Having just turned the ripe old age of 30, Emma Stone has covered a lot of ground in her acting career. Jump-started by a handful of TV guest appearances, she lit up the big screen as Jules, the possible love interest for Jonah Hill’s character in “Superbad.” Soon, she was playing a fast-talking scam artist in “Zombieland,” another — this time extremely smart — love interest in a couple of Spider-Man movies, and the nasty daughter of Michael Keaton in “Birdman.” By the time she was seen singing and dancing in “La La Land” and bashing around a tennis ball in “Battle of the Sexes,” Stone was a star.

In “The Favourite,” she heads off for new horizons. It’s her first period piece, and tells the story of various goings-on in early 18th century England within the court of the troubled Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Stone plays Abigail, a down-on-her-luck woman just trying to get by who ends up in a sort of competition for the queen’s favors with another woman, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster,” “The Killing of a Scared Deer”), the film allows Stone to convincingly shift between being likeable and loathsome, and gives her plenty of opportunities to show that she can deliver a pratfall with the best of them. She spoke about the film in New York City.

Q: Yorgos Lanthimos has made some pretty strange movies. What was your initial reaction to finding out you’d be working with him?
A: When I first read the script, I hadn’t seen any of his films yet. Then, about two years before we starting shooting “The Favourite,” I watched (his 2009 Greek-language) “Dogtooth.” That’s when I sat with him and got to know him a little bit. I wasn’t offered the part outright; I had to work on the (British) accent and do an audition. And later on, I was begging him for the part.

Q: So, there were no second thoughts about being in a Yorgos Lanthimos movie?
A: “The Lobster” hadn’t come out yet, but we saw an early screening of it around that time. I thought, he makes such interesting, dynamic, unique films, and that’s so rare. I said this is a great situation and made me want to do it even more.

Q: Abigail is quite a complex character. What are your thoughts on her now that you’ve played her?
A: She’s a survivor who fell from grace. She was part of an aristocratic family and then, as you hear, her family’s house burned down, her father lost her in a game of cards, and she has lived in squalor and abuse for a long period of time before coming to the (queen’s) palace. So, I think her driving force is to remain safe and out of harm’s way, which she takes to greater lengths as time goes on. After she’s threatened by Sarah, she uses her wiles, and gets to a point that I would call pretty villainous. But I still believe that at her core she’s just trying to survive.

Q: You were the only American actor in the cast. Was that odd for you?
A: It was great to be the only American in the sense that everyone around me was British, so that helped a lot with knocking my accent back on track if it was ever going off the ropes. It was also really special because we were shooting in the house that Elizabeth I lived in as a little girl. This takes place in the early 1700s, and there was so much rich history that I just hadn’t experienced in my home country. It was an entirely new world to me, up close, on location. That was a cool experience.

Q: Your character does a lot of falling down in the film. Did you do your own stunts?
A: No, I had a very helpful stunt double. I did some of the falls but not all of them. I did fall out of the coach into the mud. Although when I get pushed backward down a hill, I did not roll backward, two stories down the hill (laughs).

Q: Abigail is a very different role for you. Are you finding that directors are allowing you more freedom as an actor these days, or do you still prefer being directed?
A: I think it depends on the director.

Q: What about Yorgos?
A: Oh, Yorgos doesn’t talk about anything, ever. We don’t talk about motivation or character or anything like that (laughs). He does not want to talk about that, and I love it. It’s awesome. You know, you can talk to your fellow actors. You don’t necessarily have to talk to him about it. He’ll tell you if you’re off course. But he’s not interested in going into all of the little pieces of what makes these people tick. He gives you a lot of freedom and lenience to discover it on your own.
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.