Farmiga played the lead role in the We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018), the film adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel starring Alexandra Daddario and Paula Malcomson. In May 2019, Farmiga sat down with uInterview to discuss the film. She described it as “a story about these two sisters, Constance and Merricat Blackwood, who live with their Uncle Julian in their family’s estate. Everyone else in their immediate family is dead, and these two sisters are shunned by the rest of the town, so they sort of have to create their own … little reality to live in. And everything’s going well until their cousin Charles comes to visit.”
Farmiga told uInterview exclusively that Merricat felt “threatened” by Charles and believed he had arrived “under the guise of trying to intervene and trying to change up what is good and right in their world.” To provide some backstory about Merricat’s character, Farmiga explained, “I adore her, but Merricat’s this little weirdo. She’s this little unusual young woman who sort of, at times, can be incredibly childlike and innocent, and then a minute later she could be infinitely aware and intelligent. She’s a contradiction; she’s uncomfortable in her own body, but all she wants to do is protect her sister.”
When asked about the filming process behind this movie, Farmiga had nothing but good things to report. She was especially happy to discuss the bonding that occurred between cast members on set. “We shot in the Wicklow Mountains,” Farmiga told uInterview, “and we were all just sort of holed up in this little castle, this little manor in the middle of Ireland, so we didn’t have anybody but each other. And when you’re playing kind of … a messed up family, you bond pretty quickly, you know what I mean? You have to have these connections.”
Farmiga gave glowing reviews of a few cast members in particular, namely Crispin Glover and Sebastian Stan. “Crispin Glover is obviously a legend and an incredible, incredible actor,” she said, “but he had such a distinct vision for [his character] Uncle Julian … When I heard he was cast, I was thrilled because I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be an interesting mind with an interesting take on the character, something I’m never gonna see before,’ and that’s absolutely true.” Farmiga explained how she tried to implement this originality into her own acting, citing Glover as a terrific professional role model.
Regarding Stan, Farmiga reported, “Sebastian’s a fun guy. He’s incredibly talented, just a joyous personality, loves to have fun.” She went on to say of the overall cast, “Genuinely, we all had fun. Everyone was there to play their very distinct character, and it was four very different personalities mixed in a scene, and the chemistry there was just fun to be a part of.”
The 24-year-old actress, who is also known for her role in FX’s American Horror Story: Murder House, explained to uInterview exclusively the premise of the film — which is based on Shirley Jackson’s 1962 mystery novel — and also described her character.
“We Have Always Lived In The Castle is a story about two sisters — Constance and Mary Kat Blackwood — who live with their uncle Julian in their family’s estate,” said Farmiga, who plays Mary Kat Blackwood. “Everyone else in their immediate family is dead and these two sisters are shunned by the rest of the town, so they sort of have to create their own little reality to live in, and everything’s going well until their cousin Charles comes to visit.”
Crispin Glover plays Farmiga’s uncle Julian in the film, while Alexandra Daddario plays her sister Constance and Sebastian Stan portrays her cousin Charles, who is trying to fundamentally alter the Blackwood sisters’ way of life.
“I adore her,” Farmiga said with a smile of her character. “Mary Kat is this little weirdo, she’s this little unusual young woman who at times can be incredibly child-like and innocent and then a minute later she can be infinitely aware and intelligent. She’s a contradiction: she’s uncomfortable in her own body but all she wants to do is protect her sister so she can play the role of the one who is confident [and who] takes charge when it’s necessary.”
Farmiga also explained how her character is endowed with magical powers to cast spells and incantations, and what she uses this ability for.
“[Mary Kat] has to be the most evil thing or has to have access to the most evil powers so that she can protect [Constance] from the things that are coming to attack [them],” she said. “Whether that means emotionally or physically.”
Directed by Stacie Passon, We Have Always Lived In The Castle set for released on May 17 and is currently garnering strong reviews.
Full interview transcript below:
Q: Who’s your character in the film?
A: We Have Always Live In A Castle is story about these two sisters, Constance and Mary Kat Blackwood, who live with their uncle Julian in their family’s estate. Everyone else in their immediate family is dead, and these two sisters are shunned by the rest of the town, so they sort of have to create their own little reality to live in. Everything’s going well until their cousin Charles comes to visit. Mary Kat is this…I adore her, but Mary Kat is this little weirdo. She’s this little unusual young woman who sort of, at times can be incredibly childlike and innocent. And then a minute later she could be infinitely aware and intelligent. She’s a contradiction. She’s uncomfortable in her own body, but all she wants to do is protect her sister, so she can play the role of the one who’s confident, the one who takes charge when it’s necessary. Mary Kat at the end of the day is just a young girl who wants to protect the thing that means the most to her and that’s her sister Constance.
Q: How does your character use magic?
A: Mary Kat doesn’t love many things in life. She loves her sister Constances, she loves her cat Jonas, and she loves her spells, and her incantations, and her little bits of magic that she uses. Mary Kat is scared of the outside world for a very good reason. Her family’s been shunned and has been ostracized by the town, and just made to be unhappy with who she is. Constance is the thing that means the most to her. In order to protect Constance, Mary Kat relies on her incantations and her spells. She has to be the most evil thing, or has to have access to the most evil powers, so that she can protect from the things that are coming to attack. Whether that means emotionally or physically, Mary Kat has a wild imagination. So, the way the wind blows, or the way that shadows are on the wall, it means something to her, and she takes that all to consideration. She has her spells just to protect her family at the end of the day.
Q: What’s your relationship with Sebastian Stan’s character?
A: Cousin Charles is played by Sebastian Stan and cousin Charles comes to visit the Blackwood sisters under the guise, or Mary Kat thinks under the guise, of trying to intervene, or trying to change up what is good and right in their world. Constance doesn’t like leading the house, Mary Kat’s the one who goes to town and provides for the family, she’s the protector. She sort of sees herself as the Lord of the Manor, well when cousin Charles comes, he takes on the actual role of man of the house, and Mary Kat feels very threatened by him.
Directed by Stacie Passon and based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, the film also stars Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover and Sebastian Stan and is about two sisters who are shunned by the rest of society for crimes they are accused of and live in an isolated home with their uncle until their cousin arrives with dark plans in store.
“It’s an incredible story with an incredible cast, so I was very excited just to get to Ireland, which is a beautiful country,” Farmiga revealed about the film’s shooting location. “We shot in the Wicklow Mountains, and we were all holed up in this little castle, this little manor in the middle of Ireland.”
“When you’re playing kind of like a messed up family, you bond pretty quickly,” she added.
Farmiga, the younger sister of Oscar-nominated actress Vera Farmiga, also said she had fun playing her character Mary Katherine Blackwood, as she is an eccentric girl who is often not very approachable. Farmiga recalled how intriguing and different it was for her to play out her scenes with Glover and Stan without truly making eye contact or “connecting” with them all the time.
“I had a blast just kind of giving them the cold shoulder and making them have to act with the side of my face, that was fun for me,” 25-year-old Farmiga said with a smile of acting opposite her co-stars.
Farmiga went on to praise Glover as an “acting legend” and raved about his “distinct vision” for his character Julian, who is the uncle of her character Mary Katherine.
The young actress also said she liked the fact that Passon was loyal to the book the movie is based on, and confessed she has read the novel multiple times.
“What I loved about the original novel is just the tone of it,” she said. “I loved the contradictions, I loved that it had this feeling of something being so twisted and foreboding, yet there’s almost this fairy-tale glaze over it.”
Farmiga cited a specific example from the book that reflects this feeling, saying how Daddario’s character, Mary Katherine’s sister Constance Blackwood, often delivers bad news but in an oddly happy way.
“It wasn’t something that just made sense, you had to go along for the ride,” she added of the story.
Full interview transcript below:
Q: What do you remember most about the shoot?
A: First off, it’s an incredible story with an incredible cast so I was very excited just to get to Ireland, which is a beautiful country and we shot in the Wick Low Mountains. We were all just sort of hole up in this little castle, this little manor, in the middle of Ireland, so we didn’t have anyone but each other. So, when you’re playing kind of a mess-up family, you bond pretty quickly, you have to have these connections. I don’t know if there’s a specific moment where I was like “oh wow, I’m never going to forget this,” but just the experience overall, playing someone who didn’t have any respect for anybody. So, when I’m doing scenes with Sebastian Stan or even Crispin Glover, I don’t look at them in the eye. I don’t talk to them, like I talk to them, but I don’t talk to them. When you have a conversation with someone, you give the time of day, Mary Kat doesn’t do that, so I had a blast kind of just giving them the cold shoulder and making them have to act at the side of my face, that was fun for me.
Q: What was it like working with Crispin and Sebastian?
A: I think everyone was super passionate about the project before we started filming, so when
you work with people who care so much, like Crispin Glover is obviously a legend and an
incredible, incredible actor, but he has such as distinct vision for Uncle Julian. I knew before I
got there, when I heard he was cast, I was thrilled because I was like “oh, this is going to be an
interesting mind with an interesting take on the character, something I’m never going to see
before” and that’s absolutely true. I love that Stacey, the director, always went back to the
book, and that was something Crispin loved. He always had the book with him, when we were
about to film a scene and something didn’t fit right with him, he’s like “I don’t think this…this
doesn’t make sense for Uncle Julian.” I loved how assertive he was and the fact that he took
ownership over the character. He knew Uncle Julian better than anybody, and that’s something
I kind of admired. I feel like I did the same thing with Mary Kat, but when you see someone
who’s older than you and more experience, they paid the way and they tell you tell you it’s
okay, you know better, you know the character you’re taking, you know the character better
than anyone so you don’t have to rely on other people’s opinions if you disagree.
Sebastian’s a fun guy. He’s incredibly talented, just a joyous personality, loves to have fun. It’s
hard to say, you talk about somebody and say just “Oh okay, everyone’s so great, everyone’s so
great,” but genuinely, we all had fun. Everyone was there to play their very distinct character
and it was four very different personalities mixed in a scene, and the chemistry there was just
fun to be a part of.
Q: How much did you rely on the book?
A: I read the script first, and then I went back and I read the book. I read the book multiple times since then. What I loved about the original novel, for me, it was just the tone of it. I love the contradictions. I loved that it had this feeling of something being so twisted and foreboding, yet there’s almost this fairytale glaze over it. I think the best example of that is Alex Daddario when she’s telling you, when Constance is telling you bad news and she’s just telling you it’s fine, everything’s fine, and she’s smiling at you. I love those contradictions, I love the contradictions of Mary Kat, who’s this old soul and this young mind. And for me, it was a mix of the tone and the story to be told that it wasn’t something that just made sense. You had to go along for the ride.
Taissa Farmiga on ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ & ‘The Twilight Zone’
From director Stacie Passon and adapted from the book of the same name by Shirley Jackson, the indie drama We Have Always Lived in the Castle tells the story of two sisters, Merricat (Taissa Farmiga) and Constance (Alexandra Daddario), who have isolated themselves after a family tragedy, in their large manor with their Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover). When Cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) unexpectedly arrives, he disrupts their idyllic existence and threatens their family legacy.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Taissa Farmiga talked about why she wanted to tell the story of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, what made Merricat such an interesting character, playing someone who internalizes so much, the sister dynamic, and shooting the family scenes. She also talked about her episode of the CBS All Access series The Twilight Zone, called “Not All Men,” what attracts her to a project, and how excited she is to have a wide-open future.
Collider: This is such an interesting character, in such an interesting story. What was it like to explore someone like her?
TAISSA FARMIGA: I got the offer, I read the script, and I loved the tone of the script. That was the first thing that I fell in love with. It has this weird unease and tension, coded in a fairy tale glaze. I liked the contradiction. And then, with Merricat, at moments, there was a contradiction where she feels like she’s almost childlike and fragile, and then a moment later, she seems infinitely wise and an old soul. I loved that. My favorite part of it was getting to play someone who’s just so much of everything.
Even with her clothes and her hair.
FARMIGA: For sure. I feel like she’s very much aware. She’s so internal, and yet she wears who she is on her sleeve. With the tight braids and everything pulled back, and the darker colors in the clothes, it shows here closed off-ness and that tension that she has inside her. But it’s so different from who she is when she’s with Constance. It’s interesting.
Had you just read the script when you got this? Had you read the book, or did you go into this cold?
FARMIGA: When I read the script, I had not read the book, so this was the first I had any contact with the story. So, I read the script, and then I immediately had a Skype session with the director (Stacie Passon), four hours later. Because it was moving quick, I didn’t have a chance to read the book before I talked to the director, but Stacie and I had a great conversation, and we really connected over Merricat. I immediately went to the store, bought the book, and read it, three or four times before we started filming. There’s just so much more insight in the book, being able to have that inner dialogue and monologue that Merricat has with herself. I really got to understand her better. I felt so privileged and so lucky to be able to have such a cool story, and to be able to have a little cheat sheet into who Merricat is because Shirley Jackson already did all of the work, in expressing her and figuring her out.
Because this does seem like a character that would be pretty hard to figure out otherwise, what did you learn about Merricat from the book?
FARMIGA: It’s interesting because she’s an 18-year-old girl, but it’s like she was emotionally stunted at 12. She’s uncomfortable in her body. Really, what I took to heart from the book was reading her thoughts about Uncle Julian, reading her thoughts about Constance, and reading the way she talks about different people. The only person that she ever really talks positively about, or in a lighthearted way, at all, is Constance. It just really verified the depth of the relationship, and how Merricat doesn’t really love very many things in life. She’s doesn’t really care about very many things, except for Constance, her cat Jonas, and her magic spells and incantations.
What did you grow to appreciate about Merricat, by the time you got to the end of the shoot? Were there things that you hadn’t realized about her, until you got to the end of the experience?
FARMIGA: That’s interesting. I’m sure there were. It’s hard because we filmed this almost three years ago, and I’ve been six different people, since I played Merricat. One thing that I thought was really interesting was that, over the course of the movie, even though she’s so internal and keeps everything inside, you can see her resentment for Charles. You see all of her feelings, but I feel like her actual, true feelings are something that she keeps so locked deep inside. When I had to do the EPK interview for the behind the scenes for the movie while we were filming, I kept pushing it. I wanted to do it towards the end of the film, and when I sat down to talk about Merricat, I couldn’t talk about her because I was her, and she didn’t open up. She didn’t communicate. She didn’t tell people about her. She didn’t show herself like that. I was like, “What the hell is wrong with me?! I know how to talk about this character. I know this character. Why can’t I talk about her?” It’s because Merricat didn’t want me to talk about Merricat. It was wild. Now that’s it been some years in between and I’ve had some distance from the project, I’m able to see her in a different light. She made sense. She clicked. Stacie and I had such a shorthand about the character. I don’t think I’ve ever connected with the director so intensely, on a specific character before. Stacie would just give me a look, and I knew exactly what she wanted, or she’d say keywords and I’d be like, “Okay, right. You want this version of Merricat.” We just meshed, and it was what it was, for those six weeks.
Do you think that, if she were a different kind of person who could figure out to verbalize what she’s going through, that she would have just blown up at Charles, at some point along the way?
FARMIGA: You know, probably. It’s hard because, if you look at both characters – and I’m talking about the sisters, Constance and Merricat – they both have a very skewed perspective on the world. In Constance’s case, she tries to see everything from the positive side. Everything is, “We can handle it. Everything’s fine.” And then, there’s Merricat, who’s the exact opposite. If you think about it, these two sisters are in a very intimate relationship. It’s sisterly, but there’s still an intimacy that not very many siblings have. They don’t have anybody else, in the entire world. So, Merricat goes to that darker place. She’s trying to find balance. Maybe if she was able to vocalize her thoughts a bit more, things could have turned out differently, but because they had to rely on each other, they really relied on non-verbal communication. That’s why things go awry, the way they do.
Some of the most exciting moments to watch in this were the ones when you’re all in a scene together and you’re talking about different things, at the same time. What were those scenes like to shoot?
FARMIGA: It was a lot of fun, especially for me, because Merricat doesn’t respect anybody but Constance, so whenever I’m talking, I don’t really ever even acknowledge Uncle Julian. I’ll talk about him, but I never acknowledge him to his face. And whenever I’m talking to Cousin Charles, I didn’t look at him or even really make eye contact. She doesn’t really give them the time of day. That was hard, but it was also fun to just ignore people. The fun part is filming that in the wide because everyone can talk. The worst part is when you’re just in coverage and you’re not allowed to talk over other people lines. You have to sit there and just mouth what you’re doing.
What was that dynamic like, as actors? Did you guys just have a lot of fun with each other?
FARMIGA: Absolutely! I feel like everybody was down to play. Everyone wanted to stick as close to the authenticity of the original story as possible. For the sake of the character, you can’t fully do that in a movie because you have to put a little bit more pizzazz, and you want the audience to feel something, at the end of those two hours, so you really have to hit it home, whereas in the book, it can simmer a little more. When we were all in the room, we had so much fun. It scared me because we were playing four very distinct and different people, and when you put those four people in a room, you don’t know what the chemistry will be like, but I had a blast. It’s nice when everybody’s game and everyone is down to do what has to be done to make this wacky movie.
You’ve said previously that this is the character that’s the furthest from you that you have played. Which character has been the closest to who you are?
FARMIGA: Interesting. I just filmed Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone, and the character that I play in that is the one that’s been closest to my age. It’s so hard to say because it’s probably different at different times and moments in my life. I feel like, at this age, probably that character, Annie, from The Twilight Zone is pretty close to who I am, but in the past, I don’t know. It’s hard because I’ve changed so much, in the last year. I’ve gone through some personal stuff and some health stuff, and I’ve grown so much. When I watch the movies and TV shows, I see myself as those people, in a way, so looking back, I feel like I’m close to all of them. But in the moment, some of them felt like such a giant leap.
I absolutely love what has been done with this version of The Twilight Zone. I’ve been having such a great time watching it.
FARMIGA: Oh, amazing!
How did you come to the show, and how did you find the experience of working on that?
FARMIGA: For me, it was just a straight offer. They sent the script over and it said The Twilight Zone, and Jordan Peele’s name was the next thing that I saw. I was very excited to read it because it was mixing Jordan Peele with The Twilight Zone, which are two entities that take such a stance on social issues and start conversations. I read 15 pages and was like, “Oh, shit, I’m down!” And then, two days later, I was in Vancouver and we were starting to do prep. And then, two days after that, we started filming. I didn’t have very much time to think about it. I was just excited that they picked me. I don’t know how they picked me, but I was excited that they did.
What did you most respond to, with your episode and character?
FARMIGA: I liked the content. I liked the story. I liked the conversation that it will spark about gender norms and society. Maybe this episode focuses a little more on men, but society has such a clear distinct idea for what a woman’s role is and what a man’s role is, the way we’re supposed to act, and how we, as humans, give people permission to act indecently. We can’t just let something go by. You have to speak up and say, “This is not right.” Sometimes you have to stop your own actions, and sometimes you have to stop someone else’s actions, and I thought that was an important conversation. I also really loved the character and the story. There’s another sister relationship in there that I really liked, that I played with my co-star, Rhea Seehorn.
At this point in your life and career, what gets you interested in a project? The more scripts that you read, does it get easier to figure out what you connect to and what could work for you?
FARMIGA: Honestly, I don’t know if it’s gotten easier. When I read something and feel like, “Oh, god, I need to be a part of this,” then I want to do it. I’ve worked with so many incredible people. The names, like Jordan Peele, are important, but that’s the icing on top. That makes it extra special. What I really love is the story and the character. I want to completely get the character and be like, “Oh, my gosh, I can have fun with this.” In the case of Merricat, I was like, “I don’t fully understand her just yet, but I feel like I could, and I really want to.”
Do you know then what you are going to do next?
FARMIGA: Well, I’m super excited bout The Twilight Zone episode. And then, [We Have Always Lived in the Castle] comes out on the 17th of May. Other than that, everything that I’ve done, in the last year, has come out. I have a wide-open future, and I’m really excited. I just know that I wanna keep growing. I’m almost 25, and every character that I’ve played has helped me define parts of my personality. I feel like I’ve been really lucky to be able to have acting as an outlet to discover myself. I feel very comfortable with who I am, and being 24, almost 25, it’s nice to be able say that. So, I just hope that I get to keep playing characters that selfishly help me discover who I am, and continue to grow.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is in theaters and on VOD on May 17th.
In Theaters and On Demand May 17
Two sisters (Alexandra Daddario and Taissa Farmiga) live secluded in a large manor and care for their deranged uncle (Crispin Glover). The rest of their family died five years before, under suspicious circumstances. When a cousin (Sebastian Stan) arrives for a visit, family secrets and scandals unravel. Based on the beloved Shirley Jackson novel.
I’ve updated the photo gallery with 24 photos of Taissa on the Set of “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” in Co. Wicklow, Ireland on August 9, 2016.
I’ve updated the photo gallery with 24 photos of Taissa on the Set of “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” in Enniskerry Village, Ireland on August 9, 2016.
I’ve updated the photo gallery with 29 photos of Taissa on the Set of “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” in Ireland on August 8, 2016.
‘Captain America’s’ Sebastian Stan to Star in ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ Movie
Marvel universe star Sebastian Stan has come on board the independent thriller “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” with shooting starting in Dublin.
Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Joanne Crawford and Willem Dafoe are also starring in a Further Films production in association with Great Point Media. Producers are Michael Douglas, Jared Goldman, Robert Mitas and Robert Halmi, Jr.
Stacie Passon is directing from a script she wrote with Mark Kroger, adapted from Shirley Jackson’s horror novel about an isolated family which has lost four members to poisoning and uses rituals and talismans to keep itself away from hostile townspeople. Stan will play a distant cousin, intent on maliciously securing the family’s fortune whose arrival sets in motion the uncovering of family secrets.
The novel was published in 1962 and was adapted into a play in 1966 by Hugh Wheeler.
Stan plays James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes/Winter Soldier in the three Captain America movies and will appear in “Avengers: Infinity War” next year. He also appeared in “The Martian” and recently wrapped “I’m Not Here” with Maika Monroe and J.K. Simmons.
Stan is repped by ICM Partners, Brookside Artists Management and Lon Sorensen at Sloane, Offer.