Discovery: Maddie Hasson


When we spoke with actress Maddie Hasson on the phone last week, our conversation began with her in the bath washing her hair, was frequently interrupted by the cries of our cat and her dog, and culminated in a car accident—almost. “I just got into a traffic accident—it’s fine, I’m fine—I’m just a terrible driver. I’m in my grandfather’s minivan, and I don’t know how to maneuver a large vehicle very well.” Amazingly, she survived the phone call unscathed.

Talking with Hasson is like speaking to your best friend from high school—the one who made you laugh through your nose on the regular, discussed your favorite TV show in borderline obsessive detail, and was not afraid to admit to her self-described “nerdy behavior.” There’s a reason she makes us feel like a teenager again—she herself has only just turned 19. The North Carolina native moved out to L.A. with her mother three years ago and was swiftly cast as wayward teen Willa in the short-lived Bones spin-off The Finder—acting opposite the late Michael Clarke Duncan. Maddie describes the experience as “one of the best times of my life. It was great being on a show where everyone was much older than me and more experienced.” Tomorrow, she returns to ABC Family’s hit murder-mystery drama Twisted as sensitive tomboy Jo Masterson. The whodunit show has elicited numerous theories, but Maddie says she and the cast remain mostly in the dark. “When we first started shooting, they wouldn’t tell us anything, they treated us like we were the audience watching at home. I was like, ‘I’m not asking because I want to know the scoop, I’m asking because I want to know what face to make in this scene!’ But they tell us stuff now… sometimes.”

AGE: I just turned 19 on January 4. 

HOMETOWN: Wilmington, North Carolina: I appreciate it now so much more. When I come back, I’m kind of like a tourist—I was trying to get out so fast [as a teenager] I didn’t really have time to appreciate it. And now that I have it’s just a nice, refreshing experience. There’s something really cool about coming back here after being in a different place and being independent for the first time.

MOTHER KNOWS BEST: I met my agent through a casting director here in Wilmington after I auditioned for a Disney movie. He kept calling my mom and bugging her to bring me out to L.A., and she was like, “No, you might be a pedophile, I don’t know you.” [laughs] My mom is awesome—she’s not going to lie to you. So he flew out and came and watched one of my school plays and met my parents, and that was it.

HOMELAND: I stayed in L.A. for six months for the first season of Twisted—I’d turned 18 and I didn’t want to go home, I wanted to be in L.A. and be independent—but honestly, when we wrapped recently, I was so ready to go home. I got here, and I don’t want to leave! I love being around my mom and my dad. I don’t want to be a grown-up anymore, it’s hard!

STAGE PRESENCE: I would definitely go back and do theater; I talk about theater all the time. It’s so fun—also, there’s no one there behind a monitor that’s going to tell you what to do next, you know?  With theater, you get to do whatever you want, every night. My first big role in a theater production was Grey Gardens—I got to play little Edie, before everything went to shit! It was one of my favorite parts, although I wish I could go back now knowing what I do. I was really, really, really new. I basically had no idea what I was doing—I didn’t even know how to learn a script or anything. I was talking with a friend about it recently because we watched the documentary and I’ve been dressing like Edie a lot. I love her outfits. Is that a weird thing to say? Have I been wearing turbans? Yes. Whatever, I’m only 19!

THE FIRST TIME SHE WAS RECOGNIZED: Oh, god, I was so nerdy about it. I was at an outdoor mall with my mom, and I think I was probably around 17. The Finder had just come on the air, and this teenage girl walked past me and said, “Hey, Willa!”—and then she just kept walking. I walked all cool for probably, like, three seconds and then I turned to my mom and I said, “Oh my god, oh my god—they know!”  My mom was like, “You’re really embarrassing me right now.” She was way cooler about it than I was.

FANGIRLING: I fangirl so hard over so many people. There’s too many to mention. I mean, if I meet them through work, I don’t see them as a big star, because I have to work with them. But I did see Megan Fox at a coffee shop once, which was cool. [laughs] Oh god, did I just say that?

TV HABITS: I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love that show so much. I go back to it all the time. My favorite season is Season Six—I always watch it for the Buffy/Spike romance, and I’ve watched it so many times now that next time I’ll need a lead-up so that the romance is more fresh! I know—it’s embarrassing. I watch Buffy, Angel, and Charmed periodically. I feel like they come in a set, you know? People that watch Buffy watch Charmed and Angel, right? Or maybe that’s just me! I feel like I should, like it’s some kind of rule I’m going against if I don’t.

WHAT SHE HAS IN COMMON WITH HER TWISTED CHARACTER: I’m a little bit like Jo in that she has a very difficult time showing emotion and being vulnerable and I’ve always been that way. In high school I was similar to her in that I had one person I was really close with and then I just concentrated on getting out and being an actress!

CASTMATES: We have so much fun together because we’re all around the same age and we’re kind of going through the same stuff. We’re all very anxious to get going because we’re at the beginning of our careers and we don’t have much behind us.

ON TWISTED DIRECTOR TERI HATCHER: She was lovely. The first day that I worked with her, I remember she came into hair and make-up and, for whatever reason, I was having a bad day. She was so excited; she looked like a kid in a candy store, and she changed my mood entirely because her enthusiasm was so insane. She lets you have a freedom but she also challenges you. She just understands.

ON STAYING GROUNDED: My friends from home think it’s surreal I’m on TV, but also a big joke. They’re like, “Oh, so you have 70,000 Instagram followers now? You’re so cool.” They’re great.

HER NEXT MOVE: There are a couple of things on the horizon I could do, but I want to be careful with what I do next.  Because I could go and do another ABC Family thing, or a Disney thing, or something like that, but I want to do a small role that’s very different from what I’m doing now. And I would love to write—writing is something that I really love to do.