On Netflix, it’s all about Madeleine Arthur. You probably first saw her on the streamer in the To All the Boys movie series as Lara Jean’s BFF Christine, and then more recently in Devil in Ohio, in which she stars opposite Emily Deschanel as a cult escapee. Taking a 180-twist, you can catch her next in the upcoming comedy show Blockbuster alongside workplace sitcom vets Melissa Fumero and Randall Park.
Following the release of Devil in Ohio, Arthur opened up about the show’s finale twist, preparing to play a cult survivor and Blockbuster.
What was your preparation process like for Devil in Ohio?
I did a lot of research into cults. I watched movies related to isolated communities, insular cults, cults in general, and just really tried to take any bits and pieces that I could to make Mae as fully realized a character as possible. And then once we got into filming, it's that classic thing of you’ve done all the research, now you have to let it go and live in the moment. So that's how I played with it and really enjoyed getting to learn more about cults and have a reason to do so.
Mae is unlike me in any way. I enjoyed getting to place her voice in a different part of my body and have her as a person just manifest really differently in her own idiosyncratic way. And it happened to manifest in that soft way that made sense to the character and her story and her objectives and motivations throughout the show.
Is the pentagram on Mae’s back CGI?
That was makeup! That was fully a prosthetic piece. It was one whole piece that was put on. And then they painted it on, which was done by our talented makeup artist Calla Syna Dreyer.
We didn't put it on if I was wearing a big shirt that's covering it and then we wouldn't if, for example, you saw a small corner of it. Then we just put a small piece on.
How long did it take to put on the full piece?
About an hour and a half I would say. It was finicky in the way because it's one piece and it's on the back, which has movement to it. It was a good process to make sure that everything was glued down well.
Did you learn anything about cults or cult survivors or Satanism that really surprised you?
I don't think it was surprising to me, but I think that in terms of someone surviving a cult, I would say just that feeling of when you're leaving it— and for Mae in particular— is that feeling of belonging that she's searching for and safety and community after having left the community that she grew up in. I feel like nothing was completely surprising to me because of the research I've done and movies I've watched over the years, but it is such a unique experience and unlike most people's experiences in this world and in such a specific and closed off community. For example with Mae, there’s no technology, and I grew up with a cell phone since the age of 13.
Following the final moments of the show, What do you think Suzanne did after she got off the phone with Detective Lopez?
I can't really answer for Suzanne, but I think that that would have been a moment of trying to process this new information that's been presented. It's that situation of you think you know one thing and it turns out to be another, and I think the show itself does that a lot. It keeps you guessing and there's a lot of twists and turns and it poses the questions throughout it, especially with Mae, like what are her intentions? What are her motivations, and I think in that moment specifically, Suzanne would definitely take a beat before returning to the table.
How do you interpret what Mae did?
I think, ultimately, Mae is seeking love and I think that she wants to emulate the relationship that Suzanne has with her daughters. And I think that she really wants to have Suzanne's approval. And so with the white roses, I think that that's what she's looking for. And she's looking for validation that that was the right decision to leave the cult and to be with Suzanne and to go, “Yes, this is my way forward.”
A lot of the show also grapples obviously with Suzanne and her past trauma. What do you think people can learn about forgiveness from the show?
From a personal standpoint, I think it's important to forgive and to forgive in your own time and in your own way. And I think this show shows one example of how you can do that.
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In November, we’ll see you in Netflix’s new show, Blockbuster. Was it nice for you to be able to pivot from a dark role like Mae to a comedy?
The scales really tipped and, to me, I love being able to transition from Devil in Ohio to Blockbuster. I said it before, I'll say it again: variety is the spice of life. I really enjoy getting to play both those characters and switching it up.
I can't share too much. But I can say that Hannah is optimistic. She's a little naive. She's fun-loving and she's very caring.
I think it's a show so full of heart. I hope that people smile for 30 minutes straight and that they belly laugh. I feel like it's just such an uplifting and, I think, wonderful show and I hope that people feel the same way.
It's led by an all star cast led by Randall Park, Melissa Fumero, J.B. Smoove— just a really hilarious cast. And I feel like we've never seen a show set in a video store and there's all these unique and idiosyncratic characters that I think people will connect to and enjoy spending time with.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Getty Images/Phillip Faraone