ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with Goosebumps stars Miles McKenna, Zack Morris, and Will Price about the Disney+ and Hulu horror series. The trio discussed working with Justin Long and their histories with the franchise. All episodes of Goosebumps are now available on Disney+ and Hulu.
“Inspired by R.L. Stine’s worldwide bestselling books, the series follows a group of five high schoolers as they embark on a shadowy and twisted journey to investigate the tragic passing three decades earlier of a teen named Harold Biddle — while also unearthing dark secrets from their parents’ past,” reads the series‘ synopsis.
Spencer Legacy: What was your experience with Goosebumps prior to being cast in the show? Were you a fan of the books or the previous show?
Will Price: Yeah, I think it was always a part of the cultural consciousness to begin with. But I do remember being in elementary school and middle school and looking around the classroom and seeing people with the different covers and people reading the books. I remember reading a few of the books myself. So, you know, I sort of had that understanding of Goosebumps, but then upon doing the show, I think my excitement to be a part of this universe and my excitement about the lore only deepened because the books and the stories are so rich and really, really creative. So it felt like, in every episode, I was learning about something very niche and a Goosebumps book that one of our writers had read. It’s very cool to continue learning more about such a great series.
Miles McKenna: I definitely grew up with the Goosebumps books as well. I was a little emo kid, so I think reading something scary and a bit macabre was kind of the foundation for that essence of my personality, growing up. I feel like it’s everyone’s training wheels for being interested in so much horror and everything that’s out there in that genre.
Zack Morris: For me, as we are aware, the Goosebumps is a real … it is a real legacy piece, you know? I think we were all around it, growing up. For me, growing up in the UK, in primary school — or elementary school — there was always Goosebumps books on the shelves in the library. The cover art, as I said before, was something that always stands out to you, as well as the incredible story. So yeah, whether you are directly consuming it by reading it or whether you’re just seeing it, it was always around. I was definitely exposed to Goosebumps before joining the show.
Miles, throughout the show, you get to play both a regular version of your character and also this freaky doppelganger who’s very different. So what was it like playing those two very different portrayals?
Miles McKenna: That was so exciting. I was really fortunate to be able to show a lot of range in a short amount of time. We only have like 30, 40, 50 minutes to tell a story, so to be able to do that was incredible. It was such a movie moment to really film. For a lot of those dupe scenes, I was working with green screens and tennis balls. I’m on tethers and there’s nine stunt doubles that are all in my wigs and my makeup and it was such a team effort to put this together. I remember when Rob Letterman — one of our executives — told me, “Okay, we’re trying to figure out how to do this because the problem is there’s a bunch of Jameses.” I’m like, “That doesn’t sound like a problem. That sounds like a solution — a bunch of James! That’s great!” It was something that all of us were really dialed into making it believable and grounded and something to really bring the scares.
Zack, you really sold that brutal injury at the start of the show. What was it like to to film that intense scene on the field?
Zack Morris: Thank you very much. That was something that we did very early on. It was the kind of pinnacle point of a crazy schedule and a crazy episode. So that moment, in particular … playing pain, like real genuine pain, is always … I don’t want to say “fun” to do, but … putting yourself in that place is always a nice challenge. Being chased by zombies is pretty dope too. [Laughs]. The way we did that, I did one take where a few supporting artists had full prosthetics. They had the full makeup on and they had a routine where they were following me, and then we would do an empty play where it was just myself running, pretending to dodge all these things. Just a whole lot of adrenaline. [Laughs]. And a whole lot of CGI made it the spectacle that it is.
Will, obviously the giant worms are CGI, but were there a lot of scenes where you were actually getting hands-on with the worms? What was that like to film?
Will Price: There was a worm wrangler on set, which I didn’t know. So there was a guy that came on set and, the same way that you’d have someone join with a snake, there was a worm wrangler. So most of the worms were CGI — the giant worm was a grip with a tennis ball. There was one instance in which my hand is actually in the worms and they didn’t even use it! [Laughs]. It was a scene at the Halloween party when I was sort of playing with the worms on my fingers. They ultimately went for a shot where it’s just them in the cup, but when you see them on my body and crawling out of the tank, that’s all really, really good CGI.
Miles and Zack, there are a lot of scenes where you two are playing best pals. How naturally did that chemistry come once you started filming?
Miles McKenna: Yeah, Zack, how naturally did that come when we started filming? [Laughs].
Zack Morris: It’s the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my career. [Laughs]. ,
Miles McKenna: What did you say to me? When we wrapped, we all gave each other cards and he said something like, “I didn’t know I was this good of an actor until I had to act like we’re best friends.” [Laughs].
Zack Morris: You know what, I love this guy, man! I love this guy.. From day one, we just clicked. I think, for us, the main purpose was we want to make this moment as good as we can make it. So when you have two people with a real objective and a real care and a real love for something, you’re naturally going to connect. He is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, so that helps. When I need to laugh … and those moments where I’m finding him funny, like I’m not acting there. It’s genuinely funny and I’m trying not to break. Soit was a real pleasure getting to meet him.
Miles McKenna: Girl, you stop! No, I leaned on this man so hard during the duration of this filming. It was really cool where, in the auditioning process, I did all my test reads with many different actors that were set to play Isaiah. Ultimately, Zack was cast and I didn’t meet him and we didn’t specifically work together until we were on set. The first time we did a scene together was when the cameras were rolling. It was something so powerful because we both, like Zack said, wanted to make this something really cool and special and we both, day one, scene one, were just throwing stuff out there and really trying to play and really trying to bring ourselves to the characters and throw something and then have someone catch it and throw it back to you. Immediately, it was like, “Oh, this is going to be so fun.” You know?
When we first met, it was at Ana [Yi Puig]’s apartment and you walked through the door and the first thing I said to you was like, “You’re British!” [Laughs]. “You’re British! Yeah, you’re British! You’re British!” It was amazing. I mean, we all got so close during the duration of filming and it’s been an absolute blast.
Will, you also have some really great scenes with Rachael Harris, especially when you two were talking about your dad in the show. What was it like to film those scenes together?
Will Price: It always boils down to trust and vulnerability. I don’t want to speak for Rachael, but I think we immediately felt very comfortable with each other. She has kids and talking about her kids, I think we immediately established a rapport and both felt very safe acting with each other. I think we both understood the scenes. She’s such a giving scene partner and is always there to make it the best that it can be. That’s all you can ask for — someone that’s immensely present and really always looking to do amazing work. She’s also hilarious and very fun to work with. We got some really great writing and got the chance to get into stuff. So I’m very grateful.
Justin Long is such a master of horror and humor. How fun was it to work alongside him in the show?
Zack Morris: Justin Long is incredible, man. Like you said, it was a real blessing. I got to work with Justin … I think it was my third day of shooting. That was the first time we worked together. The scene that you are seeing on screen, how they pieced that together … I don’t know, because we were improvising for our lives.
For me, to feel settled enough to be able to do that requires a scene partner who is giving a handout to you to be able to do that. He would take a scene when you’re coming back at that and you are ending up somewhere completely different, but somehow it still works. He’s the master of bringing it back to where it needs to be, then going somewhere else and then you’re going on this journey with him. But I feel very, very blessed to be able to do that.
Miles, your character’s got a really impassioned line about being one of six gay people in a very small town. What were your first thoughts when you saw that line in the script and what was performing that like?
Miles McKenna: Thanks for asking. It was just so incredible. Major props go out to the writers and producers, Nick Stoller and Rob Letterman, for really creating such an impactful storyline for James. One reason why it makes it really impactful is because it’s one that centers a gay person’s struggle, but not a gay person’s trauma. He’s navigating a universal struggle that I think everyone can relate to, which was feeling confident in himself. Allowing an audience to see themselves in a person is only going to do good in the world and hopefully allow people to be a bit kinder to the Jameses that they see in their real lives. But yeah, it was really just so amazing to have that finale moment in Episode 3, outside of the dupes and everything that was action, to really have a moment with your best friend and be like, “We need to see each other.”
Lucas, in the later episodes, seems to take the events of the Slappy incident the hardest. How did you go about portraying that sense of sort of unresolved trauma?
Will Price: I would say, the biggest thing is that you can find a touchstone of how, as a person, you maybe have processed something difficult — or maybe in my own life when I’ve been in a situation where I can’t quite shake a feeling or an emotion just keeps coming up. I think the anxiety of things not seeming quite right is a very identifiable feeling as an actor. Then, when you couple that with really great situations that you’ve been put in by the writers, it makes things a lot easier because, all of a sudden, you’re not acting in a vacuum. You go, “Okay, well if this happened to me, how might I react?” Then, all of a sudden, your suspension of disbelief sort of takes hold.
At least for me, all I had to do was imagine, “Had these things happened to me, I’d probably not be doing well.” I think, as an actor, you just do your best to put yourself in that place and channel those emotions and then lean on good writing and good scene partners to carry you through it. I hope that people watch Lucas and the latter part of the show and see that this is someone that, sure, he’s been tormented by a dummy and by a ghost, but anyone that struggles with trying to move through trauma, they’re not alone in that. That’s why I watch things. It’s when you’re watching the screen, and you go, “Oh my gosh. I’ve felt like that before. How did they know?” It’s very heightened, but I hope the emotions ring true.
In conclusion, this film has captivated audiences with its mesmerizing storytelling, compelling performances, and stunning visuals. It has transported us to worlds both familiar and unknown, evoking a range of emotions that have left a lasting impact. The director’s artistic vision and the collaborative efforts of the cast and crew have brought this story to life in a truly extraordinary way. From the gripping plot twists to the heartfelt moments of connection, this film has reminded us of the power of cinema to inspire, entertain, and provoke thought.
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