Impulse is a YouTube Originals series that we’ve been championing from the beginning. The show is about Henry, a young woman played by Maddie Hasson, who learns she can teleport after a haunting incident, and features a powerhouse creative team.
When the opportunity to speak with Impulse lead actress Maddie Hasson was provided, it felt like a conversation long in the making and kind of fated as well in a way. We discovered that Hasson would be speaking to Brief Take on her off-day (a morning, actually) from pre-production on an upcoming James Wan movie, and that made it even sweeter. This was a one of a kind experience made all the more so by the fact that the series is damn good, and Hasson provided an exciting glimpse into season 2 of Impulse.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our phone interview with the fascinating Maddie Hasson.
Brief Take: You’re remarkably transformative and have such presence as Henrietta “Henry” Coles. I had heard that they were thinking about finding a YouTuber originally, but then when you auditioned, your own perspective was brought to the role and they rewrote the character. What happened at this audition?
Maddie Hasson: First of all, that’s so nice. What a lovely way to start my day! I don’t know what…I don’t know. If I knew, I would be doing it left and right in every audition, I have no idea. I also didn’t know that I wasn’t bringing [laughs] what they wanted or of what they originally thought for Henry.
I was like: “This is for sure [laughs] what it’s going to be!” So I don’t know. Doug (Liman) did tell me that what I brought to Henry was a lot darker than what they had originally intended for this show. So they rewrote it and made it darker, which was very nice of them to do and I’m glad that they did, [chuckles] because I get to be a part of it. [laughs] Apparently I’m too dark otherwise! I have no idea, I’m just glad that they liked it.
BT: Your show has such a clear aesthetic and voice. How do you think this affects the upcoming season?
MH: I think that Lauren LeFranc, our showrunner and creator, has created this really beautiful world in which nothing is really clear-cut, and in this season, especially, you kind of get to decide for yourself whether Henry is the protagonist or the antagonist, and I think it’s kind of great because in life, there are no heroes or villains. It’s about your own perception of yourself and you can regard yourself as a good person that has done a bad thing, or you can deem that you’re now a bad person because you’ve done a bad thing. I think that our show has to do exactly that, in that Henry has to decide between those options.
BT: Your character is extremely direct and swears like it’s some sort of weapon.
MH: In the notes that I get from the show, it’s “Can I say ‘fuck’ less?”. Because I pound the fucks a little bit, they have to limit the fucks that are said by the other characters because I say it so much! [laughs]
BT: Missi Pyle, who plays your mother, is raved about in interviews. What was the connection for you and her?
MH: I don’t know, we clicked the way that I haven’t really with anyone in my life- right from the beginning. And they didn’t do a chemistry read with us or anything, it just…we got really lucky. We have an interesting bond in real life, which again, helps our relationship on screen. I just love her so much and I think that she’s so talented and giving and kind. She’s very good at being instantly emotional, she’s very connected to the emotional side of herself. We can be doing a crying scene and she’ll be laughing right before they call action, and she can immediately be there and be in it. She’s very connected, something that I really admire, and it’s hard for me to do, I have to really work myself up. [laughs]
BT: Tell me about your interesting dynamic with Callum Keith Rennie, who plays Nikolai on your show.
MH: Well, first of all, Callum is an incredible actor and that makes it really easy. He is very, very grounded and he is very, as a person, passionate and interested in making things as real as possible. And being always present and not always sticking to the words, if the words aren’t exactly what’s right, he’s really up to play, which is really fun to work with and that’s how I like to do it. We really hit it off in that way. But as far as Nikolai and Henry, I think that they find that they are really similar and they are both sort of grungy and they’ve both had a lot of trauma. And I think that they react to things in a similar way, when something bad or painful happens, they try to both push it away a bit, and it’s interesting to watch them push away their own trauma. Ummm…I don’t know if I’m allowed to be saying all of this stuff, actually. [laughs]
BT: It’s exciting to discover the directions in which Impulse will go in season 2.
MH: I’m so excited. Yeah, we broaden the scope of Henry’s universe quite a bit, and yeah, we got to film a bit in Bucharest, Romania, which I loved. We actually went there and I loved it so much, the people were so lovely and the food there is incredible, and such a good time.
BT: You said in an interview that you had some of the best meals of your life in Toronto. Care to name one?
MH: There’s a place called Bar Buca, and it’s little, do you know what it is? They have amazing pastries, it’s very fun to go there for brunch, it’s Italian, and they have this espresso sugar, and it’s a paste. I know that that’s not a dish, but I could eat it with a spoon, which probably makes me an animal, but it’s so nice in there, I really enjoyed that. And I’ll try to think of some other ones. We had so much good Italian food. Oh! Ah! There’s this Greek restaurant that I went to a thousand times, I had the best chicken of my life, but I have to remember what it is, if I remember it by the end of this phone call, I’ll tell you.
BT: How did you like filming this season in Toronto in the winter? Your outfits kind of inform your character.
MH: First and foremost, I think it’s a real bummer. It’s really cold and it make everyone a little bit sad. [laughs] I think that helps with the darkness of the show. Also, Henry- I’m just thinking of this now, with the toque thing, she’s really, really guarded as a person and I think that she has her toque, which by the way is a Canadian thing, I did not know what a toque was before I went to Canada and I think it’s hilarious, like when I am saying it. She has her toque and then her leather jacket that she wears, and then she has her big Army Surplus jacket that she wears over it, and then the scenes in which I want her to be really guarded, I’ll have her wearing all of them, even indoors. Because I like to put my hands in the big pockets of the Army jacket and it makes me feel very safe and protected. But yeah, I think that the cold weather really lends to that [laughs] to that sad, sad feeling that we want this show to have. [giggles]
BT: Yet in many ways, it’s a funny series. You talked about that in your panel at SDCC.
MH: In season 2, though we’re dealing with a lot of the same stuff, Henry tries to be more of a normal teenager, and we dive more into Henry and Jenna and Townes’ life as regular teenagers in the high school while dealing with all of this stuff. And there’s the job and there’s this boy that she starts to like at her job and she starts to let her guard down, and you start to see how she deals with liking a boy! But yeah, it’s funnier this season.
BT: Your interaction with your ‘sister’ Sarah Desjardins‘ Jenna is fairly antagonistic at first, but softens. How is your on-screen relationship informed by off-screen bonding?
MH: You know what’s funny, is if I think that you love somebody off-screen, if you have that strong relationship with them off-screen, if you have that chemistry, it can only help any kind of emotion you are trying to portray. Even anger, I feel like it helps, because I know that she’s going to be there: Sarah, as Sarah supporting me through it, through any fight that Henry and Jenna have, I think that it really helps.
And we love each other from the very beginning. Before we even met, we were texting and I’m like: “I’m here for you”, and she was very there for me and we were really excited to enter this really crazy journey of leading a show together as two young women. And to be there for each other, I think it only helps.
BT: Tell me about your character in the film We Summon the Darkness. We recently spoke with your co-star in the movie, Alexandra Daddario, and hear that the film played really well at Fantastic Fest.
MH: After I played Henry in season 1, I went and played this character Val in We Summon the Darkness, directed by Marc Meyers. She’s very extroverted and her way of being guarded is putting her sexuality first and putting that out there as a way of protecting her in herself, and I thought that was really interesting. I try to mix it up. If I went to play somebody emotionally guarded and quiet and introspective right after I played Henry, it would feel repetitive.
BT: What can you say about your upcoming project that was recently announced?
MH: I’m attached to this movie called Malignant and it’s James Wan’s step back into horror after doing Aquaman. [chuckles] He’s stepping back into his horror roots and that’s all I’m really allowed to say. [laughs]
BT: Do you think this is the project that launches you into the stratosphere?
MH: I don’t know. I think it’s really dangerous to focus on the trajectory, you know what I mean? I think that you have to avoid doing that. It can become a negative cycle if you’re looking at a project thinking about the next project that you wanted to matter and it’s really easy to do that because you’re like: “Oh my God, everybody’s saying that this is a big deal and what if it is, and the next one can be a big deal and it’s bad because everything is a big deal at the time. Everything is new and exciting and interesting. But that all interests me is the character, you shouldn’t look further. And you should have blinders up to the bullshit because it will only hurt your performance. It will hurt what you are trying to actually do. But you know, it’s hard to not! [laughs] Yeah. It is exciting, I need to say. Oh my God! You know? But you can’t think about it like that, I think.
BT: In an interview from five years ago, you were talking about your love of the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and your particular affinity for the Buffy/Spike relationship.
MH: Yes, but now I’ve noticed that their relationship is kind of problematic. I rewatched it in recent years and I was like: “Oh God!” Like “Dammit!” you know? But it does make sense for his character, not to dive deep, this is a separate conversation, but I think that they wrote her going back to him after that but I think that today it would be written differently, knowing everything that we do today.
Yeah, I think that I’ve always been attracted to very strong, complicated female characters and I think that’s exactly what Buffy is. I’m so lucky that I started watching Buffy as a child because I think it affected me and obviously affected what I’m drawn to. [laughs] Henry is very similar to Buffy in a lot of ways.
BT: That’s a really good way to put it, the importance of female roles that have strength.
MH: Yes, but I think not just strength in a traditional masculine sense, but female roles with strong characteristics. And that can mean someone that is really weak and meek and soft-spoken, too, I think that’s really interesting. And someone who wears their heart on their sleeve, I like really strongly-defined characteristics in a woman, and I think that’s what Hollywood tries to do now with these characters. I find that very empowering.
Impulse season two launches on October 16