If you've seen Netflix's stunning horror series The Haunting of Hill House, you know that there's no denying the impact of the five young stars that portray the Crain family in the flashbacks. Each of the fresh-faced powerhouses single-handedly tell us what we need to know about their older counterpart's tortured past, and their performances fit right in with the TV veterans they star alongside, from Timothy Hutton to Elizabeth Reaser, and Henry Thomas to Carla Gugino. In fact, two of the show's youngest actors, Violet McGraw and Julian Hilliard, who play twins Nell and Luke on the show, might be on the brink of becoming the two most recognizable new faces of TV—even since 'Hill House', McGraw has been cast as a series regular on HBO/Cinemax's upcoming series Jett, and Hilliard in the Jocelyn DeBoer-directed film Greener Grass. We spoke with the pair about their breakout roles on the show and their favorite memories from filming. Listen in...
Hannah Loesch: You’re both still very young, so first I have to ask how much of the show you were allowed to see.
Julian Hilliard: Pretty much all my scenes! I’ve seen some other scenes, too, but I mostly watched my scenes.
Violet McGraw: My mom and dad let me watch most of the scenes I was in. I didn’t watch all of it. But I did watch a lot because I wanted to show my family all the hidden ghosts.
Cailin Loesch: When you were on set, did you ever feel scared? Or was it scarier when you watched it on TV?
Violet: It was definitely more scary watching it on screen. I think the music and the way the camera moved around made it scarier to watch. Being on set isn’t scary because you have so many people in the room with you and you get used to seeing all the ghosts and all the cool makeup.
Julian: When I was filming, it was not scary, because I could see that it was just make-up and all that stuff. But it’s scarier on TV, because it looks real. Mike did a really good job editing.
Cailin: What was it like meeting the older versions of your characters for the first time?
Julian: It was great! [Older Luke, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen] was so fun. We talked for a little bit, and then, even though we didn’t have that many scenes together, we had one—the switch-out chairs scene.
Violet: I met Miss Victoria [Pedretti, who plays older Nell] pretty much when I got to Atlanta. We had a big table read of the first episode. I was really nervous because I didn’t read much then, but I had my part memorized, so it went well. Miss Victoria was super nice to me from the very beginning. I loved her so much right away. I hope I really do grow up to look like her! She’s so pretty.
Hannah: How was it playing a younger version of a character whose older version appears on the same show? Did you have conversations with Mike about giving hints about the older characters through their younger selves?
Violet: I didn’t really think about it. I was just Nellie and Mr. Mike [Flanagan] would give me certain direction on things, like the sleep paralysis stuff. I don’t really remember if we had conversations about older Nell. I think Mr. Mike would show Victoria footage from when we shot and they would talk about it—Mr. Mike would always make sure we were on the same page.
Julian: It was kind of weird watching it, because it goes back to the past when he was a kid, and then back to when he was a grown-up...it’s hard to keep track of! The story is about Luke and the whole family, and usually [shows] are more focused on the older character, and you don’t get to see them as a kid, too. There are some little hints in every episode that you watch, but when you get to the very end, everything makes sense.
Cailin: What were your first impressions of your characters, both the young and older versions?
Julian: I would say that when he’s a kid, he’s special—somebody that you would want to play with and support. The [Crain] family kind of turns out bad, and then good. They have a bad life, and Luke has a hard life when he is a kid and when he grows up. And in the very last episode, they are finally happy and together again.
Violet: My first impressions of Nellie were sad ones. She has been sad her whole life and no one believes her except Luke. When the house hides her it just shows how invisible she feels. Nobody would ever have tea parties with her, either, until the end. I always felt sad for Nellie.
Cailin: I’ve seen lots of pictures of different members of the cast hanging out on and off set. What did you do for fun?
Julian: The ones that I played with the most was Violet and Olive [Abercrombie]. I had playdates with Olive for fun, and with Violet a lot, too. I think she is a just few months older than me, maybe three. They were really good friends, like sisters, almost.
Violet: Lulu Wilson [Young Shirley] would sing and play her ukulele. She is such a good singer and songwriter. She has this T-Rex song that I love, and this other song called Real Soon. I sing it all the time.
Hannah: What is your all-time favorite memory from filming ‘Hill House’?
Violet: There are a few. One of them is when we filmed episode six, which is the long tracking shot. When we finished that day, everyone clapped. We were so excited we did it and everyone was really happy, so it made me really happy, too. Another favorite memory was when Luke and I ask Olivia if she would wake us from a dream like that. It’s the scene that was used in the trailer. When we did it in rehearsal it made Mr. Mike cry. I felt happy that we were able to bring the emotion he wanted. I think we did it in one or two takes. We loved making him proud of us. And third, the tea party scene was also a favorite. I loved filming that scene so much. But my best memories are when Lulu would sing and play her ukulele.
The Haunting of Hill House is streaming on Netflix now.