Carla Gugino on the Netflix smash The Haunting of Hill House
Carla Gugino is scaring the pants off us all in Netflix smash The Haunting of Hill House – the affable Hollywood star tells Balance all about the ‘slow burn’ of a 30-year career.
You’re one of the best at mixing it up – we take it variety is key?
Variety is absolutely key. That observation is particularly meaningful as, from an early age, I was interested in revealing humanity through as many different characters as I could get my hands on. I’ve cared less about making a ‘name’ for myself, or a brand of myself… Looking back over the past 30 years I’ve been acting, I realise I chose the slow burn. But interestingly 30 years later, it seems to be the diversity of the characters I’ve played that has made its own mark and is often what people comment on.
What was the moment you felt you’d truly broken through to the big time please?
There were a few defining moments early on that made me realise that I might get to do this as a lifelong career. The first was a film called Troop Beverly Hills with Shelly Long. I was 16 and it was the first time I had gotten a leading role in a film and been paid well enough for it that I could afford to support myself, without my parent’s help. A big step. The second was when I got cast as one of Robert De Niro’s daughters in the film This Boy’s Life, which also starred a young Leonardo DiCaprio. My role was ultimately cut down, but I learned so much and was so inspired by the company I was in. And the third was much later when at 27 years old I was cast as the mother in Spy Kids. I was at least 10 years too young for the role but, somehow, it was just the right fit. I remember Robert Rodriguez saying to me “If we do our job right, no one will even question the age.” And they didn’t. He really made a ground breaking family movie that found a huge audience in need of something smart, fun, and uncontrived.
Did you always have funny bones? I ask that as a huge Spin City fan
Ha ha! I loved doing Spin City. Working with Michael Fox was a true master class in the art of the sitcom. He’s a comic genius – and I don’t use that term lightly – and a great person to boot. And I met my best friend Connie Britton on that set and lived in NYC for the first time. It was a special time on many levels.
Without spoilers, just how terrifying is The Haunting Of Hill House?
I find the kind of horror that The Haunting explores to be far scarier than relying solely on jump scares. It’s fun when you involuntarily jump out of your seat – no doubt – but then there’s the kind of terror that <seeps> in and <stays>. This show explores that; the horrifying elements of a haunted house and the long term ramifications of the Crain family moving into it. Mike uses the genre very well but does so through the psychological landscape of the members of this family. Past and present. We all have ‘ghosts’ we’re dealing with and the ones in our heads, that are passed down from generation to generation, are by far the most insidious. I love that Flanagan is always interested in digging deep beneath the surface. And never afraid to let the audience sit in the uncomfortableness of our humanity.
What do you do for balance – ie what do you do away from acting that keeps you grounded / away from the madness of Hollywood.
Life seems to be a constant search for balance, no? Some times we’re more successful than others… The key for me as I’ve gotten older is, “Everything in moderation. Including moderation.” The things that I find the most nurturing in life are long meals with friends, long walks in nature, a dip in warm turquoise water – I am a Florida native, after all – and incorporating daily meditation into my life has been a game changer. You just can’t believe the subtle yet profound difference it makes in dealing with stressful situations, lack of sleep, and pretty much everything else. I do TM. After experimenting with lots of different types, that’s been the form that’s stuck with me. But whatever way you have to go inward on a regular basis, do it! With the amount of information that comes at us through social media and the news on a daily basis, it’s more important now than ever.
Finally, loved Wayward Pines. It’s a show I still recommend to mates thanks to its sheer originality and the way it stays with you. What was that experience like please? Did you know where it was heading?
I’m so glad you liked Wayward Pines. When I read the script in which the truth is revealed about what the town of Wayward Pines actually is (I won’t spoil it for people who are late to the game-ha!), I was floored. I wanted to be a part of telling that story. It was an amazingly talented group of people who came together to make that show and we were holed up in Vancouver for many months doing so. It was my first time working with M Night Shyamalan and that was a great experience which I hope to do again! Also, Matt and Ross Duffer came on to that show midway through and were immediately creative collaborators and friends – they went on to make a little show called Stranger Things… It was also an opportunity to work with a director Zal Batmanglij whom I had been a fan of for a while.
The Haunting of Hill House is on Netflix now