‘CODA’ follows Ruby Rossi — a Child of Deaf Adults, or CODA, who finds a passion for music. Having spent her life being the bridge between her family and the “hearing world,” Ruby is put in a dilemma between having to choose between the life she knows and her passion. The Academy Award winning film details the heartfelt nuances of Ruby’s choice and gives audiences an intimate look at Deaf culture.
Emilia Jones brings Ruby’s character to life, portraying a convincing teenager who has spent her entire life with her deaf family. Ruby’s musical prowess also shines through, making us wonder just what went on behind the scenes in the making of the film. Is that really Emilia Jones’ voice we’re hearing? And does she really know sign language? We dug around and found out.
Did Emilia Jones Really Sing in CODA?
Yes, the dulcet tones of Ruby’s singing is actually Emilia Jones’ voice! The actress, who claimed to have merely been “singing around the house and things” until her performance in ‘CODA,’ actually sang ‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac for her audition. However, in order to prepare for her role, she was tasked with singing much more challenging songs, covering the likes of Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Christina Aguilera.
Incidentally, the actress, who is the daughter of singer and presenter Aled Jones, does have a few singing credits to her name as a singer and songwriter. However, none of her previous projects required the kind of musical preparation that ‘CODA’ did. The song in the film’s closing credits, ‘Beyond the Shore,’ which was shortlisted in the Academy Awards original song category, was also performed by her.
Describing having to sing such “big songs” as daunting, Jones revealed that she inspired herself by using her character, Ruby’s, motivation for getting in Berklee (which is a crucial part of the film’s plot). She also seemingly had three playlists that she alternated between on set — a happy playlist, a sad playlist, and one with songs that her character would listen to. Of course, in addition to all her personal preparation, Jones was also trained by a vocal coach to prepare for her role.
Does Emilia Jones Know Sign Language?
As far as the actress’ experience with sign language goes, Jones had never used American Sign Language (ASL) before ‘CODA.’ Her character’s fluency in sign language is a result of the actress working with ASL coach, Anselmo DeSousa, as well as on-set ASL supervisors Alexandria Wailes and Anne Tomasetti.
Jones actually had quite a bumpy introduction to sign language for the film. Film director Sian Heder apparently sent her an initial video for the actress to view and subsequently sign the scene. Unfortunately, the clip’s link expired and Jones, who had only watched it twice, spent the rest of the weekend practicing fingerspelling “Berklee” — the one part of the video she could remember. As a result, she actually got quite fast at fingerspelling and, two weeks later, found out that she got the part.
In fact, Jones now plans to keep using sign language and connecting with the Deaf community. Interestingly, in addition to learning ASL, the actress, who is English, likely had to work on her American accent as well. Ultimately, her role in ‘CODA,’ which in a particular scene requires her to sing and sign at the same time, saw Emilia Jones hone multiple new skills and tie them seamlessly to bring Ruby Rossi to life. According to her, sign language was the most challenging, while the singing was the most daunting.
Read More: Are CODA Actors Deaf in Real Life?