When she signed on to star in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” Kaya Scodelario knew she’d have to hold her own in scenes with Johnny Depp — but it was his alter ego Jack Sparrow who really intimidated her.
“I’d already met Johnny, and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got that out of the way. Now we can get into the work.’ But the second he stepped on set dressed as Jack Sparrow, I just lost it,” confesses the actress, best known for her breakout performance in the British teen drama “Skins” and as Teresa in “The Maze Runner” sci-fi film franchise. “I became a little kid again. I would just watch him during the take, and I’d forget to say my line, or I’d laugh reacting to him. There’s something incredibly magical about him.”
She quickly pulled it together to deliver a compelling performance as Carina, the science-minded heroine embroiled in Sparrow’s latest swashbuckler, a character Scodelario appreciated more for her brains than her action-hero bona fides. “I’ve never gotten to play an intellect before,” she reveals. “Specifically, someone who believes in science, and who sees their own personal journey as the most important thing in the world.
“She’s so determined, she’s so ambitious and she’s so strong in the face of everything,” Scodelario adds. “She really inspires me. So to know that maybe there’s a 14-year-old girl out there somewhere that will watch this and think, ‘Astronomy might be cool — maybe I’ll look into that,’ that’s wonderful on a movie of this scale.”
Inspiring women is on her mind off-screen as well: A self-described “indie” actress, she hopes her roles in blockbusters like “Pirates” will ultimately enable her to launch her own female-skewing creative projects.
“I’ve been working for 10 years now, and I’ve worked with female directors twice in that time — that’s really disappointing,” she says. “I want to produce something where I will find a female director and writer and we’ll collaborate together, and we’ll really tell a woman’s story that needs to be told, and can be told. It’s exciting to know that doing something like this could give me the possibility to fund something like that.”
Relaxing in a cutout Simone Rocha dress (“I kind of felt like it had a bit of a pirate-y vibe,” she confides), Scodelario says even though she came of age on the red carpet, it took her a while to develop her own sense of style.
“I really take a lot of influence from London style,” she says, of her favorite designers Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald and Vivienne Westwood. “I love that kind of edgy, rock ‘n’ roll punk thing that we do so well in England. But my style adapts to where I am. When I’m in Los Angeles, suddenly I’m like, ‘I need a sandal, and I need a beige dress and I need some flowers in my hair.’”
She was less enamored of her character’s 17th-century wardrobe, often waterlogged during the high-seas adventuring. “I wanted to actually be in what she would be wearing — it’s important for me to react as the character would,” she explains. “But it is very difficult: the corset has to be extremely tight; the layers of the dress vary a lot. Then once you get it wet, it became incredibly heavy.
“There were some moments where I thought, ‘I’m never wearing a corset in a movie ever again!’” she laughs. “I used to get my husband [actor Benjamin Walker] to secretly loosen it up in the back at lunchtime so that I could eat pasta.”
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