CS Interview: Paxton Singleton on Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House
With the highly anticipated horror drama series The Haunting of Hill House arriving on Netflix this week, ComingSoon.net had the chance to talk with Paxton Singleton (Alice Fades Away, The Rookie) over email, who plays the young version of Steven Crain, the eldest brother in the series. Check out the interview below, and be sure to catch season one of The Haunting of Hill House launching this Friday on Netflix!
A modern reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s iconic novel of the same name, The Haunting of Hill House will explore a group of siblings who, as children, grew up in what would go on to become the most famous haunted house in the country. Now adults, and forced back together in the face of tragedy, the family must finally confront the ghosts of their past — some of which still lurk in their minds while others may actually be stalking the shadows of Hill House. Created, directed and executive-produced by horror mastermind Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game), The Haunting of Hill House is a complex family drama wrapped in a chilling horror story. Trevor Macy serves as executive producer alongside Flanagan. Meredith Averill acts as co-showrunner and executive producer. Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank executive produce, as well.
The cast includes Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), Carla Gugino (Gerald’s Game), Timothy Hutton (All The Money In The World), Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Healer), Henry Thomas (Better Things), Kate Siegel (Hush) and Victoria Pedretti (Sole).
The Haunting of Hill House was written, directed and executive produced by Mike Flanagan. His producing partner Trevor Macy also executive produced alongside Amblin TV’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey.
ComingSoon.net: What can you tell us about your character?
Paxton Singleton: You know, he’s just a nice, loving kid. He’s very protective of his siblings and wants to please his parents by doing things like helping around the house. He’s at an age where he’s maturing into a man. His dad sees that and is trying to treat him more like an adult.
CS: Did you work closely with Michiel Huisman to develop Steven from when you played him as a kid versus Michiel playing him as an adult?
Singleton: Michiel and I did not get to work very closely together because we weren’t on the set together very much. School kind of gets in the way of any extra time. But, a good example of how we worked together to develop the character was when we both had the same line. If the character says the same line as a kid and an adult, it’s probably something he’s said many, many times. Just a quick conversation with Michiel was enough to establish the way that line would be treated by both the younger and older version.
CS: Have you read Shirley Jackson’s book that the series is based on?
Singleton: Will I get in trouble if I say “no”? Ha! I mean, my mom has. Does that count? The book is the inspiration for the series. In most ghost stories, there’s a ghost living in a house that terrorizes the family inside. In The Haunting of Hill House, the book and the series, the house itself terrorizes the people that live there. The house is a character.
CS: When Steven grows up he’s a skeptic of the supernatural. How does young Steven initially react when terrifying things start happening in the house?
Singleton: He’s in denial. There are things happening all around him that he refuses to see.
CS: This was your first time really diving into the horror genre. How did you prepare to play young Steven? Did you have to balance being the older brother of a group of siblings with how he dealt with being a kid living in a haunted house?
Singleton: I really felt a personal connection with Steven. He and I are alike in a bunch of ways. I have a younger brother that I do feel protective of. I mean, we do argue, but we really take care of one another. Steven is unique in that he is in denial that the house is haunted, so when he tells his siblings that everything is going to be ok, he believes it. He tries to rationalize everything that’s taken place.
CS: Steven ends up becoming an author and writes an autobiography about growing up in the house. Do we see the writing bug in young Steven in the flashbacks?
Singleton: Not really. He seems to be more interested in stereotypical teenage boy stuff. His room is filled with video games, baseball cards, sports equipment, a guitar. He spends most of his time working with his dad.
CS: This role was your first time playing a series regular. What did you learn or take away from the experience that will stick with you throughout the rest of your career?
Singleton: There is so much I learned. I can’t really say it all. It was just everything. I learned how to keep from blocking someone’s light from Annabeth Gish. With Mike Flanagan as the director, he was constantly giving tips that I’ll use for the rest of my career. I worked with Henry Thomas so much. Just watching him work was a learning experience. Not to mention, just learning about how a show like this is made every day. The production value was so impressive! From the camera crew, lighting, sound, costumes; there was something to learn from everyone.
CS: What was it like working with Mike Flanagan?
Singleton: Working with Mike was incredible in so many different ways. I got to see firsthand what a hard worker he is… and also how much he loves pizza. (Go on his Instagram. It’s literally all pizza). He has a clear vision in his head, and he’s so good at explaining it in a way that everyone in the room knows what to do.
CS: You wrapped filming in April. Have you stayed in touch with your costars?
Singleton: Mckenna Grace, of course. My partner in crime and best friend on set. I’ve been in Los Angeles lately, so I’ve been able to actually see her recently. Of course, with social media, it’s easy to keep up with everyone. Not just the cast. I also try to follow crew members, people from the production office, catering… everyone.
CS: Any fun memories working with your costars you’d like to share?
Singleton: Every time I went anywhere with Mckenna she was recognized, so guess what I got to be? Her personal photographer for fans.
CS: Are you a horror fan? Did you ever get freaked out on set?
Singleton: Heck no! I am a scaredy cat! I will jump straight out of my skin if I watch something scary. I never got freaked out on set, though. There’s just too much going on.
CS: The show is already 100% on Rotten Tomatoes (at the time of the interview) and the first season hasn’t even premiered yet. How cool is that?
Singleton: I’m just in awe.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)