To say that Sydney Sweeney is having a breakout year is a huge understatement. She first appeared in the Netflix series, Everything Sucks!, then came season 2 of Hulu series, The Handmaids Tale and followed that up with HBO’s miniseries, Sharp Objects, opposite Amy Adams. That alone would make anyone’s year, but she’s not finished. She’s now starring in the supernatural horror film, Along Came the Devil, where she play Ashley, a teen who is sent to live with her aunt in her old home town. Soon, she has visions of her deceased mom and conjures up a demon, which forces her family and friends to fight for her soul.
Her recent success is due to lots of hard work, dedication and paying attention to the specifics of her characters. “I like to be as detailed as possible,” she said.
Here she talks about the film, playing someone who is possessed, working with Amy Adams and why she creates a different book for each of her characters.
I’m not a big fan of horror movies but I gotta say, this was really good.
Sydney Sweeney: Oh, why thank you.
It took it’s time and it was all about story. Story and character as opposed to just cheap scares, you know?
Sydney Sweeney: Exactly.
And the final payoffs were well worth it.
Sydney Sweeney: I liked how they really wanted to make sure that they paid attention to the story and they wanted the viewers to really be along with them for the ride and not just try to sell out on cheap junk.
Were you looking to do a horror film?
Sydney Sweeney: At the time no, it came about, auditioned for it, got it, enjoyed it. I love horror, so I had an amazing time doing it and it would be fun to do again some time.
When you auditioned, did you have to do any of the possession scenes?
Sydney Sweeney: No and that’s actually, it was surprising. I thought they were going to have me do it but they didn’t. They had me do a scene between Aunt Tanya and Ashley and then the scene of Ashley and Hannah where they were calling for Ashley’s mom. I mean, I even said, “Wow, I’m surprised you guys didn’t have me do the whole demonic possessions.” They were like, “We we’re just hoping that you can.” I’m like, “I can so we’re good.”
How did you figure out how to play those scenes? I mean, those were creepy as hell.
Sydney Sweeney: I watched a lot of possession films and I watched The Exorcist quite a bit. And then I actually worked with a dialect coach to help me contort my voice in different ways and work on the different languages that the demon spoke. And then I worked with a movement coach to change up the way I would hold my body and move for the different stages of the possession.
That’s very detailed.
Sydney Sweeney: Yeah. I like to be as detailed as possible.
I read that you do books for each character. So, was that part of it as well?
Sydney Sweeney: Yeah, I had different books for the different demons. And when I was working on figuring out which demon Ashley became possessed by, I was talking to Jason [DeVan, director] and we both agreed that she was possessed by the devil. The actual devil herself. Instead of like a smaller demon because this devil was able to possess so many different people especially her mom, so it couldn’t just be a small entity, it had to be a really big one. So that’s why there were so many different personalities within this demon because the devil has possessed so many other people. So, when Ashley started to sound like her aunt or her mother, it’s because those are all the other people that he as possessed before.
You gotta be complimented that the devil actually possessed you. He’s the top guy for possessions, I hear.
Sydney Sweeney: I guess so. [laughs]
We just passed the half way mark and this has been a terrific year for you.
Sydney Sweeney: Yeah, it’s been a pretty incredible year.
You’re also in Sharp Objects. I love Amy Adams.
Sydney Sweeney: Who doesn’t? Amy is incredible.
How is it working with her? I read sometimes where the director doesn’t call cut and you and her just have to keep on going in the scene.
Sydney Sweeney: He did, which I love. I love being able to just stay in it for as long as we need to and bring more to life that’s off the page, so I enjoyed that.
For each character you play, you create different books for them. Can you tell me about that? How did you start doing that?
Sydney Sweeney: Well, I always would write about my different characters because, one, I’m a really artsy creative person and I love writing. I write songs and poetry. So, I wanted to bring to life the character through books as well. Because I was writing down anxieties for my character or just memories or thoughts and the I was like, “How cool it would be to have it all in a book?”
I read a book by acting coach Warner Loughlin and Amy is featured in that a lot too and she kinda does the same thing you do. Do you guys chat about that?
Sydney Sweeney: Yeah, well I actually worked with Warner Loughlin for a little bit and I did grab some of the memory work that Warner does. And what’s so crazy is I worked with Warner before, years before Sharp Objects even panned out and I was just doing a few indies here and there and costarring on a few shows and it was really hard on me because I wanted to be on a completely different level than I was. And she actually brought up Amy, and she was like, ‘Amy struggles with the same thing but it took her a couple of years to become who she was.’ I’ve always looked up to Amy, since I was little, as a role model.
The roles you’ve played so far, each has kind of been completely different. Everything is so diverse. Is that out of luck or some kind of plan?
Sydney Sweeney: A mixture of both. I’ve always wanted to play complete different characters from each other and from myself. So, usually when a character that is just like the girlfriend, I usually kind of turned away from even though I would maybe do it here and there. But I always wanted to make sure that they were completely different and I was just really luck this last year that there were roles written like that for me. And then I just put in the work to be able to book those characters. So it’s luck, work, effort, strategy. Everything. All of the above I guess.
When your agent says, “Hey, you’ve got an audition.” What’s the first thing you do when you get sides?
Sydney Sweeney: Well, I first read script, not just the sides, to get a full picture of everything. And then I research everything that the people who are working on it have worked on before, to see the kind of feeling of projects that they do and mood that they work on and the actors that they like to work with. And then I will dive into the character and build her and figure everything out.
What was your worst audition?
Sydney Sweeney: Oh gosh, I was at a callback with 14 producers, that’s not how many there were, but I felt like there was 14 people in the room. And I completely forgot all of my lines.
I’ve been there.
Sydney Sweeney: I was so nervous, I got so nervous, beyond nervous. I’ve never been so nervous in my entire life and I forgot all of my lines and they gave me so many chances to do it over and over again and it got to the point where I almost started balling my eyes out and I asked to leave.
Along Came the Devil is in theaters and On Demand/Streaming beginning August 10th