'Don't Let Go' Star Storm Reid on Watching 'Euphoria' and Shooting 'Invisible Man'
So far, there’s been very little calm in Storm Reid’s young career. The 16-year-old actor hasn’t looked back since her feature film debut in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, which won three Oscars including Best Picture in 2014. Reid worked steadily until her career-altering break in 2016 — a starring role in Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time— which put her in the same company as Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Ava DuVernay.
Reid continues to build an impressive resume that includes HBO’s breakout hit of the summer, Euphoria, DuVernay’s Emmy-nominated When They See Us, Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man and James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. This past weekend, Reid also reunited with her A Wrinkle in Time castmate David Oyelowo in Jacob Estes’ Don’t Let Go, a supernatural thriller that is reminiscent of Dennis Quaid’s 2000 film, Frequency.
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In a recent conversation with THR, Reid addresses the reports about her The Suicide Squad casting, how she first met Ava DuVernay and her parents’ reaction to her Euphoria casting.
Given the premise of Don’t Let Go, it’s quite fitting that this conversation is taking place on Saturday morning where you are and Friday afternoon where I am.
I know! It’s kinda crazy. (Laughs.)
Since you’re calling from set in Australia right now, can I quickly ask how The Invisible Man is going so far with Elisabeth Moss and Co.?
It’s going great. We have about two weeks left, but it’s been an amazing shoot. I’m glad to be a part of such a special project, so I can’t wait for people to see it. [Elisabeth Moss] is the best. She’s so nice and so talented. She’s also a jokester so it makes for a perfect combination. (Laughs.)
Does the vibe of a unique location like Australia add something intangible to your performances?
I would say yes, especially for me… I had never been to Australia so any time I am able to go to a new place, do what I love to do, but also experience a new culture and new people is always magical for me. With Invisible Man, we are shooting in Australia, but it actually takes place in San Francisco. So, I feel like there’s an underlying sense with the cast and crew as far as what we got to experience and what we got to put into the movie — even though people might not know where we shot it.
Overall, what location have you enjoyed the most?
I would probably say South Africa. I got to go a few years ago to film American Girl: Lea to the Rescue, and it was pretty magical. When I left, I was sad about it and wanted to go back immediately.
One of the lasting images in Don’t Let Go is your photo that frequently appears on Uncle Jack’s (David Oyelowo) mobile phone. Did you supply the director (Jacob Estes) with a bunch of old photos so he could choose his favorite?
Yes, I did. They asked for a few photos, and we sent some over so they could pick their favorite ones. They put one on the phone, but they also put them around Jack’s house and my house just to make it feel more real.
Since the phone photo is a throughline in the movie, were you happy with the choice that was made?
I was fine with that photo which is actually quite old. I was at the beach, and I had just moved to L.A. So, I’m glad [Estes] picked that one.
Do you have an Uncle Jack in your own life — someone in your extended family that you lean on for advice and what not?
Yes, I feel like I’m able to lean on all of my family members for advice. I have two uncles on my mom’s side so I’m always able to call them. They also call me just to check in and see how I’m doing. I’m so glad to have family members who are supportive.
How did you shoot all of the phone conversations with David? Were you talking to him while out of frame?
We made sure that we would be on set with each other even though we might not be in the same scene while we’re talking on the phone. We just wanted the presence of each other because that’s what would make for a better connection between the both of us as actors. As the audience is watching, I feel like they could feel more of a connection that way. So, I would be in the other room, and David, knowing that I was there in the other room, knew he could come talk to me if he wanted me to change anything or vice versa. So, we were there for each other, and that was very important. I can take that to other sets if I’m talking on the phone a lot; I would want my fellow cast member to be in the other room, or around, so I could actually feel their presence.
And that was the case with the third act’s diner scene?
Yes, I was out of frame, and we were actually sitting right across from each other. Of course, you could see that, and you couldn’t, but we were always very close to each other just to make sure we did have that connection. Our scenes on the phone are very emotional, so just to have that emotional connection was very important to us.
How many gumballs did you end up chewing during that scene?
A few! I got tired of it. It wasn’t too much, but it was enough for me to want to stop chewing gum for the next couple of weeks. (Laughs.)
Ashley’s bike was actually pretty cool, and I can see why she wanted it for “15 years” even though she’s twelve to thirteen years old. Did producers send you that exact bike a couple months before production so you could get familiar with it?
Yes, they did. I had to do bike training. I would go to this local park by my house with the stunt coordinator, ride around and learn some new tricks. So, I’m glad that I was able to do that.
Did you get to keep the bike?
No, I didn’t, unfortunately. I already have a bike so it was a good treat to be able to learn some new tricks that I can use on my own bike.
I’m often told that the darker moments of a film tend to be the lightest and most fun to shoot because everyone is counterbalancing the darkness of the material whether they realize it or not. In the beginning of the film, Ashley and her family are murdered, which is part of the film’s premise and marketing. When you shot that shower scene, was the vibe of the set fairly light or more intense?
I would say both. It was pretty light, but it was also intense. I feel like we worked on a very intense set because there were a lot of emotional scenes. I always had to remind myself that Ashley’s reality is not my reality. I try to step into my characters’ shoes and become them, but when the scene is over, it’s important to snap back into Storm. I do that very well, thankfully. Everyone was very supportive when we did have emotional scenes like the shower scene. Everybody made sure we were okay so it was pretty great to work in that type of environment.
I was quite moved by your performance of the line “my new paint made it stick,” which was followed by a single tear. Is there a single tear technique you had to learn, or is it Hollywood magic?
It’s definitely not Hollywood magic. It’s not something that was manipulated or fake. It just happens that way; it’s not something that can be practiced. I feel like it’s very raw and very uncut, but it definitely wasn’t fake tears or things that other people may use for movie magic. It was just Storm being emotional, and it just happened naturally for me.
Because you’ve worked with so many seasoned actors, has anyone taken you under their wing as a mentor of sorts? Is there someone you can call for career or acting advice whenever you need it?
Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to work with some amazing people, but the ladies in A Wrinkle in Time have really become a part of my family as I like to say. We’ve become a big happy family so I’m able to call Miss Ava, Miss Oprah, Miss Reese and Miss Mindy if I need anything. We try to stay in constant communication, whether that’s through social media or the group chat that we have. So, I’m glad to have them in my corner...
For the uninitiated, can you recount your first time meeting Ava DuVernay?
My first time meeting Ava was in the director’s session [for A Wrinkle in Time]. I had gone to a few casting director’s sessions, and then I got called back for a director’s session. I was really nervous because I knew that she would be in there. I went in, did my scenes and she got to know me a little bit. I was very intimidated, but I think I had one more director session after that and I got a little more comfortable. Of course, when I booked the role, we really sat down and got to know each other. It’s like history! (Laughs.) Again, I’m glad to have someone so powerful in my corner, someone to help me learn, not only as an actress and producer, but hopefully as a director down the line — and also as a young woman.
THR reported that you were cast in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad as the daughter of Idris Elba’s character. Did this casting process begin with a self-tape?
Yeah, I’m not sure! I don’t know. (Laughs.)
Please allow me to rephrase: There’s an actor named Idris Elba. Have you guys ever done a chemistry test together? Do you guys ever communicate by phone or Skype in order to build rapport — the same rapport that a father and daughter would have?
No, we have not! (Laughs.)
So, are you allowed to watch your own show Euphoria?
I am. I watch it every Sunday. (Laughs.) It can be heavy, and it does have some things in there that could make people… and me… uncomfortable. Essentially, Euphoria is merely talking about what teenagers are going through, what people my age are going through… and really trying to bridge the disconnect between adults and younger people. We’re really trying to get people to understand what we’re going through, so I think it’s important that I watch it. It’s important that we educate people on what we are going through… So, I do watch it, and I’m a big fan of it. I could be biased, though. (Laughs.)
While the show is definitely raising awareness, were your parents initially apprehensive about you appearing on a show with such heavy material?
No, I wouldn’t say apprehensive. I try to pick projects that have a purpose behind them, that can be impactful, that evoke a conversation or teach people about something. So, they knew that’s what Euphoria would be about, but they were just a little bit apprehensive about where Gia would be taken in the first season. So, I’m glad that she was able to just sit on the sidelines, be the little sister and kind of absorb everything that was happening in the first season. I do believe that she’ll actually become a character in the second season, and she’ll get her own storyline where we’ll see her develop. I’m very excited about it.
You can tell that Gia’s perspective is going to differ quite a bit from what everyone is expecting.
The show is uniquely photographed to say the least. When you’re on set, does the unique lighting create an atmosphere that enhances your performance to some degree?
Visually, it’s breathtaking, but on set, it’s always very dark. It has a lot of fog and smoke going on. I think it does help with the emotional scenes, especially Rue (Zendaya), when she’s having to be in her own thoughts and having to go through these things where it’s good to not be in a lit room with a whole bunch of lights staring at you. So, not only does it make for a better visual experience for the audience, it also helps the actor not focus on the surroundings and just try to become the character and focus on what’s going on in the scene. So, I’m glad to have that kind of ambience when we’re shooting.
At Sundance in February, you confessed to THR that you haven't seen Titanic yet. Since then, Euphoria became the breakout hit of the summer; even Leonardo DiCaprio expressed his admiration for the show at the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood premiere. Did Leo’s admission compel you to finally watch Titanic?
No, I haven’t. I have not. I need to watch it; I need to watch it soon. I just feel like it’s going to be so emotional and so sad, but I’m gonna watch it one day. When I do, you’re going to be the first person that I call.
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