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Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomas Brodie-Sangster face off in The Queen’s Gambit.

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As two of Britain’s rising young actors, Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomas Brodie-Sangster have an easy rapport and a natural chemistry that’s as charming off-screen as it is on. The actress — who heads up a cast that includes Bill Camp, Marielle Heller, Moses Ingram, and Harry Melling — was on the list to play Beth Harmon so early on that the script hadn’t even been written yet.

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Anya stars as Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix seven-part adaptation of Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel, created by Allan Scott and writer-director Scott Frank.

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Starring as Benny Watts, Beth’s talented rival-turned-ally, Brodie-Sangster says it wasn’t necessarily about being a chess player — even if Benny is loosely based on grandmaster Bobby Fischer. Instead, the actor says, “It was about discovering who he was as a person. It was about figuring out what part of me I see in Benny; only at that point do you make a character true and believable. And then you end up learning something about yourself.”

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“The relationship between Beth and Benny is so much fun because they are equals; they piss each other off but fascinate each other at the same time.” As for which actor would prevail in a real chess match? “I’ve got no idea,” admits Brodie-Sangster. “We didn’t play much chess! It was like learning lines, really.”

The Queen's Gambit is streaming on Netflix.

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