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Exclusive Interview with Madeleine McGraw, Star Of The Upcoming Blumhouse Film ‘The Black Phone’

Photo credit : Katie McGehee

At only 13 years old, Madeleine McGraw has quickly made a name for herself as one of the most-watched young stars in the entertainment industry today. Making her film debut as Bradley Cooper’s daughter in in Warner Bros’ “American Sniper,” the young actress is now co-starring alongside Ethan Hawke as ‘Gwen,’ in the upcoming horror film “The Black Phone.” Poised as the next Blumhouse smash hit, the film is an adaptation of a short story by New York Times Best Seller Joe Hill. The horror film that reunites director Derrickson and four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke (Sinister) in one of the most terrifying Blumhouse films ever.

Originally from San Jose, California, McGraw started acting and modeling at the age of four, landing several high fashion print ads. Just before her fifth birthday, she was cast in a SAG feature film short, “Hide and Seek.” Shortly after, she booked a guest starring roles on network television series and her supporting role in the Academy Award nominated, “American Sniper.” On the modeling front, McGraw has worked with Guess, H&M, Abercrombie Kids, Pottery Barn Kids, Coppertone, AARP, USAA, Pedigree, Under Armour, Minnetonka, Hasbro, Ralph Lauren to name a few.

When she is not acting, McGraw enjoys playing soccer and hanging out with her siblings: older brother, Jack, twin brother, Aidan and younger sister, Violet, all of whom work in acting and modeling.

She also currently stars as ‘Zoey Campbell’ on the Disney Channel series “Secrets of Sulphur Springs.”

McGraw is known for her starring role in the critically-acclaimed, fourth installment of Disney and Pixar’s beloved “Toy Story” franchise “Toy Story 4,” opposite Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Madeleine lent her voice for the role of ‘Bonnie,’ who first appeared in “Toy Story 3.” Additional film credits include playing ‘Young Hope’ (the younger version of Evangeline Lilly’s Hope a.k.a the Wasp) in Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Disney and Pixar’s “Cars 3” and Universal Pictures’ “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” McGraw also won Best Actress at the Charleston International Film Festival in 2016 for playing ‘Younger Lucy’ in the short film, “Lucy In My Eyes.”

On the television front, McGraw starred as series regular ‘Amber Barnes’ on Cinemax’s horror-thriller series, “Outcast.” From Robert Kirkman (“The Walking Dead’), the show followed Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a young man who has been plagued by possession since he was a child. McGraw was a scene stealer as Kyle’s daughter, ‘Amber,’ who is revealed to perform exorcisms like her dad. Her performance garnered acclaim from press with The New York Times saying she projected a “pure, slightly eerie intensity.” Additional television credits include Cartoon Network’s “Clarence,” FOX’s “Bones,” ABC’s “Selfie”, NBC’s “Reverie,” and CBS’ “Criminal Minds.”

Hi Madeleine welcome to OLC! It’s a pleasure to have you here. So how did you get your start in acting and what do you love about it?

First, thank you so much for having me. Acting for me really started by accident. My baby sister started doing a little baby modeling and I asked my mom if I could try it. She said no for a long time, but I kept asking. Finally, I got to go on an audition and I booked it! I loved every second of the process and being on set.  I told my mom I wanted to do it forever.  We were living in Northern California at the time and a manager in Los Angeles saw some headshots I had taken with an LA photographer and contacted my mom. The rest they say is history.

You’ve had some pretty great roles Toy Story 4, Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp, Disney and Pixar’s “Cars 3”, “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” just to name a few. What’s been your favourite and why?

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This is always such a hard question. I have loved them all for different reasons. Toy Story 4 was the longest I had ever worked on a project.  I booked the role of Bonnie when I was 5 and the movie came out the year I turned 10.  That was one of my very first bookings by the way.  In Cars 3 they named the car after me, so not sure I can ever top that! They even made a Maddy McGear die-cast toy car!

I was also on a show for a couple of seasons when I was 6, called Outcast.  I feel like everyone on that project will always be like family.  My pretend dad on that was played by Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) he and his family are like family to us. We even spend holidays together.  As I said, I can’t choose.  I love them all for different reasons.

‘American Sniper’ was another film you starred in what was it like working with Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood?

So, I was 5 when I worked on American Sniper and it was the first really big on-camera job I booked. I had no idea who Bradley Cooper was, but what I did know was that he was special.  Just something about him when he would come to set, always in character btw, he was so committed to his role that it left a huge impression on me.  Clint Eastwood, now that I have seen some of his movies that he acted in and directed, I honestly can’t believe I got to work with him.  I may have peaked at 5! Haha, He has a very calming presence on set.  He is never yelling “action”, it’s more of an “okay, let’s roll”.  Mr. Eastwood was just so funny all the time and really, really nice.  Fun Fact: My twin brother booked the role of my brother in the movie, but before my character was born.  At the premiere in New York, Mr. Eastwood made it a point to come over to me and my brother to ask how we were and he asked for a picture with us.  His people were telling him the movie was about to start, but he was unfazed. He made us feel like we were the most important people there.  It was one of those moments you wish you could get back as you get older because you had no idea how truly special it was at the time.  You just knew it felt good.

You are now set to star in the upcoming film Blumhouse’s “The Black Phone”, a movie I can’t wait to see. So tell me a bit about the movie and who you play?

I am so excited about this movie!! The Black Phone is about a serial killer that is abducting boys around the town. Several boys go missing. Then one day so does my brother Finney. My brother is then locked in a soundproof basement and starts receiving calls on a disconnected phone from the killer’s previous victims.

I believe this movie will take you on a roller coaster of a ride.  It’s definitely going to stay with you for a very long time.

I play Gwen, Finney’s younger sister. She is a character that I felt had so many layers.  She is more complex than what you see on the surface. Gwen loves her brother and is super protective of him. She also has visions and hopes to use these to help find her brother.

How did you prepare for your role as “Gwen”?

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When I read the script, I immediately felt a connection to Gwen.  She’s a little spitfire and doesn’t take a lot of “you know what” from anyone.  But I also felt her vulnerable side.  I feel as if Gwen uses that tough exterior to hide how she really feels a lot of the time.

Gwen and Finney are really close, their dad is a bit of a wildcard and I felt early on that they needed each other to lean on.  I am really close to my brothers and sister in real life, so creating this bond with Mason, who plays Finney, felt very natural to me.  It didn’t hurt that Mason is just incredible and so easy to be around.

What was it like working alongside Ethan Hawke?

Sadly, I didn’t get to work with Ethan. But now that I have seen him in full makeup and mask, maybe that’s a good thing. I remember when the basement sets were done being built and I walked through, it sent shivers up my spine! To be in there and then have Ethan be in full makeup and character, would be terrifying!

Is it as freaky to be in horror films as much as it is for us viewers to watch lol?

Not typically, only because there are lights and crew around, but as I said above, the basement sets and Ethan in full character, if I were down there, I may be retracting this statement.

As well as acting, you also model, do you enjoy modeling as much as acting?

I do enjoy modeling a lot too.  I think you can bring a different character to modeling as well, which makes it really fun and interesting.

What’s next on the agenda for 2022?

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We just got word that the Disney show I am on, Secrets of Sulphur Springs, was picked up for a third season.  I am super excited to see where the story goes.  Working on this show has been such a fun experience for me.  I had never worked with a mostly kid cast before, so it’s always super fun in between takes.  I love every single person so much! I can’t wait to head back to New Orleans and start filming.

I am counting the minutes for The Black Phone to drop in theaters this summer.  I seriously can’t wait.  I am also on a club soccer team, which I am equally passionate about. We just finished the state cup, so I am looking forward to our next season very much.

Madeleine McGraw (@madeleinemcgraw) •


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