As soon as the directing team Radio Silence met Allison Miller, they knew she was perfect for the role of sweet newlywed Sam McCall in their point of view horror flick, Devil’s Due. The 28-year-old, who was born in Rome, Italy, but raised in Kentucky and Florida, had paid her dues as a guest on General Hospital, CSI: NY, Desperate Housewives and Boston Legal and had close calls co-starring in promising new shows. In the Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova she starred as Skye Tate, but the show only lasted one season. Similarly, cast opposite Matthew Perry in the NBC sit-com Go On and Ian McShane in the NBC drama Kings held promise, but both shows were cancelled before season two.
On the big screen she starred as Zac Efron’s girlfriend in 17 Again and as Alice McKee in the live action version of Blood: The Last Vampire. And now she’s cast as the co-lead in horror drama Devil’s Due, a contemporary take on the Rosemary’s Baby story. As Sam McCall, her life is turned upside down when her unexpected pregnancy may be the devil’s work, with each twist and turn captured on video.
“When I read the script it really haunted me and stuck with me for quite a few days,” she says. “I couldn’t let go of the story – maybe something spoke to me of the fear of having a child. I’m getting to that point where all my friends are beginning to have babies, so it’s something that’s really relevant in my life right now. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it after I’d read it, and I felt it was a good sign that this was a good movie.”
How do you think your audition went?
Good, and I never feel that way. Even other jobs that I’ve gotten, I never feel good about my performance in the audition. For this one there was a lot of improvisation and it all felt very natural and that was a lot easier for me, that style.
Your directors, Radio Silence, say that you set the standard from your first audition, and that with subsequent actresses they found themselves saying, ‘Well, she’s not Allison.’ Were you aware of that?
Ha ha! No way! I really was not. Though the first time I met with them I’d had an audition earlier that morning that I felt so awful about, and after their audition I drove home and just felt so good. I had the windows down, I was blaring classical music, and I felt that that was it, that was my best stuff. Though I had to do two more auditions after that!
Were you at all aware of who Radio Silence were?
I was not. I knew about V/H/S, and I was familiar with some of the other filmmakers from that, but I hadn’t actually seen it. I’d never heard of them.
Once you did, did you take a look at their YouTube work?
I did, yeah – I checked out the Chad, Matt & Rob stuff they’d done before Radio Silence, and I felt like they were trying to pioneer something on YouTube, and that made me feel secure with them. I could see that they were really creative and inventive and ambitious – I liked what I saw.
Did you have any concern about their relative lack of experience and the unconventional route they’d taken to helm a movie?
To be honest, yeah. Because I’m not an established actress I feel like working with a director that knows what they’re doing is one of the most important things. But really the first time I met them I started getting notes in the audition room, and I felt like these notes were really insightful and they just seemed to have a really clear idea of what they wanted. Any fear I had quickly disappeared.
Once on set was it clear they were in control of the situation?
I think they felt very out of control because when we first got on set we were shooting in the Dominican Republic and it was kind of flying by the seat of your pants time. We were all travelling on a bus together with a skeleton crew, but at that point I could already tell they knew what they were doing, even though later they said they didn’t.
There are four people in Radio Silence – is that four times the fun for an actor or four times more confusing?
It was always only one person giving notes to the actor, one person giving camera notes, one person overseeing what the special effects were going to look like and one person was in more of a producer role. So once you figure that out it’s very easy. Also there was a system of checks and balances there, where there’s no dictatorship on set – everyone has full input. It was a nice community effort.
Your chemistry with Zach was particularly impressive – did you know him?
We’d never met before. He came in and did a ‘chemistry’ read and I immediately felt that he was the right guy for the job. His style is very laid back and he never seems like he’s acting to me. When I found out he was going to do the part and I was going to be playing half of a married couple with a total stranger it felt a bit daunting, so I needed to feel I had some kind of connection with him. So I started watching Friday Night Lights and that did it for me.
The chemistry seems as though it’s there at the beginning, or did it develop?
It developed, but developed pretty quickly. We really got along, and the first week we went into production we went out to dinner one night, found out about each other’s lives, and then working on set for so long we got to know each other pretty well. Then we had a lot in common – we’re both actually newly-weds in real life, so there was a lot to talk about.
Did the fact that you were both newlyweds help in actually playing a newlywed? Were you able to bring that experience to the role?
Definitely. We haven’t gotten to go on a honeymoon yet, but the wedding and the preparation and what it’s like to be living with someone you know you’re going to be living with for the rest of your life… that’s very much a part of my day to day. Knowing what the arguments are going to be like, and that kind of high you get when you’re newly married and it’s so exciting. That’s happened in the past year for the both of us so we knew all about that stuff.
Your dialogue seems very much improvised…
Well we would do a couple of takes completely scripted, and then a few takes doing whatever we felt within the realm of the scene, finding the through-line. It was very liberating.
Had you any experience doing that?
No – I have only really worked on films and television things where it is verbatim, where you don’t go off script and you hit your mark every time. Even in comedy where there’s a little bit of improv I’ve never gotten to go so far before.
Did you take to it?
I loved it. I wish every job could be that way. You can’t just throw good writing out the window, but feeling like anything could happen when you start a scene is really liberating, especially when you have someone you trust that you’re working with. It feels great.
Things get pretty dark in this movie – did it feel creepy filming it?
It never felt that creepy – for me it almost felt fun. There were times we had to go to really dark places and really hard emotional places, but just the way that our crew was and the way that everyone on set was, it was very easy to come out of that. It always just felt like we were playing and having fun, even when I was covered in blood and freezing. Looking back on it it kind of creeps me out, but when we were shooting it I was really enjoying it.
Were you much of a fan of the point of view style of movie making?
I am – I think it’s really interesting. I really like how they used it in Chronicle, though I haven’t seen any of the Paranormal Activity films. I know it’s such a trend right now, but I really like what it does for the naturalism of the movie.
What’s the most challenging aspect of filming in this style from an actor’s perspective?
Just the fact that we were doing camera work at the same time as acting, and then when the other actor is filming you don’t want to distract them from getting the right shot. Sometimes when we were shooting in the house there were so many hidden cameras that you never knew quite what camera was on you, so you just have to guess. In some ways it almost feels like you’re doing a theater performance.
Did you get to do much of the finished camera work?
I’m not sure how much of it made it into the finished movie, but the Radio Silence guys did tell me I had a very steady hand.
Did they give you any camera training?
No! Not at all! They basically threw me straight in.
There’s clearly a Rosemary’s Baby element to Devil’s Due; were you familiar with that movie, and was your performance influenced at all by Mia Farrow’s?
Yes, very familiar. I purposely did not re-watch the movie until we were done shooting because I didn’t want to have it in my head. On reflection I think that was a really good decision: Mia Farrow has such a sweetness about her, and it seems like in that movie she is absolutely the victim. I never thought of Sam being a victim of anything in our movie.
In which way do you think Devil’s Due veers away from the Rosemary’s Baby story?
The dynamic of the couple is incredibly different and the style that it’s shot in is different; Rosemary’s Baby is not so much a horror movie, it’s more of a psychological thriller. I think Devil’s Due has more shocking moments and there’s a lot of humor in it too.
Now you’ve gone through this experience with Radio Silence, would you work with them again?
Absolutely. I would love to work with them again. Call me!
Devil’s Due is unleashed in UK cinemas on January 16th.