Jodie Turner-Smith: "Everything we wear is costume"

jodie turner smith
Jodie Turner-Smith on style and substance Rich Fury - Getty Images

Jodie Turner Smith is laughing at me. It’s a good laugh, as anyone who has seen the actress in interviews will attest. The reason for Turner-Smith’s mirth is that I have just compared her to Rhianna. “But she’s a rock star,” Turner-Smith giggles, with admirable humility, considering her own significant degree of cool. “Nobody would have paid that much attention to me.”

We’re talking about pregnancy style. Back in 2019, Turner-Smith lit up the screens as Queen in Melina Matsoukas’ heartrending film Queen & Slim, opposite Daniel Kaluuya. The resulting press tour and awards circuit occurred when Turner-Smith was heavily pregnant, and was a masterclass in bump dressing. Her sunshine-yellow Gucci dress at the 2020 BAFTAs was a scene-stealing red-carpet moment, but it was her bump-baring crop-top ensemble on The Graham Norton Show which unexpectedly caused an online uproar. She ran, so Rhianna could walk, I suggest. Hence the laughter.

“People lost their minds about me and now everyone is like ‘yessss go off!’ when Rhianna does it. But I actually love that, because it shows how much has changed even just since 2019,” she says. “I adored all her looks and yet there was still some backlash, which shows the policing of women’s bodies in this way is still insane. I mean, let alone whether a pregnant woman can bare her belly, we’re obviously talking at a time where America has just overturned Roe v Wade.”

Turner-Smith is British, born and raised in Peterborough, but she relocated to the States when she was 10. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the actor Joshua Jackson, and their young daughter. If her red-carpet looks earned her acclaim back in 2019, Jackson’s obvious glee at being her hype-man won them several most-adorable couple plaudits. Jackson is, however, less hyped about her latest project.

Photo credit: Annie Lebowitz
Photo credit: Annie Lebowitz

“He’s so jealous,” she laughs, about her role as a Canada Goose ambassador. “I mean, he’s Canadian! This is huge for them.” She stars, alongside model and DJ Soo Joo Park and actress Khadija Red Thunder, in a campaign shot by the inimitable Annie Lebowitz in Northern Scotland. “It was my first trip there and I absolutely loved it,” she says. “It was so beautiful but so cold. I’m really relieved I was wearing Canada Goose to be honest.” She is delighted to be a part of it, not least because of the campaign’s focus – on female strength and featuring an almost entirely female crew – is something so close to her heart. “I think it's really important and really fun to do creative endeavours that are woman-driven,” she says. “A lot of the time, when you get to put something through the lens of femininity, you get such a beautiful story.”

Photo credit: Annie Lebowitz
Photo credit: Annie Lebowitz

The campaign chimes with her work for Equality Now, an organisation which has been fighting for equity for women and girls across the world since 1992. “I firmly believe that it is our duty as human beings to leave the world better than we found it, and as an artist, I’m fortunate that I have a platform I can use,” she tells me. “Of course, not only am I an artist, I’m a woman and I’m a Black woman. If I have the privilege of being able to help, why wouldn’t I? I’ve learnt so much from working with them. It's an honour to be able to even sit beside some of these people who are much more powerful and ask, 'how can I contribute?'”

When we spoke, Turner-Smith was preparing to head to the Venice Film Festival where her new film, Noah Baumbach’s White Noise opened. “I’m so excited for it, but I’m actually just super excited about all the stuff I have coming out soon because it feels like a new direction for me,” she tells me. Her upcoming output is a result of what she calls her “year of comedy”. Following White Noise, she will be seen in the TV comedy series Bad Monkey, alongside Vince Vaughn and Rob Delaney, and the film The Independent, in which she plays a young investigative journalist who teams up with her idol, played by Brian Cox. “I’m obsessed with him,” she says, gravely. “Like, I wish we were a dynamic duo all the time.”

Photo credit: Daniele Venturelli - Getty Images
Photo credit: Daniele Venturelli - Getty Images

While the Venice Film Festival staged Turner-Smith’s next cinematic output, it also gave her the opportunity to display her breathless approach to the red carpet. “Oh, it’s a show for sure,” she says. “In my everyday style I like to be comfy, if occasionally a little extra, but I love getting to perform through clothes on a red carpet. I’m a huge fashion fan so it's just a really fun opportunity to show your personality. I also really love to showcase Black designers who are often not as known.”

Her fashion credentials are certainly not in doubt. She has championed designers like Wales Bonner and Thebe Magugu, while her work with Gucci even led to her directing a film for them – something which, she says, has ignited her passion to get behind the camera more. She has also been instrumental in the wardrobes of a lot of her characters; from the iconic outfits of Queen and the jewellery of Kyra (in her 2021 film After Yang) to the accents of her ground-breaking portrayal of Anne Boleyn, which made her the first woman of colour to play the ill-fated monarch. “I got to keep my Boleyn necklace. I wear that a lot,” she smiles.

“But at the end of the day everything we wear… it’s all costume, isn’t it?” she muses. “We use clothes to get into characters and, in real life, it’s the same. What we wear matters because, when the character we are inhabiting is our self, it’s a reflection of how we feel and who we are.”

The new Canada Goose collection is available now in stores, online and select wholesale partners globally.

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