So few of the Crain siblings have a healthy romantic relationship in The Haunting of Hill House. Steven and his wife? Separated because he failed to disclose his vasectomy. Shirley and her husband? Bickering over the bills and keeping secrets from one another. Theo and her latest? Kicked out of bed. Luke’s true love? For a long time, only his needle.
Only Nell seemed truly happy with her choice of romantic partner: Arthur Vance, the sleep technologist who helped her through her Bent Neck Lady-induced sleep paralysis. (If that’s what it was.) Alas, their time together was cut short. After eight months of wedded bliss, Arthur died, sending Nell into a downward spiral and back to Hill House, where they could be reunited in the afterlife — if that was really his ghost.
Actor Jordane Christie chatted with SYFY WIRE about Nell being ghosted, what killed Arthur, and the questionable ethics of sleeping with the sleep tech.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House below**
One of the first scenes that you shot was the wedding. So what’s it like meeting someone and marrying them the same day or the next day?
We started communicating before we met, but the first opportunity Victoria [Pedretti] and I had to really bond was during the choreography for the dancing.
There wasn’t a lot of choreography for the wedding. We were just in a circle, pretty much just rocking back and forth. But she’s incredibly sweet and we spoke about Arthur and Nell’s relationship, and what we meant to each other. And it was important for me to try to represent her rock and her stability, to give her clarity and security. And so a lot of what we were doing was establishing trust. Arthur and Nell’s relationship is one of the few moments in the series where there is light, and there is love, so we took that seriously. Like, “Okay, we’re here for each other. We’re going to make this work.” And we hugged.
Arthur and Nell dance quite a bit more at Hill House. Is there a difference when you’re dancing as a ghost?
That’s like a full waltz! And I actually had a hard time with it, at first, because I don’t have much of a dance background. I mean, if I hear music, I can move to it and not embarrass myself. I have rhythm! But I am not a classically trained dancer, and to be in that situation was a little high pressure because you can see the long shots that are being used and you don’t want to be the reason why the angle doesn’t work, because you can’t get this step right. There was a bit of stepping on each other’s toes at first, but that was on me!
She’s a beautiful dancer, but I was supposed to be the one leading, leading it as well as guiding her. Before we were rolling, we counted it out a few times, and I was kind off doing the count by myself — kind of the way you see her dancing by herself later on when they do those cuts? I was doing the same thing without her, and that’s what helped me in the end, finding that by myself off to the side, before I had Victoria there and stepping on her toes.
Like, “Let me get my steps first, before I twirl you around!” I wish we had had a little more time to dive into it, but it worked out beautifully. It’s supposed to be this whole dream-like thing, which is why we incorporated the waltz, the glide, the spins... because it contributes to this utopia that the house is creating for her.
Maybe Nell should have realized Arthur’s not a good enough dancer to be doing this waltz, and woken up? Should that have been a clue for her that this can’t be real?
Yeah! Maybe that’s her clue. Maybe Arthur wasn’t really that good of a dancer. Maybe that should have snapped her out of there.
What was it like shooting Arthur’s death scene? And what do you think killed him — an aneurysm, or the Bent Neck Lady?
I researched what goes on during an actual brain aneurysm. It’s like the popping of a blood vessel, and there’s internal bleeding. So I was trying to just feel that. With Mike’s direction, the question of whether it’s an aneurysm or the Bent Neck Lady, it’s supposed to be unclear.
It’s supposed to be cloudy. So it’s supposed to be angled in a way where I’m kind of angling towards the direction of the Bent Neck Lady. And he wanted there to be a bang. If you remember, when it happened, Arthur catches himself on the dresser, and that bang just created more of the suddenness of it and the shock factor of it happening.
How would Arthur’s ghost get from California to Massachusetts, where Hill House is? If that’s even Arthur’s ghost at all? Maybe it’s just an illusion the house is creating for Nell...
Arthur had nothing to do with the house itself, so it really makes no sense for her to be seeing me there! Maybe Arthur’s ghost is just chilling at their apartment in California, waiting for her to come back!
The house just showed her everything that she wanted to see. It’s a question of the power of the mind versus the power of the house.
If you researched aneurysms, did you also research sleep studies? What it takes to be a sleep tech? And does the advice Arthur gives Nell actually work if you’re having sleep paralysis?
Yeah. I looked into polysomnography, the sleep study where they diagnose sleep disorders. Have you ever had sleep paralysis yourself?
No, but I’ve had sleepwalking, sleep-talking, and sleep-screaming, during night terrors...
Yeah, I’ve never had that. That’s advanced. I snore a little bit, but people who have sleep apnea, that can be pretty vicious and they can be unaware of it. I had a few people in my life who told me about their situations with sleep paralysis. It makes Nell’s situation even more scary because this is a very common thing. I wanted to go to a sleep lab, but I didn’t actually get to go to one. So I watched a lot of videos on the actual process of it, read up on it, and talked to people. I grew up in a medical family — my dad’s a doctor, my mom’s a nurse — and so I’ve grown up around hospitals and physician practices, but the study of sleep was newer to me. I had a girlfriend who used to have sleep paralysis pretty regularly, but most of the people I talked to about it haven’t actually sought help for it.
So maybe this show will be something that will help create awareness for it and let people know it’s okay to seek help if it’s something you’re finding to be intrusive in your lifestyle. If you’re having sleep paralysis, it’s generally something that passes over time, but Nell’s case was so much more advanced because of the recurrence of seeing the Bent Neck Lady, which led to her depression and just feeling misunderstood like people thought she was crazy. And Arthur was there to put her at ease with that, as well as give her that escape plan, which does work and helps you gain control of where you’re at, during that point in time.
Hopefully, no one is having a vision of seeing someone hovering inches above their face at the same time! But I think it’s beautiful that Arthur was there to put her at ease with that, not just in the lab, but also in their personal relationship, whether or not people might find that to be unethical, to have a relationship with a patient...
Wait, so you’re saying the solution to sleep paralysis isn’t necessarily to sleep with the sleep tech?
Nell and Arthur work because it’s a genuine connection. I think it’d be different if it were a one-night-stand! Like when Theo’s meeting her love interest in the club. But not even Theo would turn a patient relationship into a personal relationship.
Maybe if your situation is as advanced as Nell’s, and you need some extra attention, make another appointment in the lab! If that turns into an engagement, that’s up to you!