up alone, Edgar-Jones told the Sky News Backstage podcast that there are elements of Kia’s life that women will relate to.
“I think there are certain aspects of the story that are very much a female experience,” the British star said. “I think, in particular, her interaction with [love interest] Chase and the way she’s judged is definitely a very female experience.”
Given that the story is about a young woman, this is perhaps not surprising Reese WitherspoonHello Sunshine, a production company that focuses on women’s stories and has produced hit films and series such as Gone Girl, Big Little Lies and The Morning Show, was the one that brought him to the big screen.
More surprisingly, the film had a mostly female production team, which is still a rarity in Hollywood.
“Pretty much all of our department heads, in fact, I think they’ve all been women,” Edgar-Jones said. “And I don’t think it was necessarily a ‘we should have’ thing – it just happened that all these women really connected with the story and were the best people for the job.
“But I think there was a sensibility on set, and an energy that was really calm and poised that it was so nice to be on set and have that experience.
“I’m hoping that soon it won’t be something great, it’ll just be the norm to have representation behind the camera in every way, because it really just creates an atmosphere of collaboration and balance.”
Witherspoon’s relationship with the novel ran deeper than the making of the film; she chose it for her influential book club in 2018, no doubt helping it become a hit.
Edgar-Jones, who at 24 would have watched Witherspoon’s hits in her formative years, says it was a pleasure to meet the star.
“She came to visit the set one of the days we were shooting, and that’s when I met her in person for the first time. And it was really cool, I grew up watching Reese, so it was wild to meet her and she was so lovely and it was really fun to see her see the set for the first time.
“She came on the day we were shooting at Kia’s cabin and I remember walking up to that set myself and thinking, ‘that kind of disappeared from my imagination when I read the book,’ so it was really cool to see as she sees it.”
To become Kia, Edgar-Jones learned to sound like she’s from North Carolina, and learned other new skills, including drawing, fishing and boating.
But she says one of the demands of the role saw her finally use some of the training from her own childhood – when she learned to dive.
“I once jumped off a diving board when I was 11 and it was one of the biggest achievements of my life! No, I’ve been doing diving lessons for a while, so it was a weird moment when I got to dive into the water [while shooting] and I said, “Finally, it worked, I can do it to a certain extent normally.”
Where the Crawdads Sing is out in UK cinemas