Interview: Actress Milly Shapiro for HEREDITARY
Milly Shapiro as Charlie in HEREDITARY

For the home release of HEREDITARY, which is a film I consider to be one of the scariest in the past decade, I had the chance to speak with newcomer, actress Milly Shapiro. Though HEREDITARY is her first feature film debut, Milly is no stranger to acting, having won a Tony award for her performance as Matilda in “Matlida the Musical.” During our chat, in which I asked Milly to do Charlie’s infamous clicking noise (which is just as terrifying as you would imagine), we talked about everything from her love of horror films to bringing HEREDITARY’s Charlie to life.

Nightmarish Conjurings: It is such an honor to speak with you today Milly! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character in HEREDITARY and what interested you in taking on the role of Charlie? 

Milly Shapiro: Charlie is kind of an other-worldly being, she very strange, very odd, and her whole way of thinking is kind of off. I was really interested in playing this character because she does think in an entirely different way so I had to kind of create a whole new mindset to step into.

Nightmarish Conjurings: One of the most terrifying aspects of this movie is the clicking noise that you make. Was that something that you came up with or was that something that was collaborated on with director Ari Aster? 

MS: It was always in the script. We came up with the exact sound together, though. We had a whole hour meeting to come up with the exact perfect sound.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Does that noise creep you out at all when you hear it? 

MS: No, not really, I love creepy things! The only thing that scares me is haunted houses and clowns for some reason.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Clowns are very, very scary!

MS: They are so creepy!

Nightmarish Conjurings: What type of response have you received from fans in terms of your character and her trademark sounds? 

MS: Some people will come up to me and do the clicking noise which I think is hilarious. A lot of people will come up to me very shocked and ask if I’m that girl from that horror movie and I’ll say yes (laughs). This one time I was at the airport and this person came up to me and said, “You look like that girl from that horror movie HEREDITARY” and I said, “Yes, I do look like that girl. A very astute observation!” (laughs)

Nightmarish Conjuring: You have spoken about how much of a horror fan you are. Have you always loved the horror genre? 

MS: I used to despise it incredibly. I kind of half-saw my first horror movie when I was around 7 because my dad and my sister were watching Pet Semetary in the other room. I started watching it at the beginning but at the part where the cat comes alive I very, very much ran away. I was hiding in the other room watching Scooby Doo, like you do, and every time there was a loud noise I would peek out, and then I got absolutely terrified of everything. When I was around 10 I came to the conclusion that if I dived really deep into all of this creepy horror stuff then maybe all the scary stuff will be more afraid of me than I am of them. That was my logic and now I love them which is a very strange logic to have.

Milly Shapiro as Charlie in HEREDITARY

Nightmarish Conjurings: What were some of the challenges you faced when bringing Charlie to life and did you find yourself doing any research to better understand her? 

MS: I did a bit of research mostly for physicality reasons. Me and Ari met four or five times before we even started filming to talk over the character because Charlie is a really complicated character and I wanted to make sure that all my ideas about her and the physicality and her movements were all okay by Ari’s standards. We would read through the script a few times and talk about the character and he was really great with helping me come to a conclusion of who the character was. By the time we started filming I was all set and ready to go.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Obviously I don’t plan on giving anything away, but was it hard to know where your character’s story was going to go? 

MS: In a way because the character doesn’t really know. Since we filmed things out of order you kind of just have to forget all the other stuff that happened which is always an interesting thing to do with filming things. You just have to realize that the character doesn’t really know anything that’s happening. It was really hard because I was used to theatre which is entirely different because everything is in order all the time. That was hard for me but once I got used to it I had a lot of fun.

Nightmarish Conjurings: What was your reaction to seeing yourself on screen once the film premiered? Is there a scene that is your favorite? 

MS: My favorite is probably the most dramatic (which takes place in a car). I hate watching myself too, so seeing it for the first time I was like “OH GOD NO PLEASE STOP TURN IT OFF” (laughs). One example was when I watched it with one of my friends who also loves horror. We are those people that laugh at things that are supposedly scary because we don’t respond to scary things anymore. The whole time she was watching [HEREDITARY] she was crying laughing and it was really funny. That’s just our relationship, we’ve been friends forever and she’s been with me my whole life and career and we used to make a bunch of really, really incredibly horrible movies as kid so she was like “Yeah, I’m happy I saw this because now I know you can actually act.” It was really funny because [the movies we made] were so incredibly bad (laughs).

Nightmarish Conjurings: In HEREDITARY you had the chance to work alongside Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, and Alex Wolff. What was it like to work so closely with them? 

MS: Everyone was really nice and I was really incredibly nervous and frightened because they were all very experienced actors and I had never done any film before. I was really freaked out but they were all really nice and welcoming. I kind of knew Alex before because we went to the same school, he was in the high school and I was in the middle school, which is kind of funny because he got to see my really bad 8th grade musical. He kept telling people about it and I was like “Please no, I don’t need to relive that, that needs to die in a corner somewhere.” It was really funny, though (laughs).

Nightmarish Conjurings: Last, but certainly not least, do you have any projects that you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future? 

MS: I just filmed a little bit of a show called Splitting Up Together and that’s going to come out soon and it’s really funny. It’s a comedy which is very different from the last thing I did (laughs).

HEREDITARY arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital September 4th.

Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, and Alex Wolff in HEREDITARY
Shannon McGrew
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