McKaley Miller Exclusive Interview: Discussing Her Starring Role in ‘You’re Killing Me’
We speak with the star of You’re Killing Me about doing her own stunts, her favorite horror movies, bonding with her costars, and more.
In the upcoming movie You’re Killing Me, McKaley Miller stars as Eden Murphy, a prep student who makes a disturbing discovery while attending a house party thrown by her school’s resident alpha-bro Barrett Schroder (Brice Anthony Heller). The discovery throws Eden and her best friend Zara (Keyara Milliner) into a fight for their lives as Brice and his friends do everything in their power to make sure Eden doesn’t reveal their secret. You’re Killing Me hits theaters and VOD streaming on April 7, 2023, and we had the pleasure of speaking with McKaley Miller prior to the movie’s release.
Table of Contents
The following interview was lightly edited for readability. Also, there are very minor, vague spoilers in the “Character” section of the interview.
McKaley Miller on Choosing to Star in You’re Killing Me
Creepy Catalog: What drew you to You’re Killing Me, and what made you want to sign on and star in the movie since it is one of you’re bigger starring roles in a thriller.
McKaley Miller: I think the potential of working with Jerren [Lauder] and Beth [Hanna], who are the co-directors, was the first thing I heard about this film, and I have wanted to work with them for a little while. So that was already check box one.
MM: And then when you get into the script of it, it truly is one of those scripts that just keeps you on the edge of your seat, and I didn’t put it down once. Everything about it made me really excited, and I loved that Eden was this very driven, very strong, very intuitive female character. I loved everything about her specifically and how she navigates throughout this entire movie. It kind of was just a magical world of all the boxes being checked.
CC: How was it working with two directors, and what did they each bring to the set?
MM: This was the first time I’d ever worked with co-directors before, so I had a lot of questions obviously. But as we got into the rhythm of it all, it was kind of nice to have two different people to bounce your thoughts off of and to have two separate people to chat with. One would give me more feeling, acting tips, and the other would give more “stand here for the light.” They would take turns with who would give which direction, which was kind of nice to have two separate sets of eyes to bounce off of. They’re great, fantastic. I love them to death.
McKaley Miller’s Favorite Scary Movie
Creepy Catalog: So do you like horror, as a fan? Do you watch a lot of horror movies?
McKaley Miller: I do! Yeah, I watch a lot of horror movies. It’s always sort of been my favorite genre, so to be able to be a part of that is really cool and really special. I love it. I’m a big fan of the thriller/horror genre.
CC: Do you prefer being in them or watching them?
MM: That’s such a toss-up because I love watching them, but man do I love doing this kind of stuff too. I’m going to say being in them, because I to see all the behind-the-scenes of how things get done.
CC: Any favorite horror movies?
MM: Yes! I love The Conjuring. I love Insidious. My favorite, favorite movie in the whole wide world, which I don’t consider a scary movie, but every time I tell this to people they’re like “that movie’s scary,” is Coraline. It’s been my favorite movie for ten years, and every time I make a new friend of mine watch it with me, they’re like, “this is scary. I don’t like this. This is scary.” I’m like, “well, I guess it kind of is.” So Coraline is probably my favorite scary movie.
McKaley Miller on Her Role as Eden
Creepy Catalog: For your role as Eden in You’re Killing Me, did you draw on any movies, actors, or performances when you were coming up with the character?
McKaley Miller: That’s a good question. I think I pull from a lot of different actors and movies and things subconsciously. I think that there’s probably little pieces of everything I’ve ever watched and every person I’ve ever admired in Eden. But no, there was no specific material that I went through and was like, “oh, I really want to model my character after this.” The strength of Eden is what I tried to focus on most.
CC: It is a very intense role. Once the intensity begins, it never really lets up. As an actor, how do you maintain or bring up that intensity from shot to shot and day to day?
MM: It is pretty hard because you shoot everything out of order. So having to remember where you left off the scene before that you did two weeks ago, and try to match that same intensity is hard, but that’s the fun part of my job. I love that challenge, and I love staying in that really intense, really scary mindset because I’m crazy. It is nice because, on the day, it’s intense while you’re doing it, and then you take a break, you go do a setup, you switch a scene. So it’s not as intense when you’re filming it, but I love the way that it translates to the screen of being “go, go, go, go.”
CC: That’s one of the things I really like about You’re Killing Me. The intensity never lets up until the final shot of the movie.
MM: Yeah, seriously, it doesn’t. Which I love.
CC: Would you say this is one of the more challenging roles as far as the physicality of it goes?
MM: Fore sure, yeah. I think this is one of the hardest roles I’ve ever done. Our stunt coordinator, in the middle of filming, was like, “this feels more like an action movie than a thriller.” I was like, “you’re right, I am doing a lot of things.” Whether it’s just pushing the armoire, or holding a door. The little things that you don’t even think are stunts, you still have to coordinate that and you still have to have a person on set that directs where that goes. It was very physically taxing for sure. One of the more intense physical roles I’ve ever done.
CC: But you enjoy it though. I can see the joy in your face talking about it.
MM: Oh, love it! They would tell me I couldn’t do certain things, and I was like, “oh, just let me, I promise I won’t hurt myself!”
CC: What’s the best stunt you did in the movie?
MM: So the sequence in the bathroom I actually got to do. I watched my stunt double do it so many times where she forward rolls onto her back. Like, almost a flip, and then she has to get back up, and then the stabbing. That was my favorite sequence. I watched her do it so many times, and there was a moment where they were getting frustrated because they kept getting some of her face. And I was like, “guys, trust me, I can do it.” And they were like, “we’ll let you do it once.” I did it once and it worked, and it made the movie!
CC: So more stunt work in the future is what you’re saying.
MM * laughing *: Yes. So my new career is a stuntwoman. That’s my new passion.
McKaley Miller on the Characters in You’re Killing Me
Creepy Catalog: One of the great things about You’re Killing Me is that it’s filled with all of these really interesting and complex characters. I would say everybody in the movie a shade of gray. Would you agree with that?
McKaley Miller: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think everybody has their own very specific, unique personality that adds to the ensemble of it all.
CC: When you were reading the script for the first time, was there a moment when you were surprised by a character moment or a decision that was made by someone?
MM: Yeah, quite a few times. There were quite a few things where I was like, “oh my gosh, I did not see that coming.” And a couple little character things where you’re like, “ooh, the true colors are really coming out now,” where you don’t ever think that someone will go there, and then they do. It’s sort of like, “ooh, I didn’t see that coming. That was completely unexpected and what I thought was out of character for you, but, true colors, there they are.”
MM: I loved all of the stuff with Brice [Anthony Heller] who plays Schroder. All of the axe things. That, to me, is a very fun, very “what is he doing” type of moment that I loved.
CC: The relationship between Eden and Zara I found really fascinating. You and Keyara Milliner looked effortlessly like best friends. You had great chemistry. You hadn’t worked together before, had you?
MM: No, we had never met each other until the first day of our rehearsal. We got two days of rehearsals, and that was the first time that any of the cast met each other. But it was a seamless friendship for all of us. It doesn’t happen very frequently, but we all just immediately clicked and blended and were like, “okay, we’re doing this. We’re doing this all together.” So, a lot of the me and Keyara moments are a lot of McKaley and Keyara improvising. We did bring a lot of ourselves and our friendship to Eden and Zara.
CC: So was it all on-set bonding?
MM: I slept a lot when we weren’t working, so it was a lot of on-set bonding for sure, which is the best time to bond. Because when you hit that 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. mark, you just get so delirious, and that is my favorite moment ever. There’s something about being delirious that with fifty other people at three or four in the morning that really makes you all come together. So it was a lot of on-set bonding, and then obviously the weekends we would all hang out. We shot in a teeny little town in Georgia, and there was just one strip of restaurants. So every weekend we’d go there, and all the regulars knew us. It was really fun.
CC: So kind of like a summer camp vibe.
MM: Totally summer camp vibes. If it wasn’t too late of a night or too early of a morning that we got back, they bought a projector and put it in Wil’s (Wil Deusner) room, who plays Gooch. They put a projector in Wil’s room and they hung up a sheet in our hotel, and we would project movies and have movie-watching nights on the weekends. It really felt like summer camp.
CC: Going back to Zara, the scene in the bathroom when Eden and Zara have a clash of decisions is one of the more powerful moments in the movie for me. You think the movie’s going one way and they’re in this together, but then they’re going against each other. How was that for you?
MM: That is something that actually I really liked, because I think in life there is conflict like that. In moments of stress like that there is “fight or flight.” I think Eden was more of a fighter and Zara was more of a flighter. In her moment of panic she just wanted to get out of the situation as easy as possible, whereas Eden is so driven by her moral compass and wanting to do what’s right that she was going to die on that hill and be selfless in order to help another human. I think that’s so interesting because that’s human nature when you get into those really intense moments, what do you do? What’s you’re initial reaction? And it’s nice to see the conflicting reactions.
CC: Absolutely, and I like how it carried all the way through to the very end, where you’re not sure how it’s going to end.
MM: Yeah, you have no idea. It totally leaves it up for, “uh oh, they’re butting heads again.” So it is a nice button at the end when it does kind of come full circle and they come together again.
McKaley Miller on Working with Veteran Actors
Creepy Catalog: When Dermot Mulroney and Anne Heche finally appear in You’re Killing Me, the whole tone of the movie changes. You think it’s going one way, and it gets really intense, and then it completely flips. They bring a different energy to the movie. Was there a different energy on set when you were working with them?
McKaley Miller: Oh definitely. Just because they are such seasoned, experienced, talented humans, they brought a new energy, new ideas, new insight. We played around a lot with different ways that they wanted to portray their characters. So it was really fun have them there with a new set of eyes. It became very collaborative with them which was really nice, and it was incredible to watch them collaborate with each other. That was really special.
CC: You’ve had the fortune of working with many great veteran actors in the past. Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Octavia Spencer, Oscar-winning Jamie Lee Curtis. Do you take something special from those experiences with those actors?
MM: Oh for sure, I definitely do. Even though I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, I still feel like such a sponge. Any time I get the opportunity to work with anybody — new, seasoned, it doesn’t matter — I feel like I can take and learn things from everybody. So there are definitely things that I watch and observe and go, “wow, I love the way that this person led this set, or that this person prepares their things.” I do feel like I take little bits and pieces from each person that I work with, whether it’s their first job or they’re Winona Ryder.