meet the stars of the new little women adaptation

We go on set with Maya Hawke, Willa Fitzgerald, Annes Elwy and Kathryn Newton, stars of a spellbinding new Sofia Coppola-style adaptation of Little Women.

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Dec 25 2017, 8:49am

Face it, everyone loves a Bildungsroman TV adaptation whether they even know what the word means or not. An array of 19th century novels from Jane Eyre through to Great Expectations are consistently romanticised on our TV screens. But why do we love them so much? Is it good old-fashioned courtship, ostentatious period drama costumes, or the fetishisation of a time without technology?

The allure of the BBC’s latest adaptation of Little Women, lies in its depiction of women’s progress and growth -- in classic coming-of-age style. A three-part adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-coveted novel, it focuses on four sisters from childhood to adulthood, set against the backdrop of the American civil war. Directed by Vanessa Caswill and shot in Sofia Coppola-style naturalism, last seen in the spellbinding form of The Beguiled, Little Women promises a totally different experience to your average historical drama.

Starring alongside Angela Lansbury, Michael Gambon and Emily Watson, i-D spoke to four of Little Women’s lesser-known rising female stars about their lives and ambitions for the future. You may recognise Maya Thurman from a Coppola-directed Calvin Klein ad, or for her killer genes (courtesy of parents Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke). Willa Fitzgerald could also be familiar due to her 247k strong Insta following, or upcoming role in film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Beautifully befreckled Welsh actress Annes Elwy is fresh from eclectic television series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, while Kathryn Newton was last seen as the teenage step-daughter of Zoë Kravitz in the excellent Big Little Lies. In short, these girls are intriguing as hell. Familiar or not, they soon will be.

Ever since female lead Jo uttered the sentence, “Being born a girl is the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me,” in the BBC’s trailer, we knew we were in for some feminist existential magic come christmas. Debuting on Boxing Day, be sure to gather your whole family around the TV in anticipation. Chances are your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have all had a crack at reading Alcott’s original feminist novel.

Filmed just outside of Dublin, an ethereal Irish air pervades the snowy set. Get an exclusive look behind the scenes with i-D and listen to what the girls have to say below.

Name:
Willa Fitzgerald.

Describe yourself…
Type A personality, but impulsive. Perpetual student. Highly amateur athlete. Culinary enthusiast.

Describe your character in Little Women…
Meg is the oldest sister and is in many ways defined by that. She is the peacekeeper, the organiser, the first. She aspires to be as good as Marmee, while harbouring a love of material possessions. Her journey is one towards self-love and self-fulfilment. She must discover that she is enough.

What's your favourite film?
A question I find impossible, but recent favourites include The Lobster, A Ghost Story and Lore.

Record?
American Teen by Khalid was played on repeat through the three months of filming. It’s been permanently embedded in my psyche.

Shop?
The farmer’s market.

Hidden talents?
Sourdough bread baking.

If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing?
I would either be back in grad school collecting advanced degrees, or opening up a restaurant/bakery in some beautifully scenic place.

If you could play any part what would it be?
A main character written as a man but played by a woman. That would be fascinating.

What is the most surprising thing you've ever done in the name of acting?
Plunging nearly nude into 50 degree water.

Why is an adaptation of Little Women still relevant in 2017?
Little Women is a classic for a reason. It is a coming of age story that speaks to the essential goodness of humanity and the ability to find our individual truths.

What's next for you?
Hiking, adventuring, running, writing and working.

Name:
Maya Hawke.

Describe yourself…
Stubborn?

Describe your character in Little Women…
I like describing Jo in one word -- brave, since bravery comes in so many forms. And the amazing thing about Jo (which is true about most people but is rarely captured so well in a character) is that she comes in so many forms. She is full of rage, jealousy, generosity and devotion, but each of those emotions or qualities course through her with clarity and bravery.

What's your favourite film?
Robert Altman’s Nashville.

Record?
Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Steven.

Shop?
My favourite shop is McNally Jackson bookstore in lower Manhattan. It's where I get my notebooks and pencils and I sit and read there too.

Hidden Talent?
Dragon Tamer.

If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing?
I would be an English teacher.

If you could play any part what would it be?
Right now I would really like to play Juliet or The Loch Ness Monster.

What is the most surprising thing you've ever done in the name of acting?
Wear a 20 pound weight vest for two and a half months while playing Napoleon the pig in Animal Farm.

Why is an adaptation of Little Women still relevant in 2017?
I think because it reminds us that the first step in becoming our best selves, is truly acknowledging what stands in our way. Honestly examining ourselves, accepting our faults and constantly striving for positive growth. This is a good reminder for any individual and also for a nation.

What’s next for you?
I want to work and collaborate with people that love their jobs. One of the best things about working on Little Women and going to Juilliard was being surrounded by other people that are led by their tremendous passion and care for the work they do. The amazing thing about film, TV and theatre is that you cannot do it alone. So what’s next for me is hopefully some more good company.

Name:
Annes Elwy

Describe yourself…
Passionately Welsh, strong minded, and loyal. I like board games, mulled cider, and I'm salted butter's biggest advocate. I can be a little too reserved before my shell gets cracked open, but I’m working on that.

Describe your character in Little Women…
Beth is full of feeling. She feels everyone's pain and happiness, and she feels music in her gut. She's so tuned in to everything around her that the world can become overwhelming and she sometimes struggles. Though she seems shy, she spends a lot of time being incredibly brave, it's just that she needs to call upon her bravery much more consciously and frequently than others.

What's your favourite film?
Victoria by Sebastian Schipper. It completely blew me away.

Record?
At the moment it's just anything by Joni Mitchell. But sometimes it's by Serge Gainsbourg. Hey, sometimes it's by the Backstreet boys!

Shop?
In Windsor Arcade in Penarth, where I’m from, is the best fruit and veg shop in the world. But if we're talking clothes -- when I stayed in Brooklyn recently, I discovered a shop I wish I could go to more often, called Modern Anthology.

Hidden talents?
I’m really really good at buying presents for people.

If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing?
Maybe I'd be opening a cafe back home with my sister. We'd start the day collecting all the best bits and bobs from various local food shops, and then get going on prepping a feast. Yeah, that'd be nice.

If you could play any part what would it be?
I would love to do a film that had a long rehearsal time - months of improvisation and really forming a full world for the relationships to exist in. Like the way Mike Leigh works, or even a step further, and doing a film like Victoria.

What is the most surprising thing you've ever done in the name of acting?
Pretty unsurprisingly, I had to learn piano for Little Women!

Why is an adaptation of Little Women still relevant in 2017?
I think one of the things that makes this version different to the others, is that it delves deeper into the book and deeper into the truth -- and ugliness -- of the characters. So I think fans of Little Women will appreciate that. And to people who haven’t yet got a connection with the book or previous films, it’ll be relevant to them as long as they have mothers or fathers or sisters or lovers or children. As long as they miss someone. As long as they are figuring out how to grow, how to fit into the world around them, how to express themselves, or how to act on having aspirations.

What's next for you?
Who knows, but while I don’t know, I’m planning on doing as many trips as possible. I’ve just come back from visiting all my Little Women in NYC, I’m going to Israel, and hoping to go to Bologna. We’ll see.

Name:
Kathryn Newton

Describe yourself…
Full of love, a dork, and loves food.

Describe your character in Little Women
I play Amy March. She is the youngest of the March sisters and is an aspiring artist. She is full of love, a dreamer, and is passionate. Amy is a people person and she has a strong focus when it comes to getting what she gets what she wants. My favorite thing she says is "Talent isn't genius... I want to be great or nothing."

What's your favourite film?
Almost Famous is my number one and I love The Godfather.

Record?
The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin. It's the first record I bought on vinyl and definitely in my top 5 favorite records.

Shop?
Collette Paris.

Hidden talents?
Can sleep anywhere.

If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing?
Studying literature at college and playing golf professionally.

If you could play any part what would it be?
The Godfather.

What is the most surprising thing you've ever done in the name of acting?
Lost myself completely in a role and loved it.

Why is an adaptation of Little Women still relevant in 2017?
The story stands the test of time and it is the perfect time to tell the story of young strong women growing and becoming who they are.

What's next for you?
I have some films coming out right now! Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and Lady Bird. Right now I'm on set in my trailer about to hunt some monsters on my new show Wayward. If you ever need a monster hunter, let me know.

Little Women airs across three nights on BBC One beginning Tuesday 26 December. This article originally appeared on i-D UK.