With The Haunting of Bly Manor now available to watch on Netflix, we got the opportunity to have an extended chat with Oliver Jackson-Cohen. The show stars Victoria Pedretti as Dani Clayton, a young woman who’s hired by Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) to be the au pair for his young niece and nephew soon after the passing of their parents. Jackson-Cohen steps in as Peter Quint, Henry’s valet, and Dani soon comes to learn that Peter doesn’t have the best reputation on the Bly estate.
Yes, our chat with Jackson-Cohen is filled with Bly details, including his take on a few very spoiler-heavy topics, but Collider Connected also gives us the opportunity to go back to the very beginning and recap the journey to someone’s latest project. For Jackson-Cohen? It all began with a dream of snagging the lead role from Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2, getting some early experience by doing production work, and then learning even more through some of his very first acting gigs, like Going the Distance and Faster.
“I didn’t get into drama school. Those first five years of my career were my drama school. It was me making mistakes, it was me trying things out that didn’t work, but on a scale that was a bit less forgiving than just in a quiet room. [Laughs] But they were very, very important. It was a very important learning process. All of that kind of early stuff.”
When exactly did that learning curve guide him to a place where he gained a sense of clarity as far as the trajectory he wanted his career to take? Here’s what Jackson-Cohen said:
“I think about four or five years ago, there was a movie that I did in Australia called The Secret River that never left Australia. It never went anywhere else, but that was the first time that I felt I wasn’t having to be what someone thought I should be and I was actually able to put my own imprint of what I thought was human, what I felt was real into a character and we were all on the same page of that. So I think that was the first time that I felt that I was doing something that felt closer to who I am, and felt closer to the type of projects or work that I watch or I relate to.”
That right there is only a small portion of Jackson-Cohen’s experience in the industry. Check out the full interview at the top of this article to hear more about how Drew Barrymore became instrumental in making his first feature film role happen, his experience making the movie Faster, what it was really like for Jackson-Cohen after The Haunting of Hill House hit it big on Netflix, and so much more!
- 00:40 – Why Home Alone was the movie that made Jackson-Cohen say, “I have to be an actor.”
- 02:35 – On being encourage to pursue a “sensible career” when he was younger.
- 04:42 – Jackson-Cohen didn’t get into drama school; forging forward and not getting dejected by rejection.
- 06:38 – Jackson-Cohen worked in production until he was 21; the value of learning lots about how a set works early on.
- 07:52 – Drew Barrymore actually wrote a letter to help Jackson-Cohen secure a Visa so he could work on Going the Distance.
- 09:39 – Jackson-Cohen looks back on making Faster and how his character, Killer, went through many changes.
- 13:21 – How The Secret River was a milestone experience for Jackson-Cohen.
- 15:42 – What was it like for Jackson-Cohen after Hill House amassed such a significant fanbase?
- 18:32 – Of everyone in the Bly Manor ensemble, whose process aligns with Jackson-Cohen’s the most and who challenged him to adapt the most?
- 19:57 – Bly Manor spoilers begin here! What was it like collaborating Benjamin Evan Ainsworth?
- 22:03 – Jackson-Cohen actually could have taken one of two roles initially; Peter Quint was once a more villainous and unsympathetic character. Why it was important for Jackson-Cohen to change that.
- 26:43 -What exactly is Peter doing when he goes out and learns more about his capabilities as a ghost?
- 28:20 – After saying, “You, me us,” could Peter have just walked off the property in Rebecca’s body if he hadn’t chosen to drown her?
- 29:35 – Jackson-Cohen talks about why he has those fake tattoos.
- 30:12 – He’s working on Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter right now; what’s it like working with Paul Mescal on his first feature?