One of the biggest surprises for me this year has been Johannes Roberts’ The Strangers: Prey at Night, a sequel that arrived a decade after its predecessor, and delivered up some big-time slasher fun (with an exceedingly awesome soundtrack and score to boot). Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Prey at Night’s Bailee Madison, who plays Kinsey in the film, and she discussed digging into her character with director Roberts and how much she enjoyed collaborating with her co-stars Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, and Lewis Pullman.
Madison also chatted about her own apprehension when she first came on board Prey at Night about the film being able to do right by its predecessor, embracing the physicality of her role in the sequel, and which scene from The Strangers: Prey at Night had her and Pullman in stitches while shooting.
Great to chat with you, Bailee. I must admit, I am a huge fan of the original Strangers, so when they announced the sequel seemingly out of nowhere, I was a little nervous. But I think you guys did a really fantastic job. Prey at Night is really great.
Bailee Madison: That makes me so happy to hear. That was honestly the thing I was most nervous about, but I really am very proud of this film. I'm glad that you liked it as well. I think it works so well because it doesn't take itself too seriously. I feel like if we tried to take it too seriously, coming from the first film, it just would not have worked.
Oh, absolutely. I love that you guys went out there and did your own thing, and I thought Johannes' music choices were just inspired and elevated the fun as well.
Bailee Madison: Thank you, I so agree. He’s such a talented director, and I remember watching him for the first time when the music came on and he was filled with so much joy. It was like that extra character in the movie that we didn't know even needed to exist, and then once it existed, you can't imagine the movie without it.
I would love to talk about getting into the headspace of your character, Kinsey, because we've seen family conflicts similar to this before, but what's really interesting about Kinsey's journey is that it's redemptive in a very different way and it feels very personal. I was wondering, how that was from your perspective?
Bailee Madison: It’s very kind of you to say that, because those are all the things that I was trying to do with Kinsey. That process was really important to me. I spent a lot of time before filming to work on her. And because this story takes place over a course of a night, you really only have those first initial few minutes with the family to get you established with them, how they interact with each other, and establish a relationship with them.
So, I spent a lot of time figuring out what makes her tick, what kind of music would Kinsey listen to, why does she act the way she does. There were these little things, too, like when she’s smoking at the diner. I've never smoked in real life. I told Johannes, "Well, what if she just did it for show," because she is a girl who is looking for attention from her family, and smoking would be a way for her to get attention.
For me, it was about getting to work on that with the entire team and then, once it came time for her to own up to everything, and try to survive, she has to learn how to stand on her own two feet, and do her best in this situation. That was also a really fun thing for me to explore.
It's funny you mentioned the smoking thing because that was a joke that we made the second time we watched the movie. It was like, “She smokes just like a teenager,” because they’re always so awkward with it [laughs].
Bailee Madison: Right [laughs]? That became a joke on the set, because it's the worst when people try and smoke on TV, but they clearly don't know how to do it. So, that was our own inside joke.
I'd love to hear about your experiences working with your on-screen family, because they’re all great. I also thought it was great how Lewis’ character steps up in this, too, in a way that I wasn't expecting from his character, because normally siblings are always trying to antagonize each other.
Bailee Madison: Thank you. Yeah, it was so much fun. Christina Hendricks is such a force of nature, and so fantastic, and now fortunately, she's a dear friend of mine. And as a woman, navigating this business now, it's so exciting for me to have someone like her to look up to and go to for advice.
Martin Henderson was just so great and so fantastic, but I agree, Lewis Pullman is just absolutely extraordinary. I had actually worked with his dad, Bill Pullman, a couple of years ago, so when I met him, I was like, "I know your dad." It all felt full circle. I have to say that Lewis is one of the kindest, most talented, but also one of the most sincere human beings I've ever met. And he is exceptional in this movie, and it was a privilege to get to work alongside him. I feel like we both pushed each other every day to step out of our comfort zone. To have a team player like that was such a joy.
Beyond the emotional aspects of your performance, there was also a huge physicality to your performance in this movie. How did you push yourself throughout filming?
Bailee Madison: It was so much fun. The physicality was what I was most excited about. Honestly, I had never had an experience like this before. I'd done some physical stuff before, but that usually happens at the end of filming. In this, every single day I wanted to have bruises on me, I wanted to feel drained because that meant I was putting in the work. Thankfully, the stunt team was all in and so was Johannes, and they just they put me through the wringer and they let me do everything except for one shot, and that was only because I had to go into makeup and get one of the cuts put on, so I missed it. But I really got put through the wringer for this, and I’m so glad I did.
One of my favorite sequences in the film is the one where you guys are in the trailer and the truck comes through the wall–
Bailee Madison: Wait, did you like that scene?
I really did, especially because when I was a kid, I grew up in a trailer park and it never dawned on me that a vehicle could come through the side of my walls, so it was a fun, unexpected moment.
Bailee Madison: That is so funny [laughs]. I think it's funny that it sells to you, because for Lewis and I, we think that is our worst scene.
No way. Really?
Bailee Madison: Yeah, because here's the thing: we did this scene towards the end of filming, and Lewis and I had the full-on giggles. It was about 3:00am and we were just losing it. It was really the first time through the month and a half we were filming that we just couldn't get it together. If you genuinely look back at the few seconds before, when we're bawling in each other's arms, and we're just a mess, if you cut immediately to our faces when the car comes through, you can see this glimmer of joy in our eyeballs that only we can catch. No one else has caught it, but Johannes, Lewis, and I, we all still laugh at it till this day. I'm going to literally text Lewis now and tell him that you said that, because he's gonna start laughing. That's so funny.