In only a few short years as an actor, Madison Wolfe has racked up an amazing array of big and small screen credits. From with her debut in 2012's On the Road and The Campaign to her appearances in last year's acclaimed films Trumbo and Joy, she's steadily built up a repertoire of appearances alongside some of biggest names in the industry, including Will Ferrell, Bryan Cranston, and Jennifer Lawrence. Her latest film is this week's much-anticipated horror sequel The Conjuring 2. I had a chance to talk to Madison about about her career so far, how she nabbed her Conjuring role, and what she hopes to accomplish in the future. What follows are some highlights of our chat:
Just to start things out, what got you interested in pursuing this as a profession?
Well, ever since I was really young, I always loved to perform, and my first co-star was actually my grandmother. I would write scripts for her and make her play different characters, and my Aunt Carol noticed this, and then she signed me up for Launch, which is an acting school here in New Orleans, and after taking lots of classes with amazing teachers, I eventually signed with CTG South, and they've just been really guiding me ever since.
Can you talk about what it was like getting the gig on The Campaign? Right out the gate, you got to work with Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis.
I can remember just being amazed on set, and I've gotten to work with a lot of A-list actors, some amazing people, and I'm really, really thankful and lucky that I've gotten to do that at such an early stage of my career because I've learned so much from each of them.
As far as [director] Jay Roach, you've gotten to work with him twice now. You were on The Campaign and Trumbo. How did one experience differ from the other for you?
Well, I love Mr. Jay. He's awesome, and I think that both experiences were very, very fun, and I don't think I'll ever forget them, but I remember working on Trumbo, and that was really, really awesome because it was with my sister, Meghan, who is also an actress.
Yeah, I talked to Jay last year about Trumbo, and that's actually one of my favorite interviews that I've ever done because he's very thoughtful, and he takes the craft very seriously but he doesn't take himself seriously.
You've managed to go between comedy and a lot of horror and a lot of drama. What genre do you prefer to work in?
Personally, I love the whole intense drama and horror side of it. You know, when I'm watching movies, I like that genre because I like to figure out the special effects. "What are they doing? How did that actor get there?" And I love a good challenge.
You have the Conjuring coming up. Had you seen the first one at the time you signed on to do the sequel?
I had seen the first one. When I got the audition, I convinced my mom to let me see it, finally. For research, I called it.
Now, you got to work with James Wan on that behind the camera, but also we've got Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Did you get to sort of get some tips from them?
Absolutely. And you know what? I don't even think that they realized they were doing anything, but just watching them be amazing people and actors and actresses that they are, and director, Mr. James, I learned so much, and I fed off of them, and they made my performance so much better.
In the four years you've been doing this, I'm sure you've had a lot of personal growth but also growth as a performer. What are some of the things that you've really tried to internalize to improve yourself as an actor?
Well, I think it's always important to keep learning. So, I am constantly taping and auditioning, and I'm on set, and I think that one of the most important lessons that I've learned is never to give up because, especially with the role on The Conjuring. When I got that audition, it was a British accent, brown hair, brown eyes, and production told me after that they weren't looking for an American. So, I think that if you believe anything's possible, and you truly, truly work on your craft, I think that you'll be set.
With that in mind, obviously, you've managed to work with some amazing filmmakers already. Who would you like to work with in the next ten years?
Obviously, this is a huge one: Meryl Streep. I've always looked up to her because, just in the little clips of her movies that I've seen and I've studied, you can understand that she has transformed so much, and I admire that she can just be a chameleon and do whichever role she wants and nail it every single time.
Who are some of your other role models?
Well, Leonardo DiCaprio, I love him. I think he's so genuine. And Brie Larson, also, she seems so sweet and kind, and Robert De Niro, which I already had the pleasure and honor of working with him on Joy, which is amazing.
And, of course, on Joy, you got to work with Jennifer Lawrence, who's famous for being a real cut-up, and she's got a great personality. Any fun Jennifer Lawrence stories you can share with us?
Amazing personality. Well, I got a lot of the cast to sign a call sheet for me. She did it with me, and she was signing the call sheet, and she asked me -- she said, "Is it okay if I sign the biggest?" And I was like, yeah, of course. And she was like, "Because on The Hunger Games, I always had a competition with the boys of who can sign the biggest and take up the most space when signing autographs." So, I thought that was really funny.
Being able to work with so many superstars on Joy, you must have been in awe of the experience.
I was totally in awe. I mean, at that point in my career, I had already been on a couple movie sets, but I still didn't know how to handle myself around them. All I could do was make sure my performance was on my A-game.
I'm sure you meet a lot of young people who are coming up and who want to get into this profession themselves. What's the best piece of advice you would hand down to somebody who wants to succeed as an actor?
Well, I think, going back to the most important lesson that I've learned, that anything's possible, you know what I mean? Because I get people all the time DM-ing and commenting on my Instagram and telling me when I go to Launch, and they're like, "I want to get into it, but just how?" Take classes, listen to your instructors, do your research. I think that's the most important. You have to get a good backbone, and it doesn't happen overnight. I mean, people look at me, and I've been working for many years, almost six years, and this is my first lead.
Related to that last question, what do you do to keep yourself grounded, without letting it go to your head?
I think that my parents keep me grounded the most because, obviously, this is a very important part of my life, but it's not the only important part. I also have school and amazing friends, and I can do everything in my power and my parents do everything in their power to keep that in my head, that this isn't the only thing. Go to school, and make good grades, and be in honors, and don't let acting affect your friends or your normal life.
And lastly, obviously, we have Conjuring coming up, but any other upcoming projects that you'd like to hype up?
In summer, I'm going to be filming a movie called I Kill Giants, actually in Ireland, which is going to be an amazing experience, opposite Zoe Saldana. So, I'm really excited for that. And, also, I'm going to be going back to Canada to film an episode of season two of Zoo, which is a CBS show that I was in season one. So, I'm really excited for that.
Many thanks to Madison Wolfe for her time. Look for The Conjuring 2 in theaters this week. For more movie talk, including my interview with Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, check out the latest episode of the MovieFilm Podcast at this link or via the embed below: