"What I feel like is not on film very often is women in nature," says executive producer Reese Witherspoon.

Survival stories are as old as time — but more often than not they hone in on men alone in the wild.

Bucking this trend is what immediately grabbed executive producer Reese Witherspoon about Delia Owens' novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Throughout her producing career, Witherspoon, a self-professed tomboy as a child, has gravitated toward stories of women in nature.

"What I feel like is not on film very often is women in nature," she says, while sitting down with Crawdads stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Taylor John Smith, as well as director Olivia Newman, for EW's Around the Table. "I remember when I read Wild how deeply resonant it was with me. Because I grew up in Nashville, Tenn., in the country, running around the creek with my brother and a bunch of the neighborhood boys. I'd pick up crawdads at the creek, or frogs, or snakes, or whatever, and that was my childhood."

"But then when I look at the movies out there that are women in nature, alone in nature also, not being saved by someone because they're scared in the woods, but literally thriving in nature, living through nature, connecting with nature, it's almost non-existent as a genre," she continues. "So, for me, Wild was like this incredible breakthrough moment where when I read Cheryl Strayed's novel, I was like, 'That's how connected women are in nature.'"

Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) finds a feather in Columbia Pictures' WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING.
Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in 'Where the Crawdads Sing'
| Credit: Michele K Short/Columbia Pictures

"I had the same feeling when I read Crawdads," Witherspoon concludes. "Delia's very clearly a woman who's very connected to animals, to the spiritual world, to the nature world, and that's the kind of stuff, if I was a little girl, I would want to see in movies, because that's who I was. I didn't live in a fancy apartment in New York and have a job at a magazine. I was just trying to figure out who I was in terms of existing and surviving. It's deeply resonant in that way."

Where the Crawdads Sing follows Kya (Edgar-Jones), also known as the "marsh girl," a young woman who has spent her adolescence alone in a North Carolina marsh, learning to survive and contend with the elements. When she's accused of the murder of local golden boy Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson), her life and past — including the memories of her romance with Tate Walker (Smith) — come to the surface.

It was Kya's connection with nature and her ability to commune with that world that also drew Edgar-Jones and Newman to the story. Newman was particularly struck by the ways in which Kya's isolation might resonate with audiences after the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There is something really relatable about how Kya manages a very lonely and solitary world, but manages to find a way not just to survive, but to thrive," she says. "That was what really struck me about her character: this is not just a survival tale. This is a tale of a girl who goes above and beyond expectation and surprises us at every turn with what she's capable of."

Edgar-Jones echoes this, citing Kya's resilience as something she latched onto. "One thing I love about her is how underestimated she is and, despite that, she thrives," she adds. "It's really amazing to see women represented in that way of being incredibly underestimated and yet still managing to push through. Ultimately, she thrives."

Watch the video above for more from the Crawdads theme. The film hits theaters July 15.

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