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.”