Madison Iseman has become most known for playing Bethany Walker in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and its sequel but, before she hit the film franchise jackpot with Jumanji, she carved out a space for herself in comedic sitcoms like CMT’s Still The King, ABC’s Modern Family, and Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger. Iseman stepped into the horror realm, with her role as Sarah Quinn in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween and her role as Mary Ellen in Annabelle Comes Home. Now she is stepping into horror once more with her latest role as Vivian in NOCTURNE, one of four films being released this month as a part of the WELCOME TO THE BLUMHOUSE series.
For the release of NOCTURNE, I got a chance to chat with Madison Iseman, where we discussed the amount of prep work that went into tackling the musicality of Vivian, those emotionally intense scenes with Sydney Sweeney, and how much fun the horror genre is to work in.
To start things off, can you tell me a little bit about your character from NOCTURNE?
Madison Iseman: I play Vivian and she is Juliet’s twin sister. She’s definitely the girl who has her own agenda and no one is really allowed to get between [that]. She’s super talented. She’s extremely confident. She’s the girl who everything sort of comes her way super easier. When Juliet decides she wants first place and is tired of being in her sister’s shadow, she is not very happy with that, you could say.
From what I remember from NOCTURNE, there’s a lot of sibling rivalry even though she does seem to have it all. So, I read that to prepare for the film, a few of you guys visited academies for research. Were you one of those cast members?
Madison Iseman: No, I was not but it sounds super cool. We pretty much, for what we did, I mean, obviously, we worked with a coach for hours and kind of learned how to mock play these pieces for days and hours and like hand choreography, which was really hard but pretty rewarding in the end.
How did your own musical background help or maybe even hinder you when you were doing that prep work?
Madison Iseman: Well, I actually was in orchestra in high school. I played violin. So, I was a little familiar with the classical world and the competitiveness of it. So, there was that. I played piano some when I was younger. I played guitar and ukulele, so music has always been a big part of my life. But, you know, it’s so completely the opposite of what we were doing in the movie as far as the pieces of music we were actually playing. And had to look like we were playing them for years.
I don’t know too much about piano, but what you guys were doing looked really intense.
Madison Iseman: I’m glad we sold it. It was hard. It was really hard. I’m not kidding. Hours of practice and learning these things, learning where to place our hands exactly. And, so much more than just that. It was feeling the music in your face, in your body, and what that looks like that. It was a fun new skill set to learn.
Going back to the sibling relationship, you and Sydney [Sweeney] have some really hardcore emotional scenes between each other. What prep work did you guys do to hit those various levels, especially since you guys have that more intensive twin sibling relationship?
Madison Iseman: Well, actually, we went to high school together, so we’ve been friends for years. Yeah, so that was really fun. I remember from the beginning we had our chemistry read and screen test and we found out we’d been reading together and we were like, oh great. And we were doing one of the scenes from the end of the movie, kind of where Vi gets her final word in and it’s a very emotionally exhausting scene. But, you know, there’s just another level of trust you have when you are friends already and we already had that base chemistry. So, for us to kind of just jump right into it and just go there, it made it easy. We were able to turn it off behind the scenes and goof around and just be there to support each other. But it was just fun to play. Also, when you have such a great scene partner like Sydney, as an actress it makes it really easy.
To play off that, what was it like working with Zu [Quirke]?
Madison Iseman: I mean, Zu is fantastic. This is her feature film debut. I watched some of her short films before we started and I thought they were all amazing. My first impression of her was her words. I read the script and I fell in love with the script. She’s an incredible writer. She was just very clear from the beginning of like what she wanted and I think there’s something really awesome about first-time directors as far as they aren’t really afraid to go there. They really have nothing to lose. She was just so keen on getting everything perfect and right and just making sure the audience really understood the conflict that was going on between all of these characters and their relationships. But she was fantastic to work with. She made everything really easy.
So, there’s a moment. It’s almost like a brief blink and you’ll miss it type of moment between Juliet and Dr. Cask where something pretty big gets revealed about Vivian. There’s a power balance it seems between Dr. Cask and Vivian and an abuse of power in a way. Can you touch upon that?
Madison Iseman: Yes. I mean, it’s definitely this thing. And I also love that it’s not talked about so much in the film because I do think the audience is able to come to their own terms on what exactly that was and why. Was she doing this to get on top even more than she was or were they in love? You never really know because it’s not really discussed, but it definitely creates this toxic environment straight from the beginning. You can kind of see how no one is really playing fair and there’s just some things going on that aren’t okay and wrong. Before anything goes extremely wrong, the bad was already there and I think that plays a whole other element in the story.
Especially since it sort of paints his relationship with her sister, it becomes this whole complicated thing and forces you to reevaluate why he is egging Juliet on too.
Madison Iseman: Yes. Yes. Exactly. No one is playing a fair game. At all. No one. Not the teachers. Not the students. Nobody.
You’ve done a fair amount of work in the horror genre. What is it about the genre that pulls you in and that you enjoy working in?
Madison Iseman: I’ve always just loved the horror genre and scary movies. I don’t really know why. Ever since I was a little girl, they were always my favorite movies to watch. They are also one of my favorite movies to act in. There are just really no rules. There’s always fun special effects and blood and camera tricks. I don’t know. They’ve just always been really exciting to me and fun. But I guess that’s really why.
Now I’m curious. What’s your favorite horror movie?
Madison Iseman: Of all time, probably The Shining but most recently, I’ve been obsessed with Ari Aster and everything he’s done and Hereditary just completely blew my mind. So, that’s probably the latest film I’ve seen where I’ve been all in. This year has made me really sad because I feel like usually we’re given much more scary movies. But obviously, with the climate, there’s nothing new really coming out, which is also why I’m excited to be a part of this because I think it’s the perfect time. I think everyone is hungry for some new creepy movies.
Well, I can tell you on the indie circuit, there’s been a lot coming out. So, just chill out in the Amazon Prime or Netflix section, you’ll get a lot of indie horror films.
Madison Iseman: I can’t wait. I’m very excited.
To wrap things up, what do you want people to take away from NOCTURNE?
Madison Iseman: More than anything, I just hope they have a fun time. I think it’s a really creative film. It’s original. I think it’s really unsettling. The music is horrifying. The visuals are extremely haunting and I just hope they have a hard time falling asleep at night.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
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