One of Madeleine McGraw’s most recent projects is The Black Phone, an adaptation of Joe Hill’s short story of the same name, and it was released theatrically with Universal Pictures in June this year. Madeleine plays Gwen in the supernatural horror film, with the cast also including Mason Thames as Finney and Ethan Hawke as The Grabber. In the Disney series Secrets of Sulphur Springs, Madeleine plays regular character Zoey Campbell across both series already released, and is set to reprise her role in the upcoming Series 3. Previous screen roles for Madeleine have included playing Stella in A Christmas Wish, Sam in The Mandela Effect, Amber Barnes in Outcast, and she worked alongside her twin brother Aidan for one of her first roles, where she played McKenna in the Clint Eastwood-directed feature film American Sniper. As a voice artist, Madeleine voices Young Katie in the multi-award-winning 2021 release The Mitchells vs The Machines, Bonnie in Toy Story 4 and Maddy McGear in Cars 3. Chatting to Madeleine, she told us about her role of Gwen in The Black Phone, being in the cast of Disney’s Secrets of Sulphur Springs and voicing Young Katie in The Mitchells vs The Machines.
You can be seen in the new supernatural horror film The Black Phone as Gwen, can you tell us about the film and your character, and what is she like to play?
The Black Phone is about about a boy named Finney, who gets taken by The Grabber, a serial kidnapper in the area. He is then locked in a soundproof basement and starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer’s previous victims.
I play Gwen, Finney’s little sister, she is a little bit of a spitfire and doesn’t take any garbage from anyone. Gwen has these dreams which she hopes she can use to help find her brother.
Playing Gwen was such a thrill. She has so many facets to her personality. She’s tough but venerable, witty but also serious and determined. A character like Gwen doesn’t come around all that often, especially for a 12 year old. So, getting to play her was such an honour.
How was it on set of a horror film and being part of a Joe Hill screen adaptation?
Being on the set of The Black Phone was incredible. I didn’t read the short story before I read the script. But reading the script was so intense. A real page-turner. When I later read how they expanded my character from the short story, I was really impressed and obviously grateful.
Once we were filming, it became clear this was special. There was something about it. A feeling. You knew it was different. From the script to the costumes to the set design, you knew it was going to have an impact. I remember walking into the kitchen to film “that scene” and I was completely immersed in a kitchen from the 70s. I was blown away. The art department really paid attention to detail, which helped me to be transported to that time.
It wasn’t scary to film at the time as you have cast, crew, lighting, etc. But I remember walking into the basement set and it sent shivers down my spine. Then when I saw it on the screen, I got taken by every jump scare and I even knew what was going to happen.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast, which includes Mason Thames as Finney and Ethan Hawke as The Grabber?
Working with Mason was amazing. We became close right from the beginning. Our moms took us on a field trip to the USS North Carolina Battleship and Mason and I had such a great time. Our moms really liked each other so they were talking a lot, which left Mason and I time to really forge a bond and deep friendship. I think that helped with our on-screen relationship so much. I really loved working with Mason. After my very intense scene with Jeremy Davies, there was a note in my trailer from Mason saying how proud he was of me. I still have that note.
Working with Jeremy Davies was an extraordinary experience. He is such a gifted actor. He really gets into the headspace of the character and is truly so believable, off-screen as much as on. His ability to stay in character really helped me in that kitchen scene. He was scary. But later that day, he came by my trailer and we thanked each other for both committing to that scene.
Sadly, I didn’t get to work with Ethan, but after seeing him on screen, I think I would have had nightmares. I finally got to meet him at the press junket in New York. He is even nicer than I had hoped he would be.
How does it feel seeing the fan response now The Black Phone has been released and do you have any stand-out highlights from playing Gwen?
Seeing the fan response to the movie means everything. We all worked so hard, so to see the positive responses and the love for the characters, especially for Gwen, really fills me with so much joy.
I think we all want a Gwen in our lives. Someone that always has your back. Someone that will speak up even if it’s not the popular thing to do. I loved Gwen from the moment I read the script. I am so glad she has resonated with so many. My favourite Gwen moment was probably the scene with the bullies. I loved rehearsing that scene as much as I loved filming it. We all had a blast.
Can you tell us what Zoey Campbell is like to play in Secrets of Sulphur Springs and was there anything that drew you to the show?
Zoey is the quick-witted little sister to Griffin and the twin sister to Wyatt. So, it felt really natural to play her. I have an older brother and a twin brother, so I could really relate to that dynamic.
What drew me to Zoey was her quick wit. She’s funny, sarcastic, and smart. I love when they write fearless female characters. Zoey is always up for an adventure. I love that!
What do you enjoy most about working on the series and filming for Disney?
My favourite thing about filming this series is definitely the time I get to spend with the cast. I love the cast so much. Landon Gordon (Wyatt) and I play twins, so most of our scenes are together, so that means our off days are usually together too. We love our off days as much as the filming days because we scooter all over New Orleans, swim and eat at all of our favourite places. It’s really been some of the best times.
What are you looking forward to for continuing the story in Series 3, which has been announced for an upcoming release?
I am excited to see what else they reveal and if the twins ever finally get to meet Savannah.
How was it voicing Young Katie in The Mitchells vs the Machines and what was it like seeing the huge success of the film, which has seen it win and be nominated for numerous awards including Best Animated Film at the 2022 Oscars?
Oh my gosh. It was so fun to voice Katie. The director, Mike Rianda is seriously one of the coolest people I have ever met and he was beyond kind to me. I was excited for the cast and especially the crew when they were being honoured for all of their hard work. They really seemed to be a family and my cast gift is something I will treasure forever.
What was it like playing Stella in the TV movie A Christmas Wish?
Stella was a sweet experience and came along at a time when I was actually considering taking a break from acting. I had come so close on a few really great projects and was feeling the pain of rejection. My friend Megan Park heard I was struggling. She and her husband Tyler Hilton were already set to star in A Christmas Wish, so she mentioned me to the producers for one of the roles and once I got the offer, they changed the other girl role to a boy and cast my real-life twin as my friend. It was just what the doctor ordered. I truly had the best time and it was great having my twin with me.
Ironically, this movie was filmed in New Orleans and while I was there I got the call that I booked the role of Zoey in Secrets of Sulphur Springs that was going to film in… New Orleans. So Stella is actually very special to me.
Can you tell us how you found the experience playing Sam in The Mandela Effect?
The Mandela Effect was another great experience. I loved the story and exploring how people really can have altered experiences. We were such a small cast, so we became really close pretty fast. Our director David Guy Levy was an awesome leader.
You voice the role of Bonnie in Toy Story 4, what is she like to voice and what was the film like to work on?
I love the Toy Story movies so much, so getting to voice Bonnie was an incredible honour. I booked that when I was five and we finished when I was ten. I couldn’t tell anyone about it. My grandparents didn’t even know. Josh Cooley, who directed the movie, is truly one of the coolest people I have worked with. He was so great at direction and making each recording session so much fun. Even when I had to cry. My favourite part was actually getting to record at the famous Pixar Studios in Emeryville. I loved seeing all of the memorabilia from all the amazing movies and they even showed me one of their secret rooms. I was blown away.
In the releases of Ant-Man and the Wasp and Pacific Rim: Uprising, you play Young Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and Young Amara (Cailee Spaeny) respectively, how was this?
Well, I had always wanted to be a part of a Marvel movie, so getting to play Young Hope was a dream come true. Plus, I got to work with legends like Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer. When I saw the movie in the theater, it really was a surreal experience.
Playing Young Amara was cool. I loved filming at the Santa Monica pier and doing green screen work. Sarah Finn, who cast me in both of these projects, is probably one of the best casting directors in the business, so for her to think of me for these roles was pretty humbling.
Your first major animated film release was Cars 3 as Maddy McGear, what are some of your favourite memories from working on this?
I had already been working on Toy Story 4 at this point, but couldn’t talk about it. So, when they asked me to record for Cars 3, I was super flattered. At first, I was Lightning McQueen’s biggest fan. But as the movie was in post-production we got a call from Pixar and they asked if they could name the car after me. That’s when Maddy McGear was born. It was seriously one of the coolest moments of my life. I have a die-cast Maddy McGear car that sits on my shelf. It’s the cutest thing!
Can you tell us about playing Amber Barnes in the TV series Outcast?
Amber Barnes was life-changing for me. Not only was it my biggest job up to that point, but I met people that have truly become family. My pretend dad on Outcast was played by Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), his wife and sweet, adorable son, are truly like family to us. We spend holidays together and he has given me some of the best advice regarding the business. Whenever I have a role that I am confused about or want input on, I call Patrick.
Outcast was filmed in South Carolina, so being away from home was hard, but having Patrick and so many crew members become like family really helped. I have always been into soccer, even at six, so while in South Carolina, my mom signed me up for a soccer team there. I became more of a part of the community and I made some lifelong friends. Overall, being cast as Amber on Outcast was one of my biggest blessings.
At the start of your career, you played McKenna in American Sniper, which saw you be nominated for Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress at the 2015 Young Artist Awards, what do you remember most from this project?
What I remember most about American Sniper was that my twin brother Aidan was also cast to play Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller’s child. He played my character’s big brother before I was born. Being able to share that experience with my brother was everything. Now that I am older and understand things more, the fact that we were directed by the amazing Clint Eastwood for our first movie appearance is kind of crazy to think about. We were invited to the NYC premiere and I will never forget how Mr. Eastwood saw us and came right over and talked to us to see how we were feeling about everything. He didn’t have to do that. That just shows his character. He’s amazing.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
I started acting after seeing my baby sister go out on modelling jobs. I really wanted to try it, but my mom said no for quite a while. Finally, my mom let me go on an audition and I booked it. A few months later we were in LA and I shot some photos with an LA photographer. He later posted one on his Facebook and a manager saw something in me, reached out to my mom and the rest is history.
I am not sure where my love of acting comes from, but I do know I love trying on new characters. Getting to bring out different sides of myself or looking deeply into how someone else would feel in a situation is so interesting to me.
What are some of your favourite TV shows and films to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I have a couple of favourite shows. I love Cobra Kai! Such a fun show! The actors are amazing!! The other show I love is Stranger Things. They are both so good. I am currently obsessing that the last couple of episodes just dropped for this season.
My favourite movie is probably Knives Out. I am also a fan and love all of the Harry Potter movies. We have made it a tradition during the holidays to binge Harry Potter. It’s my favourite few nights. My favourite Marvel movie is probably Avengers: Endgame.
My favourite thing to do outside of acting is soccer. I am extremely passionate about the sport. I am always working on getting better and faster. I love my team so much and I have one of the best coaches around.
Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming work?
I am set to head back to New Orleans to film Season 3 of Disney’s Secrets of Sulphur Springs. I can’t wait to see the cast and crew. We have been through two seasons together during the height of the pandemic, so we are very close, especially me and Landon, who plays my twin. We talk on the phone every single day and are usually the last people we talk to before we fall asleep.
I have also been pitching a fun series around Hollywood, which has been a very cool learning experience.
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