CS Interview: Esme Creed-Miles talks playing Hanna in new series
Amazon Prime Video’s series adaptation of Joe Wright’s 2011 film, Hanna, is equal parts a coming-of-age drama and high-concept thriller. ComingSoon.net spoke with Hanna herself, star Esme Creed-Miles, about preparing for the role, challenging social norms, embracing empathy and the pursuit of agency. Beware of a few spoilers as you check out the interview below, and be sure to catch Hanna streaming on Amazon Prime Video on March 29!
Having lived all her life in a forest in Northern Poland, Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) becomes the heart of an unraveling conspiracy and must leave the confinement of the forest to experience life, but once in the world, Hanna is hunted by Marissa (Mireille Enos) and others connected to Hanna’s hidden origins and exceptional abilities.
Her father, Erik (Joel Kinnaman), a hardened intuitive and uncompromising soldier and mercenary who, for the past 15 years, has raised his daughter in the remote forest of northern Poland. Isolated from the world he once knew, he has trained his daughter in every method of survival, with his only goal, to keep her safe. But, his teenage daughter begins to seek freedom from the restricted haven he has created.
David Farr, who co-wrote the original film, penned the series adaptation which follows the journey of a young girl with extraordinary skills as she evades the relentless pursuit of an off-book CIA agent and tries to unearth the truth behind who she is.
ComingSoon.net: I was blown away by your performance in Hanna. Can you talk about preparing for the role?
Esme Creed-Miles: Thank you so much. Yes, I had two months of physical prep, which involved yoga and boxing and martial arts training and cardio. And then fight choreography and learning the fights. With the acting side of it, I just sort of [laughs] experimented and did my best and hoped for the best. I didn’t know how to engineer the performance. I just hoped that I could pull it off with a bit of instinct. I think Saoirse’s [Ronan] performance [in the film] is so good, I had to try not to let that inform what I’m doing because I think it would be doing a disservice to their artistry if I tried to rip it off. So, I didn’t watch the film in preparation.
CS: Did you find it an interesting challenge to play a teenage girl who is coming-of-age but who has also been isolated from society her whole life and is a trained killer?
Creed-Miles: It was more of a holistic approach. I didn’t really try to disassociate between those two facets of her character. I tried to make it so that all of that weird physical stuff lended itself to some kind of humorous bits, especially with Sophie [Rhianne Barreto] or when she meets the boy Arvo in the forest. I didn’t want to separate her character and have her be, like, a normal teenager then bad*ss. She kind of is both all the time. I think that’s struggling inside her. [She’s] battling between discovering, I think, conceptual morality and what killing means to her, and putting a face to the victim which had always been this angry monster that her father had created and learning that, actually, not all people are like that. This discovering of who is the enemy and how do I wanna approach the enemy.
What was really special about Hanna as a character is her pursuit of agency. I think it’s important also not to overly celebrate her physical qualities because that’s not something that women can relate to. Her pursuit of agency is something that is translatable and relatable and hopefully is contagious for the viewer.
CS: Is that pursuit of agency what really resonated with you?
Creed-Miles: Hundred percent, yeah. Obviously, in different circumstances, I definitely related to this ideer of feeling claustrophobic and wanting to discover things for yourself. I think that’s something that all young people can relate to. It was channeling some of that into her breakout from the forest and rejecting her father’s very intensely suffocating parentage.
CS: When Hanna sees the boy in the woods, the first person besides her dad, what do you think she’s thinking at that moment?
Creed-Miles: Sasha [Alexander Gorchilin] who played Arvo was so great. He’s such a fantastic actor. It was really fun to rehearse that scene. Initially, they had this weird chemistry that is slightly unnerving to her because she assumes she’s gonna have to kill whoever she meets or have to protect herself. But he’s just this sweet boy. They have a little bit of chemistry, so I think she surprises herself with the fact that she likes him and wants to hang out with him, even though she’s been told all her life that human beings are not to be trusted and she wants to trust him. I think that’s kind of beautiful that her first encounter of other people is this sweet mini-romance.
CS: I liked that when Hanna first meets Sophie, even though she’s been taught, like you said, that people are dangerous and they can’t be trusted, she immediately wants to help her. Why do you think she’s so quick to put trust in people? Is it her own instinct, or is it because she knows she can take care of herself so she doesn’t have a lot to fear from people?
Creed-Miles: In that moment on set we tried to play with the humor of that a bit. This ideer of Hanna [going] for her gun and then sees this girl, Sophie, stumbling up with these flip-flops hanging about, and she actually knows she’s not a threat. It’s quite funny. I think that’s what’s special [about Hanna]. She has this empathy inside her. She’s a human being, and that’s what’s really special about celebrating that part of her. She’s not just a machine. I think it asks an important question about violence and, I guess, the efficiency of that. When they collaborate and they form this little team, they’re very effective together. Sophie actually ends up helping her a lot.
CS: What do you think that friendship with Sophie means to Hanna?
Creed-Miles: It’s special because she doesn’t have anyone else, really. Sophie kind of becomes her family and almost a sister. She’s never experienced that kind of intimacy before with someone, that emotional intimacy. It’s a kind of romance, I think.
CS: There’s this really beautiful scene in Episode 2, the rave/dance scene. Do you think that’s the freest and most unguarded that Hanna has ever been up to that point?
Creed-Miles: Maybe. Again, it was this ideer of like, she doesn’t know how to dance. When we were on set, you were thinking, “Okay, I’ve got to dance now, but I have to try not to do any dance moves.” Because Hanna wouldn’t have known. So, I was flinging my arms around. I think that’s also a moment that Sophie really falls in love with Hanna because as much as Hanna’s learning from Sophie, Sophie’s learning from Hanna this ideer of being completely uninhibited. Hanna doesn’t maintain social norms. She doesn’t have those boundaries. She speaks her mind and is very physical and funny.
When she clambers on top of that boy, obviously her sex drive kicks in and she doesn’t really get that’s not how, you know… She’s like, “Why? I was having a good time.” Sophie’s like, “What are you doing with this boy? You just met him!” She doesn’t understand. She’s just behaving on instinct, more like an animal. I found that fascinating and liberating as well because why should anyone feel that they have to prohibit the way that their body works just because we’re told otherwise?
CS: At the end of Episode 6, Hanna has a clear shot at Marissa [Mireille Enos] from the helicopter but she chooses not to take it. Why do you think she didn’t?
Creed-Miles: What’s really interesting is that relationship between Hanna and Marissa. David [Farr] talks about this really well, this family unit between them. It’s almost like Marissa and Erik [Joel Kinnaman] are messed up parents and Hanna is their messed up kid. Marissa and Hanna form this kind of strange bond. I think Hanna kind of understands the pain that Marissa’s in. She maintains a sort of empathy towards her, even though she’s always been the wicked witch. Those moments they spend together in the hotel, they do form a strange bond. That’s very interesting to see when two people who have been opposed to each other with a narrative can find a likeness within each other and build on that relationship. Even though Marissa is after her, I think Marissa has a strange love for Hanna, too.
CS: Speaking of family, how was it working with Joel?
Creed-Miles: He’s a brilliant actor, so it was obviously great to work with someone who’s really good at what they do. He’s been doing martial arts for years, so he had this wealth of experience and knowledge that took a weight off my shoulders when we were doing scenes because he’s really good at what he does.
CS: Moving towards the end of the season, how did you feel about how the story wrapped up? Obviously, there’s much more to tell, but how did you feel about the overall arc?
Creed-Miles: Well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it kind of comes full circle as she returns to mother nature at the end. I like this ideer of almost her journey out of the wilderness. She sees this modern world, kind of falls in love with it, and then goes back [laughs]. “That’s not what I want. Take me back to the woods.” And then she goes back, obviously with the Clara character who’s brilliant [and] played by Yasmin Monet Prince who’s a great actress. I like the way it rounded out. It also leaves space for more development and more exploration, which is really exciting, the possibility of that.
CS: What has this experience meant to you?
Creed-Miles: It’s taught me about perseverance and strength and hard work and how all those things pay off. It’s been really formative for me and I’m truly grateful for it.