Actress Ashleigh Cummings recently found herself working simultaneously on two very different literary adaptations — AMC’s TV version of Joe Hill‘s horror novel NOS4A2 and the film The Goldfinch (out Sept. 13), which is based on Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2014 coming-of-age tale.
“I feel so fortunate to have been involved in both projects,” says the Australian. “There was one day on Goldfinch where they actually wanted to add in another scene. I finished on set of NOS4A2, covered in ash and blood and that night — it was like 2 a.m. or something — drove straight to the Goldfinch set, and was perfectly clean by 4 a.m. It was really incredible to portray both these wonderful, intricate, complex, female characters. I’ve been deeply inspired by both.”
On NOS4A2, Cummings plays Vic McQueen, a Massachusetts high-schooler who discovers she can transport herself to different locales by riding her motorbike over a wooden bridge. The bad news? McQueen’s use of her gift swiftly attracts the attention of Zachary Quinto’s also supernaturally-powered, but decidedly villainous, Charlie Manx.
“Charlie Manx takes children in his Rolls-Royce Wraith and sucks their souls in order to revitalize himself,” she says. “He’s like an energy vampire of sorts. So, those two forces collide at some point.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like playing Vic McQueen?
It was incredible. It was also extremely arduous, just because Vic’s journey is emotionally so tumultuous. But we had the most incredible cast and crew led by the wonderful Jami O’Brien (NOS4A2 showrunner), who is a superhero in her own right. To me, she’s the real-life Vic McQueen, without all the dark aspects of the character. [Laughs].
How much did you consult Joe Hill’s book?
I went to the source material a lot. I mean, there were certain scenes that were literally taken from the book and placed onto the screen. The book did a lot of my work for me. I would take the subtext, or whatever Joe Hill brilliantly wrote she was thinking, and I would place it on my script, so I had the same thoughts that book Vic was having. We definitely changed up the character little bit, because Jami wanted to stay with adult Vic, but we still wanted to have that emotional l arc and journey. So, the 18-year-old Vic we meet onscreen is not the 18-year-old Vic we meet in the book. 18-year-old Vic in the book is much harder, colder. I think she has ice in her veins. But the Vic that we meet in our show still has a huge vulnerable soft heart. She has to learn to become the hero, I suppose, and she hardens over time, but we still have to create that journey.
In the show, Charlie Manx carries off the children to a fantastical, but highly ominous, place called Christmasland. Has working on the show put you off the holiday season at all?
No, I love Christmas? [Laughs] I love Christmas with the family aspect of it. Christmas music was a little tainted [for me] for a second, but not really.
Did you get to drive the Rolls-Royce?
No, unfortunately not. I barely know how to drive an automatic. I’m terrible with vehicles in general, and technology, so I don’t think I should ever step anywhere near the Wraith’s wheel.
Watch a trailer for NOS4A2 above.
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