FrightFest: Maika Monroe on The Guest, It Follows, horror and finding interesting female roles

Despite a starring role in Ramin Bahrani‘s At Any Price and supporting roles in Labor Day and The Bling RingMaika Monroe isn’t a well-known name to many. But following her excellent performances in both The Guest and It Follows, a pair of highly entertaining new horror pictures, and a role in upcoming YA adaptation The 5th Wave, I strongly suspect we’ll be talking about her more and more.

Monroe was in the UK this past week for the UK premiere of The Guest and I was lucky enough to speak to her. Here’s what she had to say about The Guest and It Follows, and why she likes horrorBut first, Monroe filled me in on her first acting role, in 2006 picture Bad Blood.

[Bad Blood] was literally what started my acting career. I had literally no interest. I enjoyed plays and stuff like that, I grew up dancing, but it never interested me. And then I was with a dance company, I was about thirteen, and a production company contacted the dance company I was with and needed young kids as background dancers for this little film. It was my chance and I remember walking on set and being like, “Oh my God!” and just fascinated with the whole process of it.

Being thirteen and seeing how a movie was made, let alone a horror movie with all the fake blood and this and that. I got to know the director really well because I would always be on set watching everything. So he ended up writing me into the script. Just one line, saying something stupid, like ‘yes’, ‘no’ or something. But then you become SAG eligible and that kind of started the whole process of getting an agent… Horror did it.

It was so interesting because I read it [The Guest script] knowing Dan [Stevens] was attached and I thought it was interesting throwing Dan into this from Downton Abbey. And then I had watched You’re Next and kind of fell in love with the style. I put all the pieces together, you know, Adam [Wingard] and Simon [Barrett]… This is gonna be something cool.

Adam had such a specific idea of what he wanted, which I love, having complete faith in a director. He and I really worked off each other, creating a character that would work well off what Dan was bringing, this kind of dry sense of humour. It was quite fun working with him and creating this girl.

I met them [Adam and Simon] through the audition process. I met them the first time I went into read. They are just very bizarre, very unique human beings. [laughs]. We just got along so well. We’re working together to create this story with Adam down to the wardrobe, the jewellery, the colours how he wants it. It’s fascinating to watch, how specific the detail is.

Horror is something that I definitely wanted to try out. As an actor it’s fun to explore different things. Even though the The Guest and It Follows are very different styles, different characters. That’s why I love my job, you get to explore so many different lives in one.

It is a coincidence that they [The Guest and It Follows] happened back to back. I mean, I grew up loving horror. The Shining was one of my all time favourites, that my dad showed me when I was quite young, and then I remember in middle school my friends and I at sleepovers would rent five movies and just watch them back to back at night. Nightmare on Elm Street was a very popular one, that I loved. Because it absolutely terrified me, I didn’t want to go to sleep. I hadn’t really done the horror genre. Exploring that for a little while was kind of fun. It is a very fun genre. It’s intense. The shoots are very intense but it’s quite exciting.

They [Adam and Simon] are hysterical. It was very important to them that this wasn’t some super serious thing, but to have some of the comedic timing it has to be, you have to play it serious… Working off Dan, I’m crying and he’s making some joke. It’s hysterical. It’s interesting playing between the two. Playing off each other.

In horror movies, like with It Follows and The Guest, you get these characters that start in one place and end in another. That’s the coolest, where you see an arc, a change from the start and you become someone different because you’ve gone through hell and back. To see that in such drastic measures, pushed to the limits, and exploring that is very intense on set. Especially in It Follows. Which is very, very dark. But to push yourself to those places is very interesting, as an actor. I think it’s good to do that.

I read a lot of scripts and a lot of the time there’s no interest. The first thing I look at is the role. Is this interesting? Is this something I want to do and you have to fall in love with some part of that character? It can be an evil person but you still have to love something in that or you can’t do it, I think. There’s a lot of just plain female roles that I have no interest in. I don’t need to do that. I love my job and I don’t want to be bored on set.

I think I’ll take a break from horror because it’s been very intense. I need a moment to relax and explore some different things. I have some very different things coming up. Bokeh is a film that I shot in Iceland. Nothing to do with horror. Kind of an apocalyptic thing, but a very real look at what you [would] go through. And then I have The 5th Wave coming up which is very cool. I play a badass, which is going to be amazing.

The 5th Wave is following in The Hunger Games kind of way, of a trilogy of books, and the role that I play is very cool. I’m really excited about that. I begin training in a couple of weeks. Then we’ll see. It’s exciting.

Thanks again to Maika Monroe for her time. The Guest received its UK premiere at FrightFest this weekend and will be released in UK cinemas on the 5th of September, and then in the US on the 17th of September.