Where the Crawdads Sing is a global phenomenon and one of the best-selling books of all time. How did you personally connect with this story?
When I first read it, it was the coming-of-age aspect. One of my favorite movies growing up was Stand by Me, and there were a lot of [coming-of-age] elements in that film, just from a female perspective. I remember calling my sisters and telling them that I had gotten [the part], and the response was immediate. They were like, “Wait, Where the Crawdads Sing?!” And I said, “Yeah.” And they were like, “Shut up! Tate or Chase, who are you playing?” They have never cared about anything I’ve done before, and I told them Tate, and they were like, “Oh, thank god” and hopped off the phone. That was all they needed to know. If they cared that much about it, I knew that it must be huge. And then I got to hear everyone else’s stories about when they read it and what they were going through when they read it, especially during COVID because of all the isolation aspects of it. … It connected a lot of people. I was just excited to jump into it and be a part of it.
I imagine there is a certain kind of pressure that comes with adapting this work. What can fans of the book expect from this film?
Because Reese [Witherspoon] is involved, she wanted to make sure it was such a loyal adaptation and that none of the elements or moments that so many people loved from the book were missing. If we didn’t have her at the helm, I don’t know if it would have gone the same way. It’s got everything that the book has—this beautiful romance story, this whodunnit murder mystery—and just the whole world that it exists in with the marsh and Barkley Cove was captured so beautifully in the movie. Creating a world like that from an existing book is really hard to do, and Olivia Newman, our director, and Reese did an amazing job. At least in my mind, it’s exactly how I imagined it would be. I was blown away every day on set getting to see it for real.
Was there a set in particular that immediately transported you into the Crawdads world?
Instantly, Kya’s shack. I remember it wasn’t even finished being built yet, but it was in this beautiful lagoon where they had this dock they built that was just for the boat. I don’t know how they came up with it, but it was to a T exactly how I pictured it in my head with the little garden and the swing and just open water for miles with the Spanish moss hanging down. I was like, “This is so freaking cool.” I was so excited, and we hadn’t even started filming yet. I was excited to see it furnished with all of her drawings. They did such an amazing job.