TV & Movies

Jodie Turner-Smith Has Divorced Herself From The Court Of Public Opinion

“There are some things that you just don’t want people’s opinions on.”

Originally Published: 
'After Yang' actor Jodie Turner-Smith
Getty Images/Vittorio Zunino Celotto

Every minute is precious when it comes to interviewing a major star. You often don’t have much time, and you want to be sure to cover all of the important topics. So, naturally, Jodie Turner-Smith and I kick off our call by catching up on all things Euphoria. The starlet watches the HBO drama with her husband, actor Joshua Jackson, beloved by many for his portrayal of Pacey Witter in Dawson’s Creek. Turner-Smith often shares her Euphoria reactions on Twitter, much to the delight of her followers. Although she prefers when Zendaya’s Rue is front and centre, the actor is also a fan of other major players in the series.

“The episode where Eric Dane acted out Cal’s meltdown was brilliant. I didn’t get on the internet and talk about that one, I don’t think, but oh my God,” she exclaims. “I texted Eric immediately. I was like, ‘Me and Josh are f*cking losing our minds over how f*cking good you are in this show.’” Turner-Smith mentions her famous Grey’s Anatomy alum pal in a way that seems every bit as authentic as if she had mentioned texting a lifelong friend. Another thing to note about Turner-Smith is that she casually drops the f-bomb, often. It falls from her lips with great ease. The Anne Boleyn star is engaging and conversational, making you feel as though you’ve known her for far longer than five minutes. But she’s not completely unguarded. The actor is jaded enough to not put all of herself out there. She’s been burned before, but we’ll get into that later.

Born in Peterborough, the 35-year-old moved to the U.S. — Maryland, to be exact — as a child. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband of three years and their 23-month-old daughter. When we talk, Turner-Smith is in Florida for work, and she has mixed feelings about the location. “It’s sunny, but with humidity, so it’s much nicer in that regard, but it’s Florida. Sorry to anyone who’s from Florida, but you know.”

We’re here to talk about Turner-Smith’s new film, After Yang. Set in an imagined future, the sci-fi drama explores a world where humans and advanced robots — technosapiens — live side by side. Directed by Kogonada, the film focuses on one family’s experience when their cultural-techno Yang (Justin H. Min), purchased in order to educate their adopted Chinese daughter Mika (Malea Tjandrawidjajaon) on her motherland, malfunctions and ceases to operate. Turner-Smith plays mum Kyra, opposite Colin Farrell, who portrays her on-screen husband, Jake. The intense drama explores what it is to be human. It takes Yang “dying” for the family to realise just how much he had truly lived. The existential observations at the crux of the film undoubtedly attracted Turner-Smith to the role.

“Please, God, let the future look like that,” the actor says. “The relationship between Yang and Mika is so incredible. If our technology could really do that… how beautiful.” The film is centered on an interracial family, something that Turner-Smith herself can relate to. This project holds an extra special significance to her, as it was her first time portraying a mother, and filmed not long before becoming a mum in real life herself.

Below, Turner-Smith talks to Bustle about the beauty of showcasing interracial families in film, how she deals with hateful and ignorant comments as a woman in the public eye, and what makes her husband, Joshua Jackson, the perfect man.

Even with the focus on mechanical beings, this film, at its heart, is about human issues. At the beginning, we witness Kyra and Jake experiencing parental guilt over going to work and leaving Mika with Yang. Kyra, as a mum, feels this more so. Do any of those elements resonate with you at all?

For women, it’s always going to be something that we struggle with. We’re in a patriarchal society. First of all, we were told we couldn’t go to work. Well, white women, at least. We were told that our place was in the kitchen. Then it’s like, if you are going to work, there’s something unwomanly about you. This was the first time that I played a mum, then I became a mum shortly after. I’m glad some of those issues resonated. After becoming a mum, and watching this movie, I was like, “Wow, the nuances I could have added to this performance now that I’m a mum.” I was 100% operating in the blind. I had no clue, really. That’s a testament to the kind of filmmaker that Kogonada is, because he directed that performance from a woman who, at the time, wasn’t a mother herself.

There’s a moment at the beginning where Kyra defends her husband, Jake, for not being at home that much. Kyra defends her husband for staying late at work, yet is wracked with guilt when she does it. It’s an interesting dynamic, don’t you think?

It really resonates feeling like you’re the only partner who’s putting in effort, and being like, “Where the f*ck are you at, husband?” She’s covering for him, which a lot of women do. It’s so interesting. These are such human issues, and I just love that we’ve taken a sci-fi film, but we’re drilling it down to these very modern problems that will probably be with us until the end of time.

The film is set in an imagined future, where humans purchase, and live alongside, technosapiens, but it also explores the intricacies of different cultures coming together. Being in an interracial relationship yourself, how did you relate to that union of cultures?

What better way than to tell a story and say, “Listen, this is a human issue,” than to feature a family that’s mixed? We’re not battling racism, we’re battling what’s really separating us — a lack of understanding. In the film, we bring Yang into the family because we want Mika to feel understood in the world. Because Kyra is a Black woman and Jake is a white man, there’s going to be elements of Mika’s existence that she feels disconnected from. Whenever we talk about a mixing of cultures, people just want to feel seen, heard, respected, and loved.


You’ve spoken before about the ignorance and hate you have been subjected to, simply for being a Black woman who fell in love with a white man. I wondered if that experience has made you feel as though you can no longer share certain aspects of your life?

Yes, I certainly share a lot less about myself now. I’m a millennial. We were on the internet and chat rooms, using social media, right when it started. We’re used to sharing everything. As soon as people feel like you’re in the public eye, suddenly what you share becomes political. It becomes political that you’ve chosen a partner who’s outside your race. It becomes political that your child is mixed-race. Falling in love with someone, finding your soulmate, especially now that we have a baby, you want to protect that, and keep your family safe.

The more people know who you are, the more people have an opinion on those things. And there are some things that you just don’t want people’s f*cking opinions on. So I’ve learnt to share a little bit less. Maybe resist the urge to tell people what your husband bought you for Valentine’s Day, because you might be called an ‘attention w*ore’ for trying to share a little joy. Everything in life has a light and dark side. There is a yin and a yang [laughs]. Yes, yang! I accept everything that is good and beautiful in my life, so I deal with and manage everything that’s not great.

How do you deal with it?

By either not giving certain people information or by turning off people’s ability to comment and message me directly if I’m not following them. I had to turn off my message requests, and honestly, my mental health improved. It’s so much better now that people can’t slide into my DMs and say whatever disgusting thing they want to say about my life and my family. My life is so much better without that.

The thing is, there are a lot of people who are hurting. A lot of people feel alone, and are desperate for connection, even if it's a negative one. We all want attention and connection. If we’re lucky and mentally stable, we’ll seek it in the right ways. A lot of people, who don’t have access to the right resources, go online and become keyboard warriors, so they can terrorise other people with their pain.

Whenever we talk about a mixing of cultures, people just want to feel seen, heard, respected, and loved.

After Yang is an intense body of work. As Kyra, your scenes are often confined to the four walls of the house. Was it hard to break away from that intensity at the end of the working day?

For any artist, there’s only so much that you can separate yourself from your work, and there’s only so much that you can take home with you. For me, I like to keep it as separate as I can, but it doesn’t always work. At the end of the day, your body doesn’t know what’s real and what’s false. If I’m acting out a panic attack, after a certain amount of time breathing that way, my body is going to respond to what I’m doing to it. It’s understandable that if you’re acting out trauma all day at work, you’ll go home and feel darkness follow you. For myself, and my process may change as time goes on, but what exists for me at home is so different to my work. I bring my daughter everywhere I go. After a scene, when I go to the trailer to be with her, I’m just her mum. I’m Jodie Turner-Smith. I’m her father’s wife. She’s like, ‘Booby.’ [Laughs] You know what I mean? She doesn’t care about what I’m doing on that camera, she’s like, ‘Get your t*t out, now. I’m hungry.’

It’s a very close-set cast. Did you get a chance to bond with Colin before filming?

I met him the day I auditioned, but we immediately had a connection. There was a mutual respect. Our friendship grew as we filmed in that little house. All of us [cast and crew] shared a beautiful communal energy. We became a family for that short time.

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The family dance sequence at the beginning of the film is so visually pleasing. You were all perfectly in-sync. Tell me, how was it to film?

I had three days to learn that dance, because I came onto the film last minute. I got hired on a Thursday, and we started on the Monday. The first scene I filmed was that dance. When you get to do something physical, you can get out of your head. The body does not know how to lie. It was such a wonderful ice-breaker for the cast to come together for the first time and do this completely ridiculous dance. It’s extremely athletic, too. You’re f*cking sweating your t*ts off. I was looking through pictures from that time the other day, and I found the video of the choreography. I was like, ‘I’m gonna relearn this dance!’

Congratulations on your NAACP Outstanding Actress nomination for your lead turn in Anne Boleyn. You faced ignorance and backlash when you were cast as the first Black woman to play the role on screen. Do you feel somewhat vindicated now that your performance has been heralded?

The people that were not going to watch it because they were angry about it, were probably not going to watch it anyway. And if they did end up hate-watching it, then good for me, thank you for that watch. I was really proud of myself for doing it, that’s what made me feel vindicated. I didn’t leave anything on the table, I know I gave my whole self. I was raw, five-months postpartum, I felt like I could feel everything. It was such a fun, juicy character to play. I had fun and I worked hard, and that’s all that matters.

I’m grateful to have been recognised [with a nomination]. But if any part of the acknowledgement validates your experience, then you’re always going to look for that. I tried to divorce myself from what people were saying about my performance. I let that be something for my husband and friends to celebrate. After Queen & Slim, I found that reading reviews is a sure way to break your heart. If the good ones mean something to you, then the bad ones will crush you.

You’ve talked about your spouse throughout this interview, but I want to ask you this: How does one end up with the perfect Instagram husband?

[Laughs] Well, you know, he’s just kind of the perfect husband. In my case, I got him after all of his super wild days. I get all of the experience and none of the crazy. The experience makes him better. So, really, I should be saying ‘thank you’ to all of the women who came before me, because I am reaping the benefits. He would do anything for me. I’m so lucky that I’ve chosen him to be the father of my daughter. He’s such a good dad, which is more gratifying than all of the Instagram photos he takes for me. This is the one time I wish we weren’t celebrities, because then I could share with people how amazing of a dad he is, and post all of the pictures I have. But unfortunately, I have to keep that off the internet. It’s a testament in life when you don’t have to tell people it’s good, you can just experience it. But I do want to brag a little bit. [Laughs]

After Yang premieres in the U.S. on March 4 at 9pm on Showtime. It’s set to debut in the UK later this year.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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