Oliver Jackson Cohen Shares Secrets To The Haunting Of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House

Photo Credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix

For anyone who’s watched Netflix‘s super-addictive horror-drama “The Haunting of Hill House,” Oliver Jackson Cohen is instantly recognizable. This breakout star plays Luke Crain, the youngest member of the Crain family (which also includes cast members Victoria Pedretti, Michael Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Kate Siegel and Timothy Hutton), who, after leaving Hill House at age six, hasn’t had the easiest time in life (to wit: a massive understatement). We chatted with Jackson Cohen, who has previously starred on series including NBC’s “Dracula” opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers and NBC’s “Emerald City,” as well as in films such as “The Raven” and “What’s Your Number,” to dish on his hit show, playing Prince William and where we can see him next.

Victoria Pedretti and Jackson Cohen in the Haunting of Hill House
Victoria Pedretti and Jackson Cohen in the Haunting of Hill House

Photo Credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix

We just read about your favorite Easter egg in “Haunting of Hill House,” and now are addicted. What are a few more?

I think most of the Easter eggs have already been found! Mike is very clever with what he’s created and leaving an audience time to find things creates such an immersive experience for the viewer. Mike is so meticulous about everything in the show which is so incredible. Down to the wallpaper used in Hill House, which, if you stare at it long enough, you can see a face and eyes staring back at you. The Hill House set was by far the most incredible set I’ve ever seen.

When you were pitched the project, were you told it was a horror series? Because in reality, it’s so much more.

I think because of the title, everyone will assume it is just a 10 hour horror film, but the problem is that you can’t do that for 10 hours because it just wouldn’t work! Mike and the whole writing team have been incredible at creating a story that is fundamentally a case study of what childhood trauma does to people, specifically to this family, and the repercussions of what that entails. It’s a story about loss, grief, addiction, mental illness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, childhood and so much more! To center the show around a family and to see how these traumatic events of living in this house have affected each child so differently is such an original and exciting concept so I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I also felt that the writing of each character was such an acute observation of how people deal with trauma and it was so honest.

Hill House
Hill House

Photo Credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix

You’ve said you loved playing Luke, but does playing someone like Luke wreck you a little? How do you keep such a character from overwhelming you physically and mentally?

I think you’ve just got to go in head first and hope for the best! I don’t think you can ‘pretend’ to play someone that complex, nor do I believe you should. Playing Luke was one of the most memorable experiences of my life because I put so much of myself and my personal experiences into it so the whole shooting process felt somewhat cathartic and freeing in a way. But having said all this, it was definitely exhausting mentally. I think we all felt it over the course of the 8/9 month shoot. When you are drumming up so much pain and touching on things inside yourself that are probably best left untouched, you do end up in a weird headspace where it becomes harder to tell what’s real and what’s not real.

Which of your Crain family cast members did you bond with most?

That’s quite a hard question to answer because we were all together in Atlanta for 9 months so you grow really close to everyone in the cast and it’s quite hard to pick just one! It’s a little bit like being asked to choose between your actual siblings!

Jackson Cohen at the premiere of "The Haunting of Hill House"
Jackson Cohen at the premiere of “The Haunting of Hill House”

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com

It’s said you were advised to treat acting as a hobby. What were you meant to have done instead?

I have no idea!! I think that’s why I’m here today! I never managed to figure that out and kept coming back to it. I worked behind the camera as an AD for a couple of years but I was miserable. It’s the only thing I’ve found that I absolutely love and I think you have to love it in order to put up with the ups and downs that come with having this job! But so much of it is down to luck so I’m very grateful that I’ve been fortunate enough to work as an actor.

You’ve played Prince William. Is that the mother of all roles for a Brit? Are you more of a William or a Harry enthusiast?

Hahaha! The Prince William job was a series of sketches that we did with Allison Williams for Funny or Die where we played Kate and Will just before they got married. It was a very fun shoot and Allison very cleverly wrote it. I also had the most incredible/awful wig and when it came out, I saw him at a party and he was very amused by what we did so all is good. I think both those guys are really excellent human beings.

Can you speak a bit about upcoming projects? What’s next for you?

Nope! Mainly because I have no idea! We shall see!