Interview: Milly Shapiro on Her Breakout Role in ‘Hereditary’

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Milly Shapiro as Charlie in A24's Hereditary (Photo via IMDb)

Milly Shapiro has been having the time of her life since she landed the role of Charlie in Hereditary.

Though she’s had a serious background in theater and stage work, the film was her first, and she sat down with iHorror recently to chat about her experiences making the film and the doors that are opening in the wake of its success.

**Author’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for Hereditary. You have been warned!

“I didn’t think I would actually make the transition from stage to film until much later,” the actress explained. “because it’s very hard for theater actors to transition to film. When it happened I was so excited. It’s always been my dream to be in a horror film.”

The actress, who recalled telling her mother she’d do whatever it took to be in the film including cutting her head off for real if she needed to, was overjoyed when she got the call to let her know she’d been cast.

Her character, Charlie, was different than anyone she’d ever played before, but the young actress had other worries as well, as she approached the film. Those worries were named Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, and Alex Wolff.

“I was really excited because I was getting to work with all of these amazing actors but I was also really nervous because I was a noob so I didn’t really know what to expect or think,” Shapiro laughed. “They were all really nice and welcoming, though, and that took the nerves away.”

And then there was the character of Charlie, herself, to consider. Of all the characters in the film, Charlie was perhaps the most enigmatic, and Shapiro was eager to discuss her method of building Charlie in her mind and how she came to understand her throughout filming.

“I use the Stella Adler method of acting which means that I create the character outside of myself and when the director calls action, I could step into character and when he says ‘cut’ I can flip the switch and step right back out,” Shapiro explained. “[Charlie] doesn’t think the same way everyone else does. She works a lot on natural instinct so really, creating the character was much harder than letting her go.”

Director Ari Aster pulled off a bit of a coup in the advertising campaign for Hereditary using misdirection so that people watching the trailers thought Charlie was the central focus of the film when in fact, she dies barely halfway into its run time. It was a move worthy of Hitchcock, himself, and Shapiro says watching audience reactions to her untimely death has been some of the most fun she’s had in the process.

“My best screening experience was the second screening at Sundance,” she said. “We were all in these sort of bleachers watching the film and I could hear people dropping things and jumping in their seats and it was so much fun! That was part of Ari’s brilliance, though, because you think that Charlie is the focus and then when she dies you’re not sure where to look.”

Still, experiencing the audience reactions hasn’t quite gotten the actress over her reluctance to watch herself on the big screen.

“I hate watching myself,” she laughed. “I love the acting part, but when it comes to the watching part I’m like, ‘No, thank you!'”

People have begun recognizing her when she’s out and about with family, now, and that’s added a whole new layer of excitement and admitted awkwardness on the actress’ part when fans approach her. She says it’s a bit of a shock, but mostly because the film wasn’t, in the beginning, meant to be a big release.

“When I first signed on it was a small indie film, and no one knew if many people would see it at all or how big it would end up being,” Shapiro said. “So it’s always a bit funny now that people approach me about it and some will say ‘Aren’t you the girl in that horror movie’ but others are like ‘You look like that girl in that horror movie’ and I just sort of laugh and reply, ‘Yeah I do look like her!'”

She loves the experience, though, and she wants everyone to know that it’s perfectly safe to approach!

“I promise they won’t have a pigeon head thrown at them or anything like that,” she said, once again sharing her exuberant and infectious laugh with me.

Hereditary releases on Blu Ray and DVD today, and is also available on digital and Video on Demand! Check out the trailer below and keep your eyes peeled for Shapiro in the future. The actress says she has other offers rolling in and she’s ready for the next big move.

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