In Hollywood, it’s a constant big hunt for new talent. This year, The signs of the heart (Queuein original), remake of the French The Belier family, is one of the films that have participated – and collected awards – in multiple festivals, starting from Sundance up to the 3 Oscars just won (best film, best supporting actor for Tory Kotsur and best screenplay). And it made us discover Emilia Jones, Londoner, just turned 20, winner of a Gotham Independent Film Award, and emerging face celebrated all over the world. She has been nominated for the Bafta and Screen Actors Guild Awards. The film is directed by Sian Heder, alongside Emilia: Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant (March 21 on Sky Cinema Uno, available on demand on Sky and streaming on Now).
What does Coda mean?
Child Of Deaf Adult, anachronism to indicate children of deaf parents.
How would you describe your character?
Ruby is a complex, deep and responsible girl, but very emotional. I believe that tails grow with a heavy weight on their shoulders, because they are often the only connection with a world that does not speak sign language, often they would like to have a more normal experience, especially during adolescence. Like all teenagers, Ruby would like to be more independent but at the same time she doesn’t want to be separated from her family, which needs her. I was lucky to get this role.
What did you like about the story?
When I read the script I fell in love with the Rossi family, I thought whoever got the role would be a lucky actress. Often when you play a role you always have to learn something new, in this case I would have to learn sign language, to sing and fish (laughs). Singing scared me less because I grew up singing in a choir and then I had already had a theater experience in the West End when I was 8; with fishing I would have made my father happy, who always wants to go fishing with me.
What was it like acting in sign language?
Each film gives me the opportunity to express my emotions through different means, which stimulate the viewer in different ways. I’ve always wanted to learn sign language but never got the chance. It was a complex process, because it is a very physical and expressive language, in many ways it reminded me of the silent film actors who had to emphasize expressions. As an actress I felt very vulnerable because I couldn’t hide behind the words. I studied for nine months with Anselmo DeSousa, an incredible actor and teacher, who educated me on the cultural vision of deafness. I was never afraid to throw myself totally into the project, I wanted to learn everything about the deaf community.
Is it true that you never took singing lessons before the film?
True, I have never studied singing, but it is also true that music is part of my family, my father Aled Jones is a famous Welsh singer and although I have never had a classical education, I have always been surrounded by music. As I said before, I always try to express my emotions in different languages, and music gives me this opportunity. For each project I create a playlists that helps me to prepare myself in acting, I sing always, everywhere, after this experience I would like to act in another musical.
When did you start acting?
I was seven or eight. My first job ever was on the set of One Day with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, I had so much fun and they were so funny that when we finished the movie, I cried for a week. Now this ritual of the set and the family that is created for the time of the shoot has become something purifying and constructive for me, to the point that as soon as I finish a film, I run away in the trailer to cry.
Is there a film that made you decide to pursue this career?
Yes, Monster with Charlize Theron, directed by Patty Jenkins. It describes exactly the power of communication and representation that cinema has. Besides, Charlize is my idol.
Before The signs of the heartthere was Sound of Metal, another film about the deaf community. Do you think these films help change the representation of minorities?
I hope ours can educate viewers and maybe inspire them to try and get closer to groups other than those they are used to. By watching this film you become not only part of a family, but of a cultural identity, and of the relational modalities that 5 percent of the world population lives. And I would also like to say that none of those I have known feel inferior, not hearing does not mean not speaking. While promoting this film I realized that ours is not the only story to tell about the deaf community, there are many others and it can make people curious to learn a new language.
The relationship between the various family members is very true and genuine. How did you reach such a spontaneous relationship?
I think it’s thanks to Sian Heder, the director. Our first scene together was on the boat while we went fishing. No one had ever lived that experience, it was a very hard and intense day. I think the fatigue created a very strong, mutually supportive relationship, it was a real exercise in deep connection. Marlee was like a real mother to me, she worried if I was cold, if I ate enough and on weekends she always cooked something special, she is very good at making kugel noodles, a Jewish version of your baked pasta. She worried about me, because although she started acting as a child, I never had the opportunity to work in a role that led me to expose myself professionally in this way. And with Troy we created this father and daughter relationship, as we missed father and daughter a lot respectively, and at the end of the day we were happy to tell each other the stories of our loved ones. Daniel on the other hand was a real brother, he has incredible energy, and he insisted on teaching me all the bad words possible in sign language, and even those that aren’t in the dictionary! It was a unique film, we all invested heart and soul to make it a special project.
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