It’s undeniable that Mike Flanagan‘s 2018 The Haunting of Hill House was a success, and that was, in part, due to the amazing cast. The series had a talent choosing their members of the Crain family both as adults and as children. It should come to no surprise then that The Haunting of Bly Manor is just as successful when it comes to a perfect cast.
In 2018, Julian Hilliard and Violet McGraw captured our hearts as the endearingly sweet younger versions of twins Luke and Nell Crain. This year, we have Benjamin Evan Ainsworth and Amelie Bea Smith as the perfectly splendid Miles and Flora Wingrave.
“My favorite days were when I was working with Ben and Amelie,” T’Nia Miller (“Hannah Grose”) gushed. “They were just such troopers. These kids not only knew their lines. They knew your lines!” When speaking with the cast of Bly Manor, the actors had nothing but good things to say about one another. Victoria Pedretti (“Dani Clayton”) praised Ainsworth and Smith for their talent and generosity, saying, “They are creative beyond just their acting talents and I got a lot of beautiful things that they made in class. [It] was always a treat. Sometimes I would find things on my chair, all of us did, they were so generous.”
She continued, “They taught me so much. Just being able to talk through everything and how open and honest they were. We cultivated trust between each other. It was a real gift. I was nervous to work with kids because there’s kind of this thing in the industry [for] people [who] work at a really young age, that it’s like really damaging and I don’t want them to have that experience. I want them to feel safe in the environment and that this is an experience that can enrich in their lives and their futures.”
Indeed, both Ainsworth and Smith were able to cultivate a new group of friends and grew close with one another while playing the Wingrave siblings. Smith said, “Well, I got you know Ben very well, he’s so much fun and I learned a lot from him. We used to have Friday sleepovers. We spent the weekends together and we practiced together.”
Ainsworth added, “Basically we were the best buds out there in Vancouver, Canada.”
This is the first time both young actors have worked with Mike Flanagan and the two had nothing but good words for the creator. “He has so much energy,” Ainsworth raved. “He encourages creativity and encourages ideas. Just amazing to work with. Such an amazing guy. He respects children’s ability as much as adults, and gives them the amount of freedom as he gives adults on set, which I think is really good.”
“He was so cool to work with, he likes things being done lots of different ways,” Smith agreed. “He’s amazing.”
Of course, with young actors on the set of a horror story, some of the scarier elements of the series could not even be shared with them. Smith admitted, “I still don’t know the whole story, but I’m not allowed to watch all of it when it comes out because I think I’ll be scared. But, I did have to still ask a few questions about how I should play this [scene] in the first bit because I didn’t know much about it.”
But, even time spent on a horror series set can be fun, especially with younger cast members. “He helped me and Ben do our pranks,” Amelie recalled. Flanagan sat the two young actors down on the steps of the Bly Manor set and helped them plan their pranks.
“So we gave a sour sweet to everyone on set, and their reactions were so funny,” Ainsworth remembered with a laugh.
“We gave it to them innocently like, ‘Do you want a sweet?’ and they were so sour!” exclaimed Smith.
With such a dense and dark story, it seems some levity is needed behind-the-scenes, even as Ainsworth and Smith give standout performances as both creepy and charming siblings. Pedretti commended Ainsworth, Smith, and Miler for their ability to embrace both sides of the coin when it came to the dark and the light.
“We have all of these things where we teach ourselves not to not to get too silly especially in a professional environment. But when we’re acting, especially doing this dark material, we have to maintain a sense of buoyancy and lightness within the work, because we are playing after all,” she explained. “It isn’t real life, it is magic that we’re creating.”
The Haunting of Bly Manor streams October 9th, 2020 on Netflix.