(Warning: This interview contains major spoilers through the finale of “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”)
Hannah Grose is acting pretty strange for the better part of “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” and it’s not until the end of Episode 5, titled “The Altar of the Dead,” that the audience finds out the reason why is because she’s a ghost who doesn’t know she’s a ghost. And it takes two more episodes for Bly Manor’s strict-but-loving housekeeper (played by T’Nia Miller) to come to that revelation herself, when Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), who is possessed by Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), forces her to look down at her body at the bottom of the estate’s well, weeks after he shoved her to her death.
“With Hannah, she’s so rooted in this denial of what’s actually going on in her life, she’s able to kind of sustain this existence in the here and now in a way the other characters can’t,” “Bly Manor” star Miller told TheWrap in an interview, which you can view via the video above. “And I wasn’t sure how I was going to play that. When I first got to Episode 5, because I didn’t know it was coming when I got the job, I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m a ghost! S—, man! Damn, I get to play a ghost! That’s super exciting.’ And then it was like, ‘Damn, how do I play a ghost?’ It’s not like I can draw from real-life experiences.”
The way Miller developed her friendly ghost character was through a simple mistake she made when she set a teapot on a saucer on the “Bly Manor” kitchen set — rather than the cup on the saucer — and realized that’s what Hannah is doing when she’s “not computing, she’s off in a memory or something.” The memory Hannah floats off into the most while she is “hopping” around throughout Episode 5 is the first day she meets Owen (Rahul Kohli), the cook at Bly Manor who she falls deeply in love with. They both keep those feelings to themselves, though, until it’s too late because Hannah is “terribly professional.”
“I think because Owen, for Hannah, is her rock, it’s her happy place, it’s her place of comfort,” the “Sex Education” alum said. “It’s the moment after all the years of being barren and not having a man to lie down with because her husband has gone off with another woman, it’s the moment where she falls in love quite unexpectedly. And it really is love at first sight. Here’s this beautiful young man who had this opportunity in Paris and has come back to look after his mama, and damn, the man can cook! He’s a catch, what’s not to like?”
Miller added: “So she comes back to that moment because she gets all those butterflies in her stomach and because she dearly, dearly loves him. That love that they have is beyond lust or friendship, it’s a soul sort of love. That’s why she returns back to that moment.”
The loop is a “heartbreaking” one for Miller because it comes in Episode 5 just as Owen is asking present-day Hannah (who he does not know is a ghost) to go with him to Paris and start a life together.
“At that point where she finally says, ‘Sod, it. I’m going to do this. Damn, I love you. You know what, yes’… But by the time she says that, the memories, the dream-hopping, she’s less and less able to deny that she’s not there. That moment just literally happens before the episode where she’s gone off. And it’s just heartbreaking — it’s months too late, but for her, it’s moments too late. And they will never get to share that life.”
Miller says Hannah finally leaves the comfort of this memory in the “Haunting of Bly Manor” finale to go save real-life Owen, Dani (Victoria Pedretti), Jamie (Amelia Eve) and young Miles and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith), from Peter’s evil plan and the Lady of the Lake (Kate Siegel) because of a compliment Owen once paid her.
“When Owen says by the fire, ‘You know what I’ve noticed about you, you look out for everybody else.’ And she says, ‘Well that’s my job,’ because that’s just her innate self… So she’s unable to stay in that memory any longer, knowing what’s really looming outside. Knowing what’s happening and the danger that’s happening to these children, she can’t possibly stay in this place because her babies and all of her family are at risk. And that’s what forces her out.”
The enormous kindness of Hannah Grose is something that confused Miller when she was first asked to read for the “Haunting of Bly Manor” role — because she’s so nice, and the British actress does not describe herself as “soft and gentle and fluffy.” So Miller believes the connection must have been made through the “fierce loyalty and protectiveness” her character Celeste from the BBC One/HBO miniseries “Years and Years” has for her husband and her children “regardless of what had happened in their relationship.”
“And also that she wasn’t ‘getting any’ either… I’m playing these women who are sex-starved, so maybe it was those things. Really loyal, really loving, and barren.”
Watch TheWrap’s full interview with Miller above.
Check back with TheWrap for more “Haunting of Bly Manor” coverage throughout the weekend.