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Maika Monroe

Making a Name for Herself

Mar 13, 2015 Maika Monroe
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For her lead performance in writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s hair-raising horror film, It Follows, Maika Monroe isolated herself on set to adopt the mindset of a teenage girl whose days and nights are spent crying, screaming, and running for her life, haunted by nightmarish visions and the unshakeable fear that an evil, nebulous force is following her wherever she goes. Monroe plays Jay, a 19-year-old college student living in the Detroit suburbs. One night, after having sex with a young man named Hugh (Jake Weary), she finds herself tied to a chair in the middle of an abandoned building, where he explains that he’s passed along a curse to her. She will be stalked by a diabolical being, which takes on ghastly human forms, until either it kills her or she transfers the curse to someone else through sex.

It Follows arrives on the heels of Adam Wingard‘s 2014 thriller, The Guest, where Monroe also played a young woman in peril, earning her the moniker of scream queen. Before she began making movies full-time, Monroe was a ranked competitive freestyle kiteboarder. She was in the midst of a tour when she landed her first major film role as Zac Efron’s girlfriend in At Any Price, Ramin Bahrani’s 2012 heartland drama. That was followed by parts in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and Jason Reitman’s Labor Day. At the beginning of this year, Monroe finished shooting the big-budget alien invasion film, The 5th Wave, adapted from Rick Yancey’s young adult novel. The film, due next year, also stars Chloë Grace Moretz. Monroe plays Ringer, a character she that describes as badass.

Chris Tinkham (Under the Radar): What were your thoughts about It Follows when you first read the script?

Maika Monroe: Very odd. It was a different story, and I didn’t how it was going to translate into a movie or how audiences would take it. But I saw David’s previous film [The Myth of the American Sleepover] and style, and after seeing that, it made more sense to me.

Did you experience any lingering effects from working on this film, such as weird dreams or difficulty coming out of the role?

[Laughs] Yeah, I remember once we were done filming, I think I slept for three days straight, just trying to detox because it was very intense. You don’t realize how hard it is to make a horror movie, especially something like this, where every day is so intense, and you’re whole time schedule changes ‘cause you’re sleeping all day and you’re working all night. It was not easy to come back from it. It took some time. There were definitely nightmares once I got back home.

What kind of nightmares?

Disfigured people and stuff like that. Oh yeah, ‘cause there are very disturbing-looking people [in the movie]. It takes a week or so for my mind to take in all in, and then I start having nightmares of things, whether it’s a movie I’ve seen or something that happened. It takes a couple weeks for my mind to process it, and then it gets to torture me with nightmares. There are some that I remember very specifically that make no sense; I couldn’t even explain to you what happens, but I can picture it in my head. And then there are some where I wake up in the morning, and it takes me a couple hours, or I see something that reminds me, “Oh yeah, that’s what my dream was about.”

Do you have any irrational fears?

I don’t know. I really don’t like bugs, and I think that’s irrational.

Does your athletic background help when making a film like this?

Oh yeah. [Laughs] Some of the harder stuff was the pool scene. We were shooting that for three days in a swimming pool. And it’s not a heated, warm swimming pool. It’s cold, and you’re getting pulled underneath the water, and you have to do it so many times because David is very specific in what he wants. So a lot of times, with certain takes, something wouldn’t line up exactly the way he wanted. It took several times with that kind of stuff, being pulled under and held underneath the water. All that was definitely challenging, but having an athletic background helped so much.

What were the high and low points of your kiteboarding career?

I would say both in the same event. I was going to one of my first world competitions, competing against some of the top girls, and I was so excited. I had been living in the Dominican Republic, training for about seven months. Then I booked a movie [At Any Price], so I went to film, and then I came back and trained for two weeks, and then I wanted to compete. So I went to New Caledonia, which is an island off of Australia, so it’s very far. I was so excited, and I’m with all the top kiteboarders in the world, and the day before the competition, I cracked my head open training. [Laughs] It was such a bummer. I was so bummed that it happened. So that’s kind of hand in hand, best and worst.

The best thing being that you booked the film?

No. Sorry, I’m just focusing on kiteboarding. Were you focusing on—

No, I just missed what was the best part. Being eligible to compete?

Oh yeah, going.

What was the name of that competition?

It’s the world tour, the PKRA. It’s the biggest completion in kiteboarding. It travels all around the world.

Are you an adrenaline seeker?

Oh yeah. [Laughs]

What else do you do to get your thrills?

Actually, next weekend I’m going skydiving for the first time. I’m quite excited about that. I think I got this from my dad. We take a lot of trips to places, usually involving sports. We went to Chile when I was younger to go skiing in the Andes. For me, traveling is a huge part of my life, and experiencing all of that is really important. Yeah, in between working.

It Follows has an ‘80s vibe to it, and The Guest had ‘80s music in it. With you being born in the ‘90s, what’s your perspective on the ‘80s?

[Laughs] I don’ t know what my perspective is.

It’s just this other world?

Yeah. To be honest, going into The Guest and It Follows, I had an idea of what we were making, but I didn’t know the soundtrack or the feel. I didn’t know the extent, [before] seeing it all put together, that it was going to be such a throwback. And both [movies] too, which is so bazaar, that they came back-to-back, and how’s there’s comparisons between the two with the music and the soundtrack. It was just by chance.

What music have you been listening to as of late?

I really like Blood Orange. Vic Mensa’s cool. I also really like old school. INXS is amazing. And The Who. That kind of stuff is what I’m listening to right now.

Do you sing?

No. Terrible at singing, just awful.

What about karaoke?

If I’m singing with someone. I had a terrible experience with karaoke. I was in the Dominican Republic. It was just so embarrassing. I was like, “I’m just never going to do this again. I shouldn’t.” It does more damage than good I think, me singing.

What was the song?

It was “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani. Yeah, it was just bad all around. [Laughs]

What would be your dream role?

Right now, I’m thinking that a superhero would be kinda awesome to play. I just finished on The 5th Wave, where I get to play this super kick-ass girl, and there was a lot of training involved. So, I think there would be something really fun about bringing a superhero to life. That’s kinda what I’m thinking, at least.

What else can you tell me about The 5th Wave and your part in it?

We finished at the beginning of this year. I’m used to these indie movies, and this is the first big studio [film for me]. It’s a very different pace. I love the character so much, and I got to completely transform my look. You don’t even recognize me. I have black hair. It almost looks like an anime character. I’m just excited for people to see it, because I don’t think anyone’s seen me like this before.

What kind of predicament is your character in?

She’s brought into a squad to be their trainer, basically an army squad. They aren’t doing very well, so she’s brought in to bring them up, because she’d kind of badass. She’s a great marksman.

What’s your character’s relationship to Chloë‘s character?

Her younger brother’s in a squad with me, so she’s trying to come find us. It’s this kind of intertwining story.

Who were your heroes growing up?

Growing up, I didn’t ever want to be an actress, or I never thought of it as a career. But when I was about 13, 14, is when I kind of fell into it and paid more attention I guess to the industry. Maybe it’s cliché, but I remember always looking up to Angelina Jolie because there’s something very refreshing about her and what she does. Celebrities obviously are making good money, and people donate, but there’s something about her where she’s hands-on and she goes to a place. She’s not just, “Oh, here’s my money.” She’s there to make a difference, but she’s part of it, making a difference with her own two hands. I think that’s so important. Yeah, you can donate money, it’s easy when you’ve got it. But when you’re actually involved and making a change yourself, is very important when you have the power like her. I have such respect for that, I guess.

How did your parents choose your name?



My mom lived in Spain for three years, and one of her best friends there was named Maika. But actually I was born with the name Dillon. My mom, when she was pregnant, was deciding between Maika and Dillon. And so, a week before I was born, she said, “OK, if it’s a girl, Dillon.” My birth certificate said Dillon. It was probably first or second grade, I was asking my mom if there was any other name she was going to name me, and she said Maika was another one. And I was like, “That’s my name. I want that to be my name.” So, in first grade, I went around to all my teachers and said that I’m no longer responding to Dillon, and now I’m Maika. And, you know, went to the principal, went to my neighbors and told them, “I’m Maika now.” And my mom thought, “Oh yeah, that’s good. Go for it,” thinking this will last for a week. Right? And it stuck ever since. Now I’m Maika. [Laughs]

Was there any significance to the name Dillon?

She always really liked a masculine name with a girl. Even for me, I love the name Dillon. And if I had a girl, I’d even think about naming her Dillon. It’s such a cool name for a girl. But, for whatever reason, Maika just fit me more. I think I liked it because no one else had it. No one had the name Maika, the spelling, so I liked it.

How did you get involved with the Bad Blood films?

[Laughs] Yeah, it just kinda happened by chance. I grew up doing dance, and a production company contacted the dance studio that I was with and said we need young background dancers for a film. So, initially, I was just an extra. At the time, I was thinking, “Oh OK, whatever, sounds fun.” And then I remember being on set and just loving the whole process of making a movie. I was on set all of the time. I was probably 13, and I got to know the director really well, and so he ended up writing me into the script. Super-small part, but that was kind of the start of everything. So I became SAG eligible, got an agent and manager from that, and then slowly started auditioning.

Are you filming anything right now?

Coming up, I start The Tribes of Palos Verdes. So I have a moment to breathe, and then I start up again.

Do you have to travel for that?

No, it actually shoots here, which I’m so happy about.

In Palos Verdes?

We’re shooting a lot probably in Malibu and some exterior in Palos Verdes. Yeah, I’m excited.

How do you feel about the term scream queen?

Scream queen? [Laughs] I mean, it’s pretty awesome. It’s exciting. It’s cool to see the history with it. I like it a lot.

It Follows opens today, Friday the 13th, in New York and Los Angeles. Visit the film’s website for upcoming opening dates and cities.


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