Regardless of how you feel about Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Doctor Sleep out this Friday, there’s no denying that young newcomer Kyliegh Curran is pretty amazing as Abra Stone, the young girl who has so much power she might prove to be a match for Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose the Hat and her gang of power vampires.
At just 13 years old, Kyliegh stars in Stephen King’s The Shining, based on the 2013 book of the same name, as only her second movie appearance ever, and it’s quite a role that allows to show off a lot of different sides of her character, working opposite Ewan McGregor (as the older Danny Torrance) and Ferguson. Curran also appeared on Broadway as the young Nala in Disney’s The Lion King, but that surely wasn’t a character with as much depth as Abra Stone.
The Beat got on the phone with Ms. Curran a couple weeks back for the following interview, and learned that Curran has an unbelievable amount of energy and excitement.
THE BEAT: I really liked the movie, and you were great in it. I was surprised that this is only your second movie ever. Did you ever do any other acting like in commercials?
Kyliegh Curran: Well, no, I did theater.
THE BEAT: How did this come your way, and what did you have to do for your audition?
Curran: It was a really long process, and very unexpected. My first audition was at least ten pages long, and I rushed to send it in. I did not like what I sent in, but about a month later, I got a call back, which is super-unexpected. I spent two days with my acting coach working on the character, and on Abra and Dan’s connection. I sent it in and felt much better about it. About a week later, the director called my Mom and said, “Hey, we would love Kyliegh to come in and read with Mr. Ewan.” I got so nervous that I was shaking. When I went into read, though, everyone was super-sweet and so nice. I really appreciated that, and I had a lot of fun reading with them, and then I booked it!
THE BEAT: Yeah, I’ve interviewed Ewan a few times, and he’s very nice and down-to-earth and nothing like you might expect from a superstar actor.
Curran: Yeah, he’s super-sweet.
THE BEAT: Had you ever seen The Shining or read the books or anything like that? Did you have any reference at all?
Curran: Before the call-back, I hadn’t, but right before the last audition, I watched The Shining with my Dad. I’ve watched it four times now.
THE BEAT: Wow. I think I might have first seen it about when I was your age or maybe a little older, but that movie was so scary, and I think I saw it on TV, so probably the scariest parts were edited out. Are you a horror movie fan in general?
Curran: Yes, I love horror. (laughs)
THE BEAT: What was your first impression when you first saw The Shining?
Curran: I was terrified. I was hiding behind my Dad’s back the whole time. I was closing my eyes, and I was asking him, “Is it over yet?”
THE BEAT: It’s pretty intense, and I think I had read the book beforehand, too. Did you read Doctor Sleep to see if you could get more about Abra from it?
Curran: Yeah, I read some of the book, just to get a better grip on Abra, because it’s sort of her origin story.
THE BEAT: What were you able to take from the book that you might not have known from reading the script?
Curran: I definitely learned more about her personality and her relationship with her parents, definitely about her family, about her powers. I feel like in the book, a lot of her power is more shown, but I’m excited to see people’s reactions to her on the big screen.
THE BEAT: There are a lot of intense moments in Doctor Sleep, so was there anything that was as intense doing them as they were for us watching them?
Curran: Definitely some of the vision scenes where Abra is seeing “Baseball Boy” (played by Jacob Tremblay) – it was hard sometimes to get into that dark mentality. I watched the scene, and I felt much better about it once I watched it. It was definitely a super hard scene to watch, so I did not enjoy it but I needed to watch it to be able to play the scene better.
THE BEAT: So director Mike Flanagan had already shot that scene with Jacob and Rebecca beforehand?
THE BEAT: I haven’t spoken to him about this movie, but it’s interesting that you have your own section, Ewan has his, and then there’s Rebecca’s part until you eventually meet up. I wondered how he decided what order to shoot them in. How long into the movie was it before you started doing your scenes with Ewan or Rebecca?
Curran: I started out shooting with Mr. Ewan, actually. My first scene was with Mr. Ewan, and it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t until later when we started doing independent scenes.
THE BEAT: What was your first scene with him?
Curran: It was in Covington, and we were shooting the Abra and Dan meet scene.
THE BEAT: Was this whole movie shot in England?
Curran: It’s shot in Atlanta.
THE BEAT: I couldn’t really tell because the story takes place across the country. Where are you from originally?
Curran: I’m from Atlanta! I was filming in my backyard! (laughs)
THE BEAT: That’s crazy. Was that just a complete coincidence or was Mike looking for young actors in Atlanta from the beginning and that’s how you knew about it?
Curran: I was very happy, because we did not want to move.
THE BEAT: Did you always know it was shooting in your area or was that just a coincidence that you heard about it?
Curran: I didn’t know that we were shooting in my area. We knew it was going to be shooting in Georgia, but we didn’t know where. They specified around the second call-back.
THE BEAT: I liked Abra’s room in the movie, because there’s so many cool posters on the walls and all kinds of stuff. Curran: Oh, yeah. I loved Abra’s room!
THE BEAT: Were you able to throw out some ideas of things you liked yourself to include or did they just do that on their own and it looked really cool?
Curran: Yes, yes. I loved all the Ruby posters and the figurines and the art supplies. I actually drew in her room a lot in between scenes. It was so much fun.
THE BEAT: So you’re an Anime fan?
Curran: Yes, I love Anime!
THE BEAT: I saw all that stuff on the walls and wondered if they’d let you pick some things, because it is very much part of Abra’s personality.
Curran: Yeah, I actually told them that I liked Ruby, and then they put that in her room, and I freaked out! (laughs)
THE BEAT: Did you get to keep any of that stuff? No, probably not…
Curran: Well, no, sadly… I really wanted to keep a lot of the figurines, but they took it down to quickly.
THE BEAT: You don’t have any actual scenes with Jacob Tremblay, but did you get to meet him?
Curran: Yeah, I did. For about a day, we played with puzzles and played card games. He’s super-fun.
THE BEAT: He’s obviously a young actor who has been doing a lot of movies, and I wondered if you met him. Did you have questions for any of the other actors about the business.
Curran: No, we really just played games. We didn’t really talk about the movie.
THE BEAT: What are your aspirations after this movie? Do you want to continue to work and act or do you have to balance that with school and other normal life stuff?
Curran: I definitely want to keep doing horror. I’m shooting a paranormal-slash-mystery Disney Channel series in February. [Note: It’s called Sulphur Springs, and it takes place in a haunted hotel.] Once I start high school, I’m going to keep really focused on my school work, but I do hope to balance school with acting.
THE BEAT: If you had a choice of movie to see, what would be your favorite kind of movie to watch? Horror?
Curran: Definitely horror. I love horror and sci-fi.
THE BEAT: So what’s your favorite horror movie of all time?
Curran: Us. That’s so good, and then It. They’re so good. I only love the pronoun movies.
THE BEAT: I spoke to Chloe Moretz a bunch of years ago, maybe when she was your age or younger, and she wasn’t allowed to see any of the movies she appeared in.
Curran: Wow. Oh, dear.
THE BEAT: I assume you’ll be allowed to see Doctor Sleep. Was there already a premiere?
Curran: The premiere’s on Tuesday but I saw the movie in August. I can’t wait to see it all put together, though, because it wasn’t fully finished.
THE BEAT: Let me see if I have any other questions. I guess older actors take a lot longer to answer questions.
Curran: I came prepared!
Doctor Sleep hits theaters nationwide on Friday, November 8, with previews in many places on Thursday night. You can read The Beat‘s review here.