‘Haunting of Bly Manor’ Stars on Moving Out of ‘Hill House’ Family Drama and Into a Possessive Love Story

Victoria Pedretti and Oliver Jackson-Cohen tell TheWrap about transitioning from twins to strangers

“The Haunting of Bly Manor,” the second chapter of Mike Flanagan’s “The Haunting” anthology, launches Friday with a completely different story and characters from its first season, “The Haunting of Hill House.” But while Bly is home to different residents, some of its key inhabitants are played by those who dwelled in Hill House, including Victoria Pedretti and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

In short, the two seasons are just “wildly different,” Pedretti told TheWrap.

For 2018’s “Hill House,” based on the Shirley Jackson novel the same name, Pedretti and Jackson-Cohen played twins Nellie and Luke Crain, the youngest members of large a family that moved into the central haunted house one summer and were forever traumatized by the events that occurred there.

In “Bly Manor,” the actors play two strangers versus a set of siblings: Dani Clayton, who comes to Bly to become a nanny to two “unusual” young children, and Peter Quint, “a charming fellow” who lives at Bly Manor and “makes life very difficult for everyone there.”

“I think Mike has done something quite clever, which was, he said early on, ‘I’m done with the Crains, I think we’ve told their story. We have to now do something entirely different.’ And I think that’s what he’s done. ‘Hill House’ was about grief and mental illness and addiction and depression and childhood trauma and all of these different things. And ‘Bly,’ fundamentally, is about love and about all the facets of love.”

Set in 1980s England, “Haunting of Bly Manor” takes place after an au pair’s tragic death prompts Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) to hire Dani, a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and nephew Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller). But per Netflix’s description, “all is not as it seems at the manor, and centuries of dark secrets of love and loss are waiting to be unearthed in this chilling gothic romance.”

The show, which is based on the supernatural stories of Henry James, also stars Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel and Tahirah Sharif.

“Most the times when we think about love, we think about the exciting moments and the butterflies and the rainbow parts of it,” Jackson-Cohen said. “And actually, there is a much darker side to love and I think that Mike has done an incredible job of weaving that into the show — which is a horror show — by exploring the idea of possession. And I don’t mean demonic possession, but possessing someone you are in a relationship with, and how people behave when they are in love. And I think it’s a fascinating thing I hadn’t ever seen done before. So it’s a very, very different show. It’s a gothic romance. But there are familiar faces — and it’s still Mike Flanagan, so you get these characters that appear a certain way and then you’re shown an entirely different side, so it makes you question everything that you’ve thought about them before.”

As far as other changes go, Pedretti says her “Hill House” and “Bly Manor” alter egos are “very, very different.”

“Nellie is certainly a bit less ambitious, she just kind of wants to make things work with her family, really desperately, and take care of herself and be happy. Dani is very committed as a teacher. She really wants to help others, who she is not related to at all, to feel safe and empowered in the world. She’s from the midwest and Nellie is from the East Coast. Nellie grew up with a lot more comforts than Dani did. They both have a lot of similarities still also. As do we all.”

Jackson-Cohen says he and Pedretti had to tackle their “Bly Manor” parts in “entirely different ways” from “Hill House,” including adding their own pieces to the characters this time around.

“It was nice to go into ‘Bly Manor’ knowing we’ve got a trust,” he told TheWrap. “We’ve always got this trust between us already figured out. So it was quite freeing, in a way. This time around it felt like a real collaboration, collaborating on the character and on the story. And Mike was very open and trusting of Victoria and I to bring our own ideas and to present those and to incorporate those into the story and the script. So it was a very fortunate position that we were in.”

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” launches Friday on Netflix.