BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC One of the most striking aspects of the supernatural horror thriller Hereditary is the performance by 15-year-old newcomer Milly Shapiro as Charlie, the daughter of Ann Graham (Toni Collette). In the film, Charlie is her Grandmother’s favorite and because of that intense relationship, when she passes away the young girl is lost and retreats inward. As Ann begins to uncover the mystery behind her mother’s legacy, Charlie is left to figure out what life without her grandmother is as she struggles to find her way in this strange world. It’s a subtle performance filled with quiet nuances and an amazing breadth of understated emotions. The unrelenting melancholia she conjures onscreen is utterly mesmerizing. I got a chance to chat with Milly in anticipation for Hereditary’s release and I have to say I was even more impressed with her performance after learning what went into the performance and discovering how different she was from Charlie.
PHAWKER: I have to ask first off this being your first feature length, what has it been like seeing the response Hereditary has gotten from not only critics, but audiences as well?
MILLY SHAPIRO: It was so cool! I always knew that Hereditary was going to be great from the second I read the script. So, seeing everyone’s reactions to it was really amazing, because everyone put their all into this film. It’s been great to see that so many people loved it.
MILLY SHAPIRO: Not really. My mom and I read it and she came to me and asked if I was okay with everything. I told her yes, I personally love horror. She asked me if I was going to be freaked out by anything and asked me a bunch of questions, and when I gave her my answers; she said, “do you really want to do it?” and I said yes, I really do. Then she said, “okay, you can do it.” My mom was there with me the entire time to make sure I was okay with everything and everyone else was really great about making sure I was okay as well, because there are a lot of dark scenes in this film. I felt completely comfortable all through filming, and that’s not something you always hear from an actor in a horror movie.
PHAWKER: I didn’t know you were a horror fan, what are some of your favorite horror films?
MILLY SHAPIRO: My favorite horror films are films like The Exorcist, The Shining, the original IT.I usually like the older horror movies, because they take their time to develop. It’s not just about being scared in the moment, it’s about sitting in your house at night and not being able to sleep, because you can’t stop thinking about it. That is something I really love about the horror genre.
PHAWKER: What I liked about Charlie is she is very much an outsider. She’s different, but she’s confident in herself. What was your take on her from the script in what makes her tick?
MILLY SHAPIRO: I when I read the script, I think I had an idea of who Charlie was. But once I got the part Ari and I got together a bunch of times to really develop the character. She is really otherworldly, is how I would best describe it. She is an outsider. She is almost like an alien in her own world. But to her everyone else is different, weird or strange, she is the one acting how she is supposed to.
MILLY SHAPIRO: We talked a lot about what Charlie thought. You don’t get to really experience that because she isn’t very expressive. We worked hard to really develop what her relationships with the other family members were and how she would react to them. It was very complicated because her way of thinking is very different from how the normal or average person would think. So I had to develop a whole new way of thinking for Charlie. So that way when I stepped into the character I would see the world through different eyes and Ari really helped me with that. For me Charlie was so hard to do because she was so different from myself.
PHAWKER: Charlie’s introvertedness is the result of the damaged relationship between Ann and Ellen, and when Ellen passes Charlie is pushed over the edge. Do you think Charlie knew deep down inside what Ellen was grooming her for?
MILLY SHAPIRO: I think in a way she did. I think she always knew the body she was in, the way people treated her wasn’t the way she was made to be treated. I think Ellen treated her in a very different way than a normal person would treat someone, to Charlie that just felt right. When Ellen passes away she sees no one else is treating her like that and she does not like that. She thinks it’s very odd and strange the way she is being treated. So she simply retreats further into herself.