Ari Aster’s directorial debut “Hereditary” was critically renowed for it’s realistic portrayal of familial trauma, terrifying conclusions and top-notch gut wrenching performances from the core cast members. Both Alex Wolff and Milly Shaprio excelled as the Graham siblings, delivering iconic horror performances that will more than likely go down in the genre’s history.
Screamish was more than excited to get to speak with Milly Shapiro, who played the deceptively timid demon Paimon / Charlie and more recently was a guest judge on the sickening horror focused competitive drag reality series Dragula. For those who haven’t seen “Hereditary”, spoilers follow – (Also: why the hell have you waited this long to see one of the best horror movies ever?)
SCREAMISH: Happy belated Halloween! Did you get up to anything demonic or interesting last night?
Milly Shapiro: I mostly hung out with friends and just, you know – it’s spooky season! Decorated my place thoroughly and celebrated at home.
SCREAMISH: We are huge fans of drag and Boulet Brothers’ Dragula! You were an incredible judge and I wanted to know how you were approached to be a guest judge – and if there’s anything you can tell us about being behind the scenes?
Milly: Well, I was asked to be a judge after going to their Halloween show last year and absolutely loved it and freaked out and tweeted and posted about it. They saw my tweet and reached out and asked and I freaked out so much – cause’ it’s the Boulet Brothers – and they’re asking ME to do something. I was so excited, and when I went to judge, I was super nervous because I’d never done anything like that before. And so it was totally out of what I’m used to doing. But when I saw everyone’s floor show and their looks, I was like oh god – this is gunna be so hard. Everyone this season was SO good. It was hard to find critiques. After shooting I got to meet everyone participating and all the crew and honestly – everyone involved are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Some of the contestants even gave me gifts, and I was like you didn’t have to do this! They’re just the best people. They’re all so talented too.
SCREAMISH: It’s an art form that’s very popular now. But until these reality shows like Drag Race and Dragula no one really got to appreciate it on a bigger level. One of my friends from Toronto – Yovska was one of the contestants, and although she didn’t get far in the competition – did an incredible job, it was amazing to get to see her and her creations on TV.
Milly: I actually got to meet her because she wasn’t there when I recorded the episode. But I did go to LA for the premiere and met her there! She was so nice and it was so great because then I got to meet all the people that didn’t make it that far. And that’s why it’s just so amazing. They are all so talented. And it was just a refreshing and wonderful environment to be in.
I used to hate horror as a kid and I used to be scared of everything. But then, I decided that I would just become spookier than everything else. Then the scary things would be scared of me – Milly Shapiro
SCREAMISH: Back to the horror side of things – Are you a fan of the genre?
Milly: I am! I used to hate horror as a kid and I used to be scared of everything. But then, I decided that I would just become spookier than everything else. Then the scary things would be scared of me, and then it would be fine. Then I got really into horror and dove headfirst into it. I watched a ton of horror movies and realized I could make all these dark jokes and now I love horror. It’s such an underrated genre. If you really look at it closer – it shows you how humans react in certain situations, to the fullest extent. So it’s very interesting to watch.
SCREAMISH: Before Hereditary, I don’t think a lot of people know that you were a stage actress. Can you tell your fans / followers more about your career before Charlie?
Milly: I started in Theater, I was in Matilda on Broadway as one of the Matildas. When it first opened, which was a crazy experience. It was actually my first audition – so that never happens. So, it was all very exciting! I got to go to the Tonys and the Grammys and actually got a Tony honoree for excellence in theatre, which is amazing. It was such a great experience, especially for a first job.
…it (“Hereditary”) was so well written – that’s the one thing that I remember, is reading it and I could see every shot happening like I was watching the movie. It’s like I could see it and knew I wanted to be in it. – Milly Shapiro
SCREAMISH: Miss Trunchbull scared the shit out of me when I was younger – Huge fan of Matilda. For Hereditary – Did you audition or did Ari approach you?
Milly: I auditioned. I got the audition when I was walking home from school one day and I freaked out because it was my first horror movie audition. I have this thing that my mom and family do where we write down goals in this book called a five-year book. So if you want to do something in five years you write it down and then focus on trying to make it happen. One of the things that I had just written down was ‘be in a horror movie’, and I’d never wanted to be in a horror movie as the person that was getting scared or as the victim. I always either wanted to be be a neutral side party of the one doing the scaring. And with Charlie, I kind of got to do a bit of everything, so it was really exciting. I stayed home from school for a day or so – to get into character. And I think I read the script three times before I even went into audition because I was just so excited. And it was so well written – that’s the one thing that I remember, is reading it and I could see every shot happening like I was watching the movie. It’s like I could see it and knew I wanted to be in it.
SCREAMISH: Do you ever get bothered or sick of talking about Hereditary and portraying Charlie / Paimon?
Milly: I don’t think I’ll ever get sick about talking about Hereditary because it’s just such a great film. And even if I wasn’t in it, I would always want to talk about it, because it went in a different direction that horror does a lot and the characters felt like real people. They had their flaws, they had their goals they had whet they wanted and didn’t. Charlies as a character is a lot more complex than you think. And there’s so much going on because she’s really Paimon – this demon.
SCREAMISH: ‘She’ is multiple beings.
Milly: Yeah – So you have to figure out how much is there of ‘her’. Because it’s been there her whole life. So then what is her and what isn’t her? How does she think? Is their thought process different? You really have to dive into what her thought process is like, which you don’t really have to do oas much with other characters because usually you’ll audition for characters that have similarities to you. But I didn’t have too many similarities to Charlie, so it was hard, But Ari was really great to work with and we really had a lot of meetings to try and figure out who the character really was. And it was a really fun process because you were getting to talk directly with the person that creative the character about what your idea was, who they were, and are. And it was just an incredible experience overall.
SCREAMISH: Did you or Ari develop the famous cluck noise?
Milly: It was in the script. So it was there the whole time. But we did have, like, a 30 minute meeting, just figuring out what exactly that sound would sound like, because there’s so many different ways you can make, a clucking sound. So it took us probably a bit too long to figure out the perfect one, but it was fine I think we found a nice sound. It sounds natural and nice.
SCREAMISH: I read in another interview that you wanted to keep the decapitated Charlie prop head. Did that ever end up happening?
Milly: It sadly didn’t but I really wanted it to. I really just wanted to, like, keep it, on my center table, and or just leave it in random places. And if anyone pointed it out, just, refuse to acknowledge it: like on a bookshelf. Someone’s asks “What’s that on your bookshelf?” I’ll be like, “Oh, you mean that book? it’s just a really great book I just read recently and da-da-da-da”, and they’re like “no no the head!”, and you’re like “What? What head? I don’t know what you’re talking about”. I feel like that would be just, the pinnacle of comedy. It was going to be a great thing to do and make all my friends weirded out. But I guess I’ll just have to find another decapitated head of mine.
SCREAMISH: Are you interested in taking on other horror or darker projects or looking to broaden your spectrum of performances?
Milly: I want to get the whole spectrum. I definitely want to revisit horror, for sure, but I might want to do something different first. Just because you don’t want to get, stuck in one thing and doing different kinds of roles is a great way to expand your repertoire. And I always like doing things that I’ve never done before because it’s, this whole new pressure of doing something you’ve never done before. But then when you can actually do it and have a whole team of people helping you to get to the best point. It’s just like so fulfilling to have played Charlie. I’d never done anything like that before. And so then getting to do it and having people like it and me be happy with my performance. It’s just, so fulfilling because half the time you don’t think you’ll be able to do it. So just getting to have an end result that you stand behind and have a bunch of things that you can try out is always amazing.
As a kid, I would always find any excuse to really fancy frilly dresses – even if it was just going to the grocery store. So when I saw Lolita Fashion I was like oh my god – I WANT TO DO THAT! – Milly Shapiro
SCREAMISH: Pivoting away from horror for a moment – Wanted to ask you how you got into Gothic Lolita Fashion? And what are the best places online to buy some of your amazing looks?
Milly: It’s definitely hard to find. I get all of mine online. I started watching a lot of horror anime and got interested in Japanese culture and Manga because their storylines are so different than ours. It’s a whole different experience in storytelling and in the art itself too. I somehow, I don’t remember exactly how, but I ran into Lolita fashion and I was instantly grabbed. As a kid, I would always find any excuse to real fancy frilly dresses – even if it was just going to the grocery store. So when I saw Lolita Fashion I was like oh my god – I WANT TO DO THAT! I started off wearing mostly Sweet Lolita and now I’m doing more Gothic with a mix of Sweet because it’s still very cute. I buy mine mostly from Angelic Pretty & Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. The only downside being most Lolita outfits are quite expensive. So it’s definitely not the easiest fashion to get into.
SCREAMISH: Last but not least! What would you consider your favourite horror, sci-fi, action slash genre film?
Milly: I feel like it changes every time I get asked! I love the classics – The Exorcist, The Shining and movies like that. And I feel like The Shining is the one I always go back to as my favourite. But my favourite movie watching experience was probably with the Insidious movies – because I watched them with my sister when I was first getting back into horror and they always freaked me out. But watching them with my her and having that experience of being scared together was actually really fun and got me back into the genre, so for that reason I feel like they’re always going to be some of my favourites too.
SCREAMISH: Before I let you go – Can we get a famous Charlie cluck?
Milly: Of course – Here it is – *CLUCK*
SCREAMISH: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us! And even though it’s over – Happy spooky season!
Milly: Spooky season will live on