Jojo Regina had to go deep when playing young Kya in "Where the Crawdads Sing."
While speaking to TODAY at the world premiere of the film in New York City, the 11-year-old actor said that it was "easy" to play Kya — at least in the character's early stages of life — because they have "a lot" of similarities.
"We both love our families, we love to play outside and explore nature," she said, adding that they're animal lovers, too.
But as the film progresses and Kya's life becomes more complex, Regina learned that she had to try a different acting technique to bring her character's feelings to life.
"I just pulled some sad things from my life and then used my imagination and thought about what she was going through," Regina said.
In the film, Kya is abandoned by her family at a young age. With no one around, she ends up raising herself in the marshlands of North Carolina and becomes known as the "Marsh Girl."
Isolated from her community, Kya finds herself in a heap load of trouble when she meets two local men, and ends up being accused of murdering the town's golden boy. At that point in her life, Kya is played by Daisy Edgar-Jones.
"Crawdads" is Texas-born Regina's first major film, and she said she's "can't wait" for more.
"It was so amazing," Regina said of filming the movie. "I feel like the first day of shooting we were all still adapting to the heat. But you know it was a lot of fun and everyone was so nice and supportive, so I can't wait to do it again."
One of her favorite parts on set was driving her character's boat through the marsh.
Thanks to the movie, she can add another skill to her resume. "I actually learned how to drive the boat my very first time so that was super exciting," Regina said.
"Where the Crawdads Sing" is based on the 2018 best-selling novel by Delia Owens. Chosen as a Reese's Book Club pick, the film was produced by Reese Witherspoon under her production company Hello Sunshine and was directed by Olivia Newman.
Owens, on Facebook, posted a photo of her and Regina. "Jojo is perfect for the role; so tough yet tender," Owens wrote, before thanking her for "making Kya so real."
However, Newman did go through a "painstaking editing process" to cut the film down from three hours and 30 minutes to a two-hour runtime.
She said that she found it difficult to choose which parts of Kya's life should be in the film.
"It was a laborious process," Newman told TODAY at the premiere. "Our guiding principle was that we wanted viewers of the movie to have the same feeling that we had when we read the book. We wanted to take them on that same emotional journey, but then it was still a balancing act of how to give all of these really important relationships, genres and storylines equal weight. So it was a labor of love and hopefully, we did it well."
Regina, for one, approves of the final product. “I think the movie is good,” she told TODAY.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” is set to hit theaters on Friday, July 15.