Interview: Maika Monroe on playing Jay in arresting horror film It Follows

Interview: It Follows actress Maika Monroe

The slasher is given a whole new spin in It Follows

Fresh from appearing in The Guest with Dan Stevens, Monroe impresses in David Robert Mitchell's lauded new slasher

Maika Monroe’s first experience of the film industry came when she was plucked from her dance class at the age of 13 to appear in a horror film as an extra. The now 21-year-old actress managed to persuade Bad Blood’s director to give her one line after ‘falling in love with the sets and actors’ including the legendary Piper Laurie. Despite claiming she’d never had previous aspirations to be an actress, Monroe is now an undisputed rising star. ‘My dad showed me loads of films when I was young but I never thought I would be in movies. That didn’t seem like a real job to me’.  

Having worked with directors Sofia Coppola and Jason Reitman on supporting roles in The Bling Ring and Labor Day respectively, Monroe proves to be something of a revelation in her recent return to horror. She's been lauded for her performance in It Follows, David Robert Mitchell’s visually arresting exploration of teen life and a dread-filled spin on the slasher film.
As a fan of horror movies when she was younger (‘I remember when me and my friends had sleepovers, we would watch all The Nightmare on Elm Street movies’), the role of Jay in It Follows certainly appealed. But it was also a challenging role: ‘I felt that my character was in a very dark place for most of the movie, so on set I would keep headphones in my ears and stay distant’, says Monroe. ‘I think she goes through a pretty interesting arc. In the beginning of the movie, I don’t think she thought of herself as a hero or someone who could survive such a horrific event.’

The anxiety and excitement of being a teenager are handled extremely well in It Follows and Mitchell does an excellent job of playing with the fear of growing up. Monroe has only recently entered her 20s and explains her maturation: ‘You’re more aware of what’s going in the world. I guess becoming an adult and learning how to survive on your own is exciting.’

Growing up in Santa Barbara, California, Monroe made the most of her beach setting. ‘Before acting took off, I was a professional kiteboarder training for the world circuit; with a sporting activity you have to be determined and it taught me to have a thick skin, which came in use after going to so many auditions and being told “no”.’

On speaking about the people who have been an inspiration to her, Monroe mentions two British stars. ‘I have to say working with Dan Stevens in The Guest and seeing his transformation was incredible. Also Kate Winslet. Off set, she’s loud and sweary but when she walks on set she has this calmness and is so centred.’

Three years ago Monroe appeared in Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price, alongside Zac Efron. Monroe cites that film as providing a real highlight in her career so far. ‘I was 18 and at the Venice Film Festival; it’s so glamourous and the most beautiful place. It was such a magical moment to realise all the work was paying off.’

Since then the offers have been flooding in. She’s set to appear in an adaptation of YA dystopian sci-fi novel The Fifth Wave alongside Chloë Grace Moretz and a drama directed by DJ Caruso starring Jennifer Garner and Tye Sheridan. But Monroe is still waiting for a call from the director she would most like to work with: ‘Wes Anderson!’ she exclaims. ‘I think that would be really interesting.’

It Follows is screening at the Grosvenor, Glasgow, Fri 20 Feb and GFT, Sat 21 Feb, as part of Glasgow Film Festival. General release from Fri 27 Feb.

It Follows

  • 5 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 47min
  • 15
  • Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
  • Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

Jay (Monroe) is a Michigan teenager whose lover reveals that he's infected her with a potentially deadly curse. Sensitive, visually arresting and utterly disturbing horror about the possible consequences of a sexual encounter, with a deeply affecting performance from Monroe and an excellent supporting cast.