Oliver spoke with Entertainment Weekly to talk about the upcoming The Haunting of Bly Manor via Zoom chat. He also discussed The Haunting of Hill House, his first roles, and more. EW also revealed that Oliver has joined the cast of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, alongside Dakota Johnson, Olivia Colman, and Paul Mescal.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen, star of The Invisible Man and The Haunting of Hill House, found himself in a ghost town back in March. It certainly looked like his London home, about a five-minute walk from Covent Garden, just not the one he remembered. It was almost like a veil had been draped over his reality. “During lockdown, it was kind of nuts,” he says on a September Zoom call in between puffs from a vape pen, a silver chain dangling atop a black crewneck. “You were allowed out for like an hour a day to do exercise. Just walking around the center of town, I’d never seen it like that. It just was completely dead.”
The same could be said of his schedule, which also had to be wiped clean as the model-turned-actor found himself tethered to his parents’ home. But it was a welcome change. “I’d been so manic,” he says. “This is good.”
Manic is putting it lightly. Jackson-Cohen, 33, son of English fashion designer Betty Jackson, first went to Australia in July 2019 for his role of Adrian Griffin, Elisabeth Moss’s onscreen tormenter in The Invisible Man, one of the first films to receive an early at-home release this year when the pandemic threw a wrench in Hollywood’s plans. The studio let him wrap production early on the project so he could make a pitstop back in the U.K. to change out his suitcase before boarding yet another flight to Vancouver, where Hill House creator Mike Flanagan set up shop with former cast members Victoria Pedretti, Henry Thomas, and Kate Siegel for The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second season in this Netflix horror anthology (out Oct. 9). After that, it was back to Invisible Man mode for a press tour, and then… nothing.
In the spirit of keeping busy, Jackson-Cohen tried on many different hats over the first few months of lockdown. One was “DIY man,” he says, sitting at a table that he constructed in front of a wall that he painted. Another was baker, but that fad lasted only a few days. So, he turned to clearing out cupboards. “I found all the folders with all my scripts from Bly. I opened it up and there were all these notes from the kids.” Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth — who play Flora and Miles, two haunted children in the Turn of the Screw-inspired season — would draw everyone in the cast cards on set. “Ben used to write me these notes: ‘To my friend, Oliver. You win the award of best friend of the day.’ They are just the sweetest, sweetest kids.”
There’s clearly a lot of love in and around this show, even before the little ones joined. Hill House, which premiered in 2018, quickly became an obsession for Netflix subscribers. Viewers were captivated by the story of the Crain family, inspired by Shirley Jackson’s novel, as they each grappled with the trauma of losing their mother during their stay in a haunted house.
Jackson-Cohen portrayed Luke Crain, the heroin-addicted twin brother of Pedretti’s Nell. It was the first time he felt like he could put himself into a character. Not that he’s had a heroin addiction. It was more about Luke’s emotional trauma and childhood that he understood well. ″I’m 6’3” and, you know, big,″ Jackson-Cohen says, slipping into a pretend monster voice to emphasize that last word. ″I think people assume I am a jock or whatever it is that people assume, and I’ve never, ever related to those types of people. I’m actually quite a sensitive, emotional man. So, finding characters to play like that when you are 6’3” and you are seen a certain way is quite a challenge.″ continue reading