It can be frustrating being the partner of an artist. When Kate Siegel first read the script for Midnight Mass, the new Netflix series from her husband, horror auteur Mike Flanagan, she had a somewhat unusual, yet relatable reaction.
“I believe I threw the script across the room,” she tells Den of Geek and other outlets. “I was like, ‘What the…? Oh, you’re so smart. I hate you.’”
It’s easy to tell that Siegel is being facetious. After all, Flanagan has entrusted some of his most memorable characters to Siegel, and in return, she’s imbued a sense of strength, intelligence, and world-weariness in them.
Midnight Mass is the seventh overall collaboration between the husband and wife duo and the third Netflix horror series in a row. In The Haunting of Hill House, Siegel played middle Crain sibling and black sheep Theodora, a fan-favorite character with empathic sensitivity powers that cause her to be closed-off and guarded. Though her role in the sister series The Haunting of Bly Manor wasn’t as large, it was perhaps even more impactful. Siegel played Viola Willoughby-Lloyd, the original owner of Bly Manor who, in a standalone episode, becomes ill and watches as her sister steals her husband away from her. Viola eventually becomes the spirit known as The Lady of the Lake, the malevolent presence at Bly Manor that does the titular haunting.
With Midnight Mass, however, Flanagan reserves the best role for his wife for last (so far). In the horror series, Siegel plays Erin Greene, a resident of Crockett Island who returns home after running away as a teen. Pregnant and fleeing an abusive relationship, she takes over the role of schoolteacher from her deceased mother and reconnects with another returning resident, Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford).
As the series progresses, Erin’s role expands, and she becomes the de facto protagonist of Midnight Mass. She delivers a standout closing monologue that beautifully delivers the series’ central themes and appears as if it’s coming to Siegel in the moment and shocking even her. It’s the sort of smart writing that would make you throw a script across the room.
Whereas Theo and The Lady of the Lake were hardened by their experiences, Erin doesn’t let the past prevent her from being a warm person or living a full life. Erin’s faith allows her to keep from being weighed down by her baggage.
“A lot of the characters I’ve played before Erin were very sharp women,” Siegel says. “They tend to be prickly or tense in a certain way. And Erin is the opposite of that. Erin is open and light.”
While Erin has every right to be bitter — failed dreams of stardom, a less than ideal relationship with her mother, a history of abuse — she is a ray of light on the grey, fading island of Crockett. Unfortunately, Erin’s light is tested by the inexplicable events that coincide with the arrival of mysterious young priest Father Paul (Hamish Linklater). Well into her pregnancy before Paul’s arrival, Erin goes for a routine check-up after attending one of Paul’s masses and discovers that her baby has vanished from her body.
While Midnight Mass offers horrors of a more supernatural kind, the unexpected loss of a child during pregnancy is real life terror that is painfully relatable for many. In portraying the devastating loss, Siegel focused on the more fantastical elements of the story rather than dwelling on the agonizing realities of a miscarriage.
“For me, there was a specific difference, which is that Erin knew she hadn’t had a miscarriage. She knew that,” says Siegel. “I went to Mike and I said, ‘I’ve decided that Erin has had a miscarriage before.’ So she knows what it looks like and she knows what it feels like. The thing I actually tapped into was a very familiar feeling…of people not believing you when you’re telling them the truth.”
With all of the intrigue in Crockett and personal turmoil for Erin, her faith never wavers. While by no means a fanatic like pious character Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan), Erin finds safety and compassion in the Church. Her spirituality is not so contingent on scripture, but on the feeling that everyone and everything are connected, and that connection is what we call God. It’s a lovely sentiment and view of religion, but not one necessarily shared by Siegel.
“I was raised Jewish and the tenet of Judaism that always stuck with me was ‘ask more questions.’ Then I ended up at an Episcopalian high school for the last two years of my schooling and they did not like that approach. I developed quite a judgment of religion. So when Erin came my way, I had some judgments on her. Then through the course of it, I learned not to judge people like that. I hope that’s the best part of religion. Ask questions. Do unto others.”
Love, loss, religion, mystery; it’s all there in Midnight Mass and no character better embodies the themes than Kate Siegel as Erin Greene.
As though poor Erin (Kate Siegel) hadn’t been put through enough leading up to the events of Midnight Mass and all throughout the series, she gets one of the most brutal death scenes of the bunch.
After being inspired to take action when she realizes what’s happening in St. Patrick’s in Episode 6, Erin teams with Sarah (Annabeth Gish) and Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) to put a stop to Pruitt-turned-Bev’s plan and to ensure those who have turned never get off Crockett Island. Just before she’s able to burn down the rec center, Erin’s carried off by the “angel” who proceeds to eat her alive. However, even while on the brink of death, Erin recognizes an opportunity and uses her final moments to puncture the angel’s wings so it’s unable to fly to the mainland.
While on Collider Ladies Night, Siegel took some time to break down exactly what was required of her to bring this moment to screen. She began:
“That was shot on a few different days, so when the angel takes me and drops me in the graveyard, that was shot on location. I swear to god, I had a whole plan. I had the best plan. I was gonna do these things, I had worked out physicality and then Quinton [Boisclair] shows up in that suit and he’s terrifying to look at because that was real, and he had the wings on at that time and he’s covered in blood, I had the wound on my neck, and the second that man started to hold me down I freaked out. Nothing I had planned came true because all I could think of was, ‘Get off me, get off me, get off me, get off me,’ and it was really scary and triggering light.”
In my question, I had mentioned the sensual nature of the angel attack on Erin and Siegel elaborated on that point:
“I’m glad you picked it up because it is sort of sensual, because the whole thing felt like a violation. And I’m kind of talking around the word rape, but the whole thing felt like a violation and at a certain point, Erin relaxes. You see it, and she realizes the opportunity she has and I thought a lot about the Talmudic character Lilith who is pre-Eve and she wouldn’t lie on her back for a man and so God kicked her out of the freakin’ garden and she became a nightwalker. Trust me, the bible is just vampires. It’s vampires all the way down. [Laughs] But I thought about that and in that moment, her pulling him in, her receiving of him, and her taking charge of her trauma I thought was extremely important.”
Siegel also noted that Erin pulling the angel in was a scripted beat, and discussed where she drew inspiration from to find Erin’s strength in that moment:
“I was like, I don’t know how anybody who’s being eaten alive has the wherewithal or the strength to do that. And the only thing I could think of is that the women I know who have been assaulted are the strongest women I know, and they are the ones with the deepest reservoirs of strength because they’ve been to hell and they’ve come back, and I think about Erin in that way, as being someone who, even though I couldn’t imagine having that amount of strength, she has it.”
Midnight Mass’ star Kate Siegel spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about Erin’s stunning finale monologue, her last act of heroism, and that haunting episode 5 scream. Spoilers ahead!
Midnight Mass is the latest television masterpiece from Mike Flanagan. The 7-episode series is a tour de force that explores faith, fanaticism, forgiveness, and hope. The final episode of Midnight Mass begins in the midst of chaos as the vampire parishioners destroyed Crockett Island. Erin, Sarah, Sheriff Hassan, Warren, and Leeza come together to try and protect the rest of the world by keeping Crockett Island’s vampires from leaving. In the end, Erin is attacked by the Angel and dies as the sun comes up.
As Erin is dying, she gives a beautiful monologue in her mind and reveals to Riley what she thinks happens after death. Kate Siegel opened up to HollywoodLife about that unforgettable speech, filming that final scene with the Angel, and Riley’s death in episode 5.
“It’s a truly intimate moment, and I’m glad it resonated with people. I was raised Jewish, and the phrase ‘I am that I am’ is a big freaking deal,” Kate told HollywoodLife.
“That’s a phrase. Judaism deals a lot with questions and the power of words and the power of questioning. When I received the script, I’m reading this going, ‘Oh my, God, this is incredible. Oh my, God, this is incredible.’ I get to that line, and I just felt deep terror because I was like, ‘How will I say that? How will I get myself to a place where it feels authentic and not egotistical to say that?’ Because I wanted to do the speech service. And like most things with Erin, it was a question of stripping away and stripping away my preconceived notions, stripping away my overly flourishing acting choices, stripping away any desire to pretend to be something. And I had an incredible gift in Zach Gilford that day because he was present. That face and that level of talent, that calm, honest talent. He doesn’t suffer, I think, from the storm of insecurity that I carry around with me. Much like Erin, when I was lost, I would just look at Zach and he was there listening and being present and being trustworthy. I tried to dive further into that and get as much out of my way as I could.”
One of the most haunting but empowering scenes is when Erin is attacked by the Angel. As he drinks her blood and sucks the life from her, Erin takes a knife and cuts his wings, preventing him from flying off Crockett Island. Kate explained how that scene was filmed and opened up about Erin taking her trauma and turning “it into steel.”
“That scene was shot in two sections. There was the attack that was shot on location in Langley, and then there were the wings and the monologue, which were shot on stages,” Kate revealed. “They do that huge crane move, and you can’t do a huge crane move unless you can control the weather and the wind around you. I had all these plans for what would happen when that when Quinton [Boisclair] would jump on me — Quinton plays the Angel — and attack me. I had a whole thing set up and physical motions that I wanted to do. And then when it happened, all I could see I saw red. I went into deep panic, a deep animal panic of, oh my, God. Get this man off of me. This huge man is grabbing me, and I’m held down on the ground. I was not expecting that at all. I guess you can call it trauma-lite because I was in a safe environment. He wasn’t hurting me. Everyone there was protecting me, and there was nothing assault in the whiff of it, but it brought something up in me. So when I was preparing to do the second half of that scene, I thought about all the women I know who have been through something like that and how they are the strongest, most capable people I meet. They are the ones that are able to turn their trauma into truth. They’re able to turn their trauma into strength. When he was on top of me for the second section, when I’m cutting his wings, I was thinking about that and thinking about the life Erin led and when she had to clip the wings of those doves. Erin is a great example of someone who took trauma and turned it into steel. I wanted to be there for Erin in that moment, and I wanted to take my traumas that — I haven’t been through what Aaron’s been through — but take the trauma and let everybody know that it’s okay to accept your trauma and turn it to steel.”
Every episode of Midnight Mass is exceptionally strong, but episode 5 is the one you won’t be able to forget. Riley sacrifices himself in front of Erin to make her understand what’s really happening on Crockett Island. Riley and Erin row out into the middle of the water, and Erin screams as she watches Riley burn when the sun rises. Erin’s blood-curdling scream continues as the credits roll.
“That was such a challenge because, as you can imagine, there wasn’t anything in front of me,” Kate told HollywoodLife. “You can’t actually set Zach Gilford on fire in order to make a performance happen. So that’s one of those rare things where, as an actor, you find yourself doing the type of research that could get you arrested. Like, googling how long will it take to burn a human body? What does burning flesh smell like? [Looking up] cremation videos because I just wanted to know. I figured the emotion will be there. I wanted to know the facts so I could create a real sense of make-believe, and the thing that stuck with me and stuck with Mike Flanagan when we talked about it was how long that would take. So we the audience get to see the moment his skin catches on fire, but the amount of time that would take to turn a healthy human male into a pile of ash is an infinite, unbelievable amount of time. And on some level, Erin never leaves that boat because that’s one of those things that you see and you can never unsee. She spends at least the next episode completely in shock. It’s not until they’re handing out the cups in the church that you kind of see Erin wake up again. It’s like, “No, no, we can’t do this.” Because it’s just too much, and it needed that level of trauma. One of the ways that Mike is a genius is letting that scream extend over the credits of episode 5 gives you a sense of how long it would have taken.”
She added, “When you click play next and episode 6 starts with Erin and the boat and you see her again, you have a sense of what she’s gone through. It was just very hard on the day because there’s nothing to look at. So I did my research, and then at a certain point, you just let it rip. Again, it’s a leap of faith, right? I’m going to start pretending this is happening, and I guess we’ll see what happens. If this one isn’t good, we’ll do the next take.” Midnight Mass is currently streaming on Netflix.
This post discusses major spoilers and plot points from all seven episodes of Midnight Mass.
For a spooky slow-burn, Midnight Mass sure wrapped things up in a blaze of glory. After Father Paul (Hamish Linklater)—a de-aged Monsignor Pruitt, as he confesses—introduces his parish to the supposed “Angel Of God” and asks them to literally give up their mortal lives in communion, things get bloody fast, and the priest acknowledges he’s made a huge mistake. The finale sees the pious Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) leading the vampiric converted as they plan to spread “the good word” off-island and leave the unfaithful for dead. Meanwhile, Erin Greene (Kate Siegel) and the rest of the survivors attempt to stop the contagion from reaching the mainland, burning the boats except for the canoe on which teens Warren (Igby Rigney) and Leeza (Annarrah Cymone) can paddle out to safety. In her last moments, Erin slashes the Angel’s wings, and the residents of Crockett Island realize they must accept their fate as the sun begins to rise.
It’s a climax fraught with emotion, but one that brings Midnight Mass to a closing grace note of quiet sanguinity. To help unpack it all, The A.V. Club spoke with series stars Siegel, Linklater, Sloyan, and Zach Gilford, who first takes us back to episode five, when “prodigal son” Riley Flynn makes a shocking sacrifice.
Riley and Erin’s final sacrifices
“When I got the job and signed on, I knew I was only in six of seven episodes,” Gilford shares, “so I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m assuming I die.’” While his assumption was correct, Gilford admits he was still completely blown away by Riley’s final act of redemption, in which he takes Erin out to sea and shares what happened to him at the community center—and then forces her to witness his own fiery death, knowing it was the only way to convince her of the danger threatening the rest of Crockett Island.
“[Riley] walks through much of his life, much of the show, thinking he’s a piece of shit. And then [Erin] gives him a little light in his life where it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe I deserve some morsel of happiness,’ Gilford says. ” When Riley realizes what he’s become after the Angel’s attack, he decides to sacrifice himself to save “the one person he truly cares about.”
“It is one of my favorite moments of the whole show,” Gilford says. “Within this supernatural show—with all this crazy weirdness—it’s the most real moment. If you saw someone burning alive in front of you, that’s what it would be: You, screaming… with no music, no nothing. And it’s so terrifying.”
Siegel agrees, and reveals that the rowboat conversations were shot on her first day working with Gilford. Despite being newly acquainted, the actors committed to the emotional intensity of the scene: “There was safety in the sense that we knew that we were going to go there with each other.” Siegel was so wowed by Gilford’s delivery of Riley’s goodbye that it was easy for her to access that combination of grief and terror. “All of the the bullshit fell away,” she says, “and there was an instinct to me like, ‘I don’t want this guy to die!’”
Riley’s death might make for a devastating cliffhanger, but it also sets the stage for the final act of Midnight Mass—one where the story’s true heroes and villains come into focus. “What I always felt about that moment, is that it’s a brilliant bait-and-switch,” Siegel says. As soon as she returns to the island, Erin is our de facto protagonist, and she gradually finds a small group of allies in Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish), the doctor’s miraculously younger mother (Alex Essoe), and Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli).
“[Flanagan] makes you think that the show is about two white male leads, and then it ends up being Bev and Erin versus each other—in the end, you’re left with [these] women, your Muslim sheriff, your lesbian doctor, and the old woman,” Siegel says.
While Erin, too, falls victim to a gruesome attack from the Angel, a sense of peace washes over her in her final moments as she reflects on one of her last conversations with Riley. “What I loved about [that flashback] is that it sort of marries her two earlier monologues about clipping the wings of the dove with her mom, and what happened to her baby,” reflects Siegel. “And it was a sense that Erin—because she is, and continues to be throughout, a moderate Catholic—doesn’t turn on her religion. She doesn’t give up on God. Religion saved her life, and supported her through the darkest times, so she comes out it with clear eyes and a full heart.” Joking reference to Gilford’s Friday Night Lights tenure aside, Siegel was floored by the way Erin’s story came full circle, all while underscoring Midnight Mass’s ultimately optimistic take on the affirming power of spirituality.
The Midnight Mass ensemble may all be part of the “Flana-family,” but that doesn’t mean they all share the same approach to their work.
Mike Flanagan’s new Netflix series stars Zach Gilford as Riley Flynn. After serving a prison sentence for taking someone’s life while driving drunk, Riley must return to his hometown – the tiny, isolated community on Crockett Island. Riley struggles to manage his guilt over the incident and the current lack of prospects in his life, but finds solace in his high school sweetheart, Erin (Kate Siegel). Erin also made it off Crockett at a point, but returned to build a life for herself and her baby-on-the-way there.
The pair share one hugely emotional scene after the next, all moments that feel as though they require two very engaged scene partners, even when the heavy dialogue falls to one or the other. While chatting for Midnight Mass’ big debut, I asked Gilford and Siegel what they valued most in each other as scene partners. Siegel immediately jumped in to highlight:
“Zach and I work in very different ways. I am very, very upfront with my insecurities. I’m very theater girl. I’m very cerebral. And Zach is very, ‘Pay me, I’m gonna show up and say the words that are written on the page.’ And so I would sometimes get in my head and turn to Zach for affirmation that, ‘Art is the most important thing …,’ and Zach would be like, ‘Just say the words, Kate. Just be here. You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine.’ And I think without that, those days would have been a lot longer.”
Gilford took it from there, further emphasizing their different approaches to their work and also how much he appreciated Siegel being an active listener in their scenes together: “I think what Kate brings to every scene and made the scenes, I don’t want to say easy to do, but she listens. It just makes you feel like someone’s listening to you when you’re going on and on about death or about whatever, and it makes you want to listen to them as well. And she’s just so present. And so yeah, we have very different styles. I know she would have a backstory for every piece of clothing she was wearing. She’d be like, ‘What about your sweater?’ I’d be like, ‘I don’t know. It was in my trailer. They told me to put it on so I guess this is what Riley wears.’”
Gilford also took a moment to look back on his experience auditioning for Midnight Mass and how instrumental Siegel’s support was during that process: “All you can ask for in a scene partner is to listen to you and to be there, and she really was. And she did that for me — I really am forever grateful because I had to do a chemistry read with her. She already had the part, I was trying to win the part. She claims that the part was ‘mine to lose,’ which may or may not be true.’ … But I’ve had chemistry reads with people where you’re like, ‘Dude, you already have this job.’ So she was so giving from that moment when we were strangers.”
Midnight Mass dropped on Netflix this weekend, and it marks the third horror series by Mike Flanagan to hit the streaming service. Midnight Mass features many familiar faces from The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, including Flanagan’s wife, Kate Siegel. The actor has been featured in most of her husband’s projects, including Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Gerald’s Game. In fact, some of those films have a surprising connection to Midnight Mass. Siegel stars in Hush as a writer who is the author of a book titled Midnight Mass. The book is also seen in the lake house belonging to Carla Gugino’s character, another frequent Flanagan collaborator, in Gerald’s Game. Recently, Siegel spoke with Pop Culturist about the connection between Midnight Mass and Hush.
“The first time I heard about Midnight Mass was when we were making Hush. Because it was a low-budget movie, we needed a story that Maddie, the main character could write- she’s an author in the story. We needed a book that wouldn’t cost us any money. We didn’t have to buy the rights to anything. Mike was like, ‘Oh, I have this now-defunct idea for a novel called Midnight Mass. I have three chapters written. We can use that so we can use those pages, and we can use that story,” Siegel explained.
She continued, “We used it. If you look, there’s a screengrab in Hush where you’re looking at Maddie’s computer screen and it says, ‘The red and blue lights of the cop car twinkle off the Jesus fish.; That’s the first shot of Midnight Mass, which is, for those of you who haven’t read anything about it, a series about a small fishing community on an island that is very insular, and they have closed ranks. Then, a young priest arrives at the church and miracles begin to happen.”
(Warning: This post contains spoilers through the finale of Netflix’s “Midnight Mass.”)
“Midnight Mass” star Kate Siegel had the privilege of knowing that “bait-and-switch” twist that leads her character, Erin Greene, to become the Netflix limited series’ reluctant heroine very early on in the production process. Credit her close relationship with the show’s creator, Mike Flanagan, who has been working on this project for 10 years and is also her husband.
But that didn’t make the shocking reveal any less epic to her when it came to acting it out — especially because the death of the show’s first protagonist, Erin’s friend Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), was the first scene shot. And, as viewers who have finished “Midnight Mass” know, the screams that Siegel’s Erin lets out all through the credits of that episode in reaction to her now-vampire friend (thanks to Hamish Linklater’s Father Paul and his Angel, played by Quinton Boisclair) bursting into flames as the the sun comes up on their tiny boat off Crockett Island were pretty bone-curdling to hear, and just as haunting to act out.
“That was my first day of work. Everything in the row boat was on Day 1,” Siegel told TheWrap. “So as you know, we shot this during the peak of the first wave [of COVID-19]. We went back to work right as everything was really intense, we were one of the first productions back up. And what they realized very early on is that with the green screen boat stuff, it was two actors. It was just me and Zach. And we are far away from everybody else. And there’s not a lot of blocking and there’s not a lot of interaction. So they’re like, ‘Let’s start there.’ And we’re like, ‘Great! Great! Let’s start there and do it.’ And for those people who can’t read tone — that was sarcastic.”