Emilia jones sits on a speed boat on the steel blue waters of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The marine smells and the distinctive sounds immerse Jones in the world of young Ruby Rossi for new film, CODA—an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults. In entering the complicated premise of a child born to deaf parents, and learning ASL for the first time, Jones became two people—herself and Ruby. This process is not unfamiliar. At only 19, Jones has splintered into numerous personalities—completely engulfed in lives far different from her own, each with an unmistakable flare. Her expansive television credits extend to Utopia, Doctor Who, House of Anubis, Residue, and Wolf Hall.
For the Netflix coming-of-age supernatural mystery series, Locke and Key—based on the Joe Hill graphic novel of the same name—Jones lives the life of Kinsey Locke. Introverted and loyal, Kinsey is one of the three Locke siblings who, following the murder of their father, take residence in a house with reality-bending keys. “I honestly do think a lot of the characters in Locke and Key are very relatable,” she remarks, “because they’re not perfect. I think sometimes we watch characters on the screen, and they are portrayed as these perfect characters and things. Locke and Key isn’t about that—everybody deals with tragedy and deals with grief in a completely different way, and these four characters really do. Kinsey—the character that I play—the minute something bad happens, she doesn’t want to stand out anymore. She wants to blend in and run away from attention.”
Jones relates to the turbulence of youth that Locke and Key presents and mentions that she and Kinsey have many similarities such as blocking things out and hating negativity.
Parallels are very clear between the themes in the show and those met by real life Gen Z’s who are learning who they are and what their place in the world might look like. On this topic, Jones remarks that “times are changing,” a small sentence that carries the meaning of what it is like to be a young person in an era that seeks a better future. “On social media, like Instagram,” she offers, “I see a lot of people, especially younger people, trying to save the environment, and I know a lot of my friends have started movements and are getting everybody involved. I’m hoping that I can help through my platform, too. We need to change how things have been, and I’m grateful that the times are changing.”
When Jones speaks about change, her intonation changes and connotes an air of fearlessness and intent, which is inspiring to witness. As a young performer, she sees the importance of her role in the media movement we’ve witnessed in recent years, where films and series are more than ever vehicles for stories of change, inclusion, and progression. CODA is a perfect case in point—very few movies and TV shows feature hard of hearing subjects and stories. “I think CODA is a strong example of representation done right. There are deaf actors who play deaf characters who are fully realized and not just defined solely by being deaf. Our team had no interest in telling a story featuring the hearing character with the deaf family in the background—instead they wanted to highlight the complexities of family dynamics as a whole. They wanted to make this film authentic and wanted us to challenge ourselves and learn something new.”
Being 19 might be one of the toughest ages to endure a pandemic. The transitional age between teenage years and adulthood are typically marked with intensive socializing, engaging, and learning about one’s self. Forced to take a step back and isolate from the world, Jones matured in certain ways and saw the time as an opportunity. She was able to pick up old hobbies and take a break from the rush of the acting world. “It gave me that opportunity to go home and spend time with my family,” she recalls. “I don’t often look to take breaks, so it was nice to reconnect with my family, and it also gave me time to practice my ASL and keep learning. I got to play guitar and practice things that I basically wouldn’t have been able to practice if I had been working.” Of course, Jones misses the things that make normalcy so delightful. “I’m just so excited to sit in a cinema and absolutely just be engaged and surrounded by the movie and the sound,” she says with a big, hopeful smile.
When Jones finishes filming a movie or TV show, she dances—a spare moment of bliss that she definitely deserves. She lets it all go for a moment—all the hours of hard work, all the memorized lines and concentration. She shares, though, that there is a bittersweet feeling to the end of something—knowing you won’t be seeing the same cast members everyday or playing the character you’ve immersed in for months or years. We can envision a lot of cause to celebrate ahead for Jones, and we’ll take her advice to heart—when something you’ve endeavored through reaches its bittersweet conclusion, you best go leave it all on the dance floor.
Photographer: Justin Wu
Stylist: Jackie McKwoen
Hair: Anna Barseghian at Plutino Group
Makeup: Grace Lee at Plutino Group
Written by: Eloisa de Farias
Location: Startwell Studios