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Welcome to The Haunting of Bly Manor
I'm a big scaredy-cat, which is why I was thankful when we set out in the daylight to visit the set of The Haunting of Bly Manor in Vancouver back in January. Luckily, the set was well-lit and not at all scary taking a tour — which was really a perfect set-up, considering Bly Manor is set in the bright 1980s and does not have your typical haunted house appearance at first.
As we toured the house, I considered whether it was more or less creepy to sleep in a haunted manor inside a giant sound stage or one actually in the middle of the countryside. I'm not sure I found that answer but 10/10 would love to cook in the Bly Manor kitchen. The architecture of the Manor re-created on a sound stage? Beautiful. The main entry? Not creepy at all when the lights are on and you're surrounded by a minimum of five other humans to protect you. And luckily, that's where I sat down with the producers and cast to find out all about this latest installment of the Netflix series which began with The Haunting of Hill House in 2018.
There's something extra creepy about the setting of large houses. They inherently have tons of empty space — lots of nooks and crannies to hide in. Creator and director Mike Flanagan noted that houses make great locations for these types of stories for a variety of reasons.
"I think, what we do to our houses, kind of the houses we build in our minds, it's the place where we're supposed to be the safest, it's the place where that we associate the most with our childhood, with our family, kind of with everything," Flanagan explained. "It's the place in the world where you're supposed to be protected from everything outside of it. So, anything that can come into a house as an existential threat, I think, is going to resonate with people, and houses have lives, especially houses with a rich history."
But what really makes Bly Manor is not just the house itself, but the people who live there. Victoria Pedretti plays Dani Clayton, the audience's way into the home when she takes a job as au pair to two orphaned children: Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth).
"I really believe in what she's about," Pedretti said of Dani. "She's somebody who is trying to do things that aren't necessarily practical, for the sake of pursuing the life she wants for herself, even if it doesn't fit into societal norms, even if it [isn't] necessarily... in pursuit of money or notoriety, which is so often placed in our heads as something that's related to success or something that's valuable. She has her own set of values and really sticks with them. And that's something I would like to be able to do for myself. She's trying to be confident and empowered, and be the best version of herself so that she can be as kind as possible to others."
When Dani arrives at Bly Manor, she also meets Hannah (T'Nia Miller), Jamie (Amelia Eve), and Owen (Rahul Kohli) who have created their own family for the children who seem to have none other than their uncle Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) who hired Dani. Hannah is the live-in housekeeper.
"We know that she was left and has never sort of remarried," explained Miller. "And the house and the children have become her life. Jamie and Rahul, the cook, and having the children are her family. And she's devoted, fiercely devoted to them."
Jamie is the groundskeeper who spends time keeping the outside of Bly Manor just as beautiful as the inside.
"Jamie is very blunt, very sarcastic, very disinterested in drama and people," said Eve. "The line in that I got at the very beginning was Jamie prefers plants to people. And I was like 'I get you, I feel you girl.' And like, yeah, we just, I bonded with her straight away."
Alongside the cook, Owen, this found-family is quite endearing. They truly seem to care for the well-being of not only the children but each other. Of course, while much of The Haunting of Bly Manor is bright and sweet, it doesn't always paint a rosy picture. There is a dark side. If you enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House, you'll find some thematic similarities at Bly too.
"I think this does the same in some respects that it's about love and loss of love," says Miller. "And I think it scoffs at romance. So it has those things. I think... I don't know if it's just because it's on paper and I've read it and I'm in it that it feels scarier than Hill House in some ways. The antes up a bit, but it's still deeply rooted in those human emotions and relationships that we have with each other. I think that's what makes it bloody scary."
The Haunting of Bly Manor hits Netflix on October 9.