High school can be a lot—especially when you throw possession into the mix.
‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ comes from director Damon Thomas, and is based on the book of the same name by Grady Hendrix. Set in the 1980s, the film explores best friends Gretchen (Amiah Miller) and Abby (Elsie Fisher) as they go through their sophomore year of high school. After spending a weekend at the lake, something drastic shifts in their bond—and it’s demonic.
Gretchen becomes possessed, and although she seemingly turns on Abby (or whatever inside of her does), Fisher’s character is the only person who seems to try and figure out how to help her. That’s when things get drastic. With the aid of a bible yielding workout guru (you’ll just have to see the movie to understand that one) played by Chris Lowell, great measures are taken to save Gretchen, showing that best friends truly are lifesavers, and then some.
To chat more about the quirky horror film, Amiah Miller and Elsie Fisher sat down to discuss character development, performing an exorcism on set and how much fun being haunted actually was on ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism.’
When you both read the script for ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ and read about your character, what was it about this story that jumped out at you?
Elsie: I think it really is a beautiful script in general, which is funny because I know there are these crazy scary, gross parts. Obviously, the relationship between Abby and Gretchen is really cute, but about Abby specifically, something that really resonated with me is that she’s always trying to do the right thing—but she’s not always a good person. Which I thought felt very funny and very real. She really wants to be, but I think anyone who is a teenager is doomed to make mistakes and I like that part of her.
Amiah: What jumped out to me the most was how challenging I knew that Gretchen would be. It was my most challenging role up until that point. I was very excited because I knew that it was a big responsibility to create a film that was already a book—there are already fans of the book and of the characters. I knew that it was a lot to take on, but I also knew that I would grow a lot as an actress. Also…I knew that Elsie Fisher was attached as Abby, so of course, I want to do this one.
Since you both talked about your characters, can you delve a little bit deeper into who they are and what they go through?
Amiah: I think Gretchen at the surface level is very… I think she seems like the mean girl or [that] she doesn’t have a lot of depth to her. I love to play characters that are meaningful and that have a lot of development, [and] as I read the script it was like, no, she does have a lot deep down and she overcomes a lot.
She’s a lot stronger than you think she is. Which is something that I relate to because I think that a lot of people look at me and they assume that I’m a dumb blonde… I actually have some guts to me and I’m strong, and I think Gretchen’s the same way. So I was really excited about that.
Elsie: You said that all so eloquently and I feel that’s so true of Gretchen. I feel the same about Abby, too. I think there’s totally a read of her that’s very on paper and very externally introverted and ‘Oh my god, I’m so insecure’. I don’t know, that’s not how I saw Abby. I think she’s really trying and I feel Gretchen’s such a good influence on her for most of the friendship. Obviously, [the movie] takes a turn, but the way both characters subvert expectations is really cool.
I can obviously tell that you both are friends, and I would imagine that playing best friends on the screen is similar to romantic leads in the sense that there has to be chemistry. Was the chemistry there right away and how did you build on it?
Amiah: Did you feel chemistry?
Elsie: I really did. The very first time we met was during [Amiah’s] Zoom audition, I read with you and two other girls. The other girls were great, but I literally ended that call with “We need Amiah, we need her.” I think the connection was really immediate, and then we met in person in Atlanta at the studio doing some rehearsals, it was just lovely. That friendship was something I was very conscious of because I think that’s a hard thing to fake. Basically, we really didn’t have to fake it… It was real.
Amiah: No, not at all. Especially in this industry, there’s a lot of competition and a lot of people that, how do I say this… They just don’t really have your back and it’s not as authentic. I knew right away that Elsie was very supportive of me and caring for me. I don’t know, when we’re doing a scene together, she was just so supportive and she wanted me to do a good job. I wanted her to do a good job and we just bounced right off each other. So, feeling blessed.
Now for some of the darker, horror aspects of the film. How was it filming the exorcism?
Elsie: For both of us, I feel it was a really long portion of the shoot, which is crazy [because] it doesn’t actually take up that much time in the script. It was really fun. For the exorcism specifically, we also had Chris Lowell, he played Christian Lemon and he’s really great. Honestly, I think I had the easier job because I really got to play everything very straight….I got to live out more of a drama I think versus Amiah. [She] had to juggle so many different elements of it all.
Amiah: There was a lot going on. We were also in this cabin in the middle of Georgia with no internet and we’re very secluded in this exorcism scene. [It was] my life for I think three or four days. I couldn’t go on my phone or anything. When we were doing the scene, I was actually tied down to the bed and what was it…. sugar was being thrown at me. It was legit.
Elsie: It was for real.
Amiah: It was and I celebrated after those three, four days.
I wanted to ask too, Amiah, since you become possessed halfway through ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’, how did you try to portray that shift through your acting?
Amiah: Oh my gosh. I watched real exorcisms being performed on people. I don’t even think I told you this [Elsie], but my mom was there with me. I’m like, “Mom, I’m nervous, I want to do a good job.” She’s like, “Well you just need to watch how people that are really possessed act.” We’re sitting there, it’s raining and it’s dark, and we’re in Atlanta watching it…It was really creepy. We had a sleepover that night because we were both scared. I watched real people that have gone through that and their mannerisms and things like that… It’s crazy.
Everything that we see on screen isn’t exactly on set, I’m sure there’s some movie magic that goes into it. What is that like for both of you being there and having to imagine more of the fantastical elements that go into the scenes?
Elsie: We did have some elements that were CG or half practical, but I feel especially after a couple takes in for a lot of the stuff, everything really feels very intense and very real at the moment. What you end up seeing elevates that.
Amiah: And the scene where I’m throwing up, I was actually— there was stuff coming out.
Elsie: You had a tube.
Amiah: Yeah, I was wearing a harness that had a tube attached. Also, I think it being based in the ’80s, and the background and everyone having that vibe and that aesthetic really helped put us there, too. Things weren’t as fake as they are in other movies.
‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism‘ premieres on Prime Video Sept. 30.