Mikey Madison has quickly established herself as a highly sought-after young actress in film and television. She currently stars alongside Pamela Adlon in FX’s critically acclaimed series ‘Better Things’, which returned for its final season in February 2022.

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Mikey, before you started acting you were a competitive equestrian, who found success on the hunter/jumper circuit. What made you love horseback riding so much?

My grandmother was a horseback rider and my mom was too. And so I grew up with horses at my house in Santa Clarita with my parents. I’ve always been riding, but I just felt very connected to that animal and it was something that I always did and I loved.

Do you have any special favorite memory from your times as a competitive equestrian?

I spent every day, many hours at the barn up until I was like 15 years old. So it was the biggest part of my life. I was on the agility team, so we would do these performances. When I was younger, there were these two miniature donkeys. And so me and this other girl would ride these miniature donkeys to the Charlie Brown theme song. We would do this sort of special performance before other horse shows. And that was always pretty fun. It’s really difficult to ride a donkey because their backs are completely flat. So the whole thing was kind of that you fall off and then you get on again. It’s kind of a little slapstick.

Tell us more about how you went from horseback riding to acting.

I’ve always loved movies. My dad is a big film buff and we would have our bonding time and he would show me movies and he introduced me to Scorsese and Tarantino and all of the greats. And so I think one day something just clicked in me and I was like “That looks really cool. How do I do that?” Like, I wanna do that, but it just seemed so far away. I told my mom that I wanted to be an actor and she was like “You’re the most painfully shy person in the world. How are you gonna get up on stage and do that?” And I was like “I don’t know, but I just need to try it”. So my mom put me in some acting classes and from there things just kind of took off.

You’re one of the main stars in FX’s critically acclaimed comedy-drama series ‘Better Things’, which premiered its fifth and final season this February. The series revolves around a single mother raising her 3 daughters, the vicissitudes of working motherhood, crackling with feminist verve and energy, that consistently cuts new ground. What’s your view on the story of the series and the importance of its message being reflected on the audience?

The show is about family, it’s about love. And I think it was the first show on FX that had an entirely female cast, which was pretty cool, but I think it shows that you can make mistakes and that there’s no right way to be a parent.

In January Paramount Pictures’ much anticipated reboot, the fifth installment of the iconic film ‘Scream’ was released. How was it starring in a sequel of such an iconic film, alongside the cast from the 1996 original film? Have you watched the previous films before filming this sequel?

I had seen the first ‘Scream’ a couple years before, but I hadn’t seen the others. And so right when I got to North Carolina, where we were filming, I watched the rest of them to kind of know where the story is and sort of where the world takes place. I was definitely nervous going there, I’m always sort of weary about sequels because I’m like why do we need another one. But I think the directors were just so passionate about it and I felt like I really trusted them to do justice to this. And the fans of ‘Scream’ were really happy to have another one, so it was cool. It was a really fun experience. 

What was the most fun part of filming this sequel of ‘Scream’?

We filmed this when we were in the thick of the pandemic. I hadn’t left my house in like six months. And so all of a sudden they’re like “Get on a plane and let’s have this adventure”. At times I forgot we were there filming a movie. I felt like we were just in summer camp, going to the beach every day and doing things like that. It felt like I jumped into a different time machine. I was in a totally different place, but I think that was the most fun. Me and a few of the other actors who played the teenagers rented a lake house when we had a few weeks off and that was really fun, to have sort of a vacation within work.

In 2019 you were cast in Academy Award nominated film ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Did you feel nervous to be filming with such legendary actors? 

I was nervous when I did my chemistry read, but I wasn’t nervous filming. You’re on set, there’s no room to be nervous, you have to be in the moment. I was mostly just excited, but it’s very surreal at times. It had been something that was sort of like this dream where it’s kind of like “I’m never gonna be able to do this” and to be able for it to be one of my first film experiences was definitely pretty strange, but really cool. I think it was an intro into my career.

How did you decide to impress Quentin Tarantino in the audition to get cast as ‘Sadie’ in this successful film?

I knew the casting director and I knew that he was making a movie about Manson. I knew that a few years earlier and I randomly did a very deep dive search into the Manson girls. When I had the audition, that was kind of a coincidence. I knew all of these facts about them already, so I was like I can totally jump into this. I said to myself “This is my one chance to meet Quentin. I need to do something. I need to go all out because you know, why not?” So I made this painting, kind of like the Manson girls would do when they were on their acid trips with Charles Manson. I made this psychedelic painting and I read a poem that I wrote and I cut off a piece of my hair and sewed it in the painting. I really tried to put myself into maybe what one of these women would’ve done. So that’s what I did and I guess he was into it.

You recently wrapped production on the independent film ‘All Souls’, the feature directorial debut by renowned photographer Emmy Picket, where you have a lead role. What can you tell us about the story of the film and your character ‘River’?

This was a super low budget, independent film, but I thought that the script had a lot of love in it and soul. That’s why I was really interested in it. It’s about a single mother who gets thrown into this whirlwind experience. It’s just within the span of 24 hours. That’s what happens sometimes with independent films, you take a chance on something. And it was a really interesting experience filming it. It was a lot of people’s first times, it was G-Easy’s first time acting, it was the director’s first time making a feature. I hope I get to see it soon and everyone will be able watch it.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received in your acting career?

People have told me to just follow my intuition. One of my acting coaches or kind of like a mentor to me was like “Take risks when you’re acting, don’t worry about how you look, just do what you feel in the moment”. And I’ve always tried to follow that and follow that feeling, take those risks.

What roles do you believe Hollywood should focus more on in the future?

It’s really cool that independent film is becoming a lot bigger and more mainstream. I think that women need to be given opportunities to direct big movies. And I think that there should always be more female perspectives and things like that. And maybe just more honest filmmaking. I feel like we’re kind of getting into everything having to be very correct. I’m always interested in seeing other people’s perspectives, not just one person or one type of filmmaker. And so I’m interested in a lot of different things. 

Mikey, you’re a California girl. What is your favorite thing about living in California?

I’ve always lived here, since I was a little little kid, so I don’t really know anything different. But I’m very romantic about LA and the history of that within film. I mean, my whole family is here, so that’s what I love the most.

There’s so many different parts of California. You drive an hour and you’re in the desert and then an hour back and you’re in Hollywood. I think that’s pretty cool.

With ‘Better Things’ ending in 2022 and ‘All Souls’ coming out soon, what is next for you?

I have something I’m really looking forward to next year that is in development. I hope I’m just able to continue to work on projects that I feel passionate about and playing these different characters. I feel like I’ve kind of gotten into playing sort of antagonistic characters. I would like to explore other things. I don’t think that there’s just the hero and the villain. I’m really interested in that middle gray area of characters. So, hopefully I’ll be able to do something that lives within that. I try to surrender myself to not knowing what’s going to happen and just try to move with that.

Interview by JANA LETONJA

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Talent: Mikey Madison
Photographer: Kay Nambiar
Styling: Raz Martinez
Make-up: Nicole Walmsley
Hair: Richard Collins
Casting: Timi Letonja