Why Bly Manor is âsame but differentâ kind of ghost story from Hill House
The one who hires Dani to care for his niece and nephew living at the sprawling Bly Manor.
— Photos by Netflix
Why Bly Manor is ‘same but different’ kind of ghost story from Hill House
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - October 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Streaming this Halloween season on Netflix is Haunting of Bly Manor, the follow-up to the hit horror series The Haunting of Hill House by creator Mike Flanagan and producer Trevor Macy.

In the latest chapter of The Haunting anthology, which is set in 1980s England, Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) hires a young American nanny (Victoria Pedretti) to care for his orphaned niece and nephew (Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller).

But all is not as it seems at the manor, and centuries of dark secrets of love and loss are waiting to be unearthed in this chilling gothic romance. At Bly Manor, dead doesn’t mean gone.

The series is based on the classic supernatural stories of literary master Henry James.

Henry Thomas is Henry Wingrave

The creator, Mike Flanagan, was asked in an interview in what way does this new chapter still feel part of The Haunting series, and he said: “The heart of The Haunting for me is about the question of what is a ghost? What different things can a ghost be and how are the ghosts that we deal with in our life linked to our past? Are they linked to who we are? How can we overcome them and achieve some kind of coexistence with them? All of that is the same. So it’s all just about trying to approach it from a different perspective so it isn’t just a retread. We have continuity with the cast, which is important, and we’ve also got continuity of theme. However, we’re pivoting off of the family loss thematics that we were playing with last season and more into the idea of an improvised family. We look at what happens when strangers have to come together as a family unit.”

Speaking of cast continuity, The STAR recently joined a virtual roundtable with cast members Victoria Pedretti and Henry Thomas, who had unforgettable roles in the Hill House (but no spoilers here) and are brought back in Bly Manor. Victoria and Henry are just two of the familiar faces but playing totally different characters in Haunting of Bly Manor. Other returning stars from The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 are Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino and Kate Siegel.

Here’s our little chat with them via Zoom:

Victoria Pedretti plays a young American nanny named Dani who is tasked to look after two rich, orphaned kids in England.

Okay, first question. What’s it like working with Mike Flanagan again on another serialized horror tale like Bly Manor?

Victoria: “It’s great! Yeah, I mean he directed just the first episode but getting to start off, then reuniting with him and working again with him, I mean that’s so much of why I enjoyed the first season. So it was a treat, yeah!”

Henry: “It was great to work with Mike again and, you know, even though he was only directing the first episode and he wrote some of the episodes, he was involved. But it wasn’t the same feel as on Hill House when he directed every episode.

“So it was interesting to work in that world, which kind of Mike’s set up with new, emerging directors that were coming in. You know, some of them had done just short films. Some of them had done features of their own that were standout horror genre films. So it was really cool to work with those guys. And I think we got some really cool episodes, out of their contribution.”

Playing star-crossed lovers are Tahirah Sharif as Rebecca Jessel and Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Peter Quint.

Did you encounter any paranormal experience while filming for the show? Or have you had any paranormal encounters in real life?

Henry: “No, other than the loud noises on set that were probably caused by airplanes. I think it was supernatural that we couldn’t control the airplanes, from coming through the ceiling of our soundstage, but otherwise yeah, we were okay. The airplane noise, not the actual planes, I should say.”

Victoria: “Yeah, I convinced myself that I’m experiencing things but I also have a very intense imagination. So, I’m also greatly open to the fact that… it’s probably true, it keeps things fun, you know, fill in the blanks, can’t see in the dark, you know, it could be anything (laughs).”

Amelie Bea Smith plays Flora Wingrave, who has an obsession for dolls.

Both Hill House and Bly Manor touch on the afterlife. What are your thoughts about the afterlife after making these two shows?

Henry: “I don’t know. I mean I’d like to believe that there’s something more than this but, you know, who knows? Nobody gets out of here alive, you can’t come back and tell anybody about it so I don’t know, I’m a little bit skeptic, to be honest.”

Victoria: “I have a bit of belief in everything other than heaven and hell. I think that’s bullsh*t.”

What was it like working with the child actors? Do you feel protective of them because they’re making a horror story?

Henry: “They’re professionals, they’re well prepared and, and they know it’s all fake and, you know, of course. You take care to shield them from anything like excessive blood or if that’s part of it, but we didn’t really have much of that on Bly. So, yeah, you want to protect them and especially if they’re very young, sometimes very young children can’t differentiate between fantasy and reality as easily as older children. So, you take care of them but these guys were so well-prepared and they had all worked enough before that they knew the drill and they were great!”

Victoria: “Yeah, I definitely felt protective because they’re children and given that I’m like playing their caretaker and working so intimately with them and having lots of difficult conversations with them in character. But these two children, they had a very strong understanding of how we were playing pretend.

“But it is difficult, you know, doing things that are ‘inappropriate’. When Benjamin was being possessed (in the series), he had to do things that he, as Benjamin, understands are inappropriate. So then we’re having conversations about consent, where we understand that this would never be appropriate in the real world, but we are in an imaginary circumstance, we’re playing pretend for the sake of the story and we can develop a rapport and have conversation where we can can tell the story safely and cooperatively.”

Benjamin Evan Ainsworth plays the role of the oldest Wingrave sibling, Miles.

How do you feel that Season 2 comes with great expectations from fans of the Hill House?

Victoria: “I don’t think about it too much.”

Henry: “Yeah, I don’t think about it too much. No, I think, you know, it’s a new world, it’s a new story with new characters, and some familiar faces but I think fans of Hill House will enjoy Bly Manor. And it will feel familiar to them. I think the world is a similar world.”

Victoria: “Yes, I think it’s very important to try to keep those things at bay during production but as soon as it’s over I was like, ‘Oh, sh*t, you know, did we do it? Did we make the mark you know?’ And everybody has different expectations. Everybody has different reasons why they love the first season.

“So, ultimately, I feel really great about the fact that we were there. Mike, you know, especially took risks to take the show into a new place and tell a new story and offer us new characters. I mean it’s such a great opportunity as an actor to explore a completely different world. But yes, it’s absolutely scary that it will disappoint fans who made it such a great success.”

Carla Gugino as the series’ narrator.

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