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Emma Holly Jones Interview: Mr. Malcolm’s List


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Mr. Malcolm’s List director Emma Holly Jones talks about being involved with bringing the Regency romance to life from the start.

The Regency era is back on the big screen thanks to Mr. Malcolm’s List, currently in theaters. While it may seem to be following the way paved by Bridgerton with its modern touches and colorblind casting, the concept actually dates back to the 2019 short that gained enough popularity to get author Suzanne Allain’s novel by the same name officially published. Director Emma Holly Jones has been with the project since its inception, and her passion for the story comes through in her feature film debut.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and Freida Pinto are at the center of the story as Jeremiah Malcolm, the younger son of an earl with a very specific list of qualities needed for a debutante to become his future wife, and Selina Dalton, the daughter of a clergyman who lives in the countryside and isn’t as given to London’s high society ways. Selina is called to town by her friend Julia (Zawe Ashton), who wants her to exact revenge on Jeremiah for publicly humiliating her with his inattention after an opera date gone wrong.


Related: Mr. Malcolm’s List Is A Charming Period Romance Led By An Excellent Cast

Screen Rant spoke to Pinto and Dìrísù about how they took Mr. Malcolm’s List from YouTube short to feature film, why Jeremy is so drawn to Selina, and what would be on their own lists.

mr malcolm's list ending explained

Screen Rant: I love this film, and I love how involved have you been part of the process of not only getting it made but also even getting the book published. What’s it like to be so intricately involved in it from the start?

Emma Holly Jones: A lot of work. It’s wonderful, because I think it really allowed me to [feel like] the final product really is my voice. And I think that’s an extraordinary thing to be able to say; to make a film of this size, and to come out the other end and be like, “It’s 100% me on a plate.” You might like it, you might hate it – but I think having that sort of producorial control and being involved from day one to day end is the nicest thing.

I can honestly say there isn’t a thing that I didn’t love and wasn’t proud to put into the world.

That’s wonderful. Mr. Malcolm and his list are at the center of the story, but the friendship between Selina and Julia is my life. Can you talk about the qualities you were looking for when casting those characters?

Emma Holly Jones: It’s really lovely to hear you say that, because for me and the producers who are all women, it was really important to us to allow this story to have another level. And that massively came through the female friendship. Obviously, Selina and Malcolm and their love story is impeccable, but it was really important to all of us for this to have a really good B-storyline. And it massively was Julia and Selina.

And I think that Freida and Zawe were extraordinarily generous in their time and really helped develop what was on the page. I think at one point, they were writing letters back and forth to each other as Selina and Julia, which they shared with me. I was able to work some of that into the final shooting script, because it was so extraordinarily emotionally on point for them and for their versions of these characters.

That scene at the end when Julia sort of comes clean? That’s all Zawe. She came in, and she was like, “We need to understand why, and we need to relate to it.” She really pushed me to round Julia Thistlewaite out. Literally two weeks before we started shooting, or the week before we started shooting, because obviously she came in very last minute. I’ve always said Zawe saved our movie, and she made it better.

This was your feature film directorial debut. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from it that you’re taking with you in your career?

Emma Holly Jones: I think this might sound a bit corny, but that I can do it. I think, as a young woman in any industry -especially an industry that’s not necessarily talked about at school or you didn’t have an education in – I remember saying to my now husband, the night before I started shooting, “Do you really think I can do this?”

I think the lovely thing coming out the other side is it’s just given me more confidence. I feel really motivated to try and do something even bigger next. It might take me another seven years. Who knows? Maybe ten, but I’m gonna give it a go.

Mr. Malcolm’s List Synopsis

mr. malcolm's list

In 19th-century England, a wealthy, young lady named Julia engages in courtship with Mr. Malcolm, a mysterious, wealthy suitor, unaware that he has a list of qualities required of a future wife.

Check out our other interview with Mr. Malcolm’s List stars Freida Pinto & Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù as well.

More: Mr. Malcolm’s List’s Regency Era Has 1 Big Bridgerton & Austen Difference

Mr. Malcolm’s List is currently in theaters.

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