Before you move into a house the size of Hill House, talk to the staff. In Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House, the house's long-time caretakers, the Dudleys, know most of its secrets — if not where the bodies are buried, then where (and when) to avoid being home alone. If only the Crains had fostered a more open relationship with the Dudleys, then perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Dudley (played, respectively, by Robert Longstreet and Annabeth Gish) might have advised them to not live on the premises during the repairs. Or warned them about the Red Room. Or introduced them to their daughter, Abigail, so they wouldn't dismiss little Luke's friend as "imaginary."
**This story contains spoilers for Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House.**
But alas, the staff's advice came too late and tragedy ensued for both families.
Mr. Dudley actor Robert Longstreet chatted with SYFY WIRE about giving the Dudleys some love, delivering his powerful monologue, and what he'd like to see in a second season. Plus, he admits, it's okay to blame him for all the haunting at Hill House after the Crains move out. Because technically, they could have put a stop to everything.
Do you remember things that scared you as a kid?
My mom would buy me monster comics, and I would stay home from school and read the creepiest ones. I begged my father to take me to see The Exorcist when I was 11. We walked out during the cross scene. My dad was pale-faced, almost catatonic, and he said, "Do you want to leave?" And I just nodded and mumbled, "Yep." He said, "If I had had any idea what that movie was, there is no way I would have taken you to it. I didn't even know they made movies like that." I talked him into taking me again the next night.
I watched the whole thing through a little rip in a Hershey wrapper. I loved it. I had never heard sound design like that before. And I got to tell [director] William Friedkin that it wasn't like watching a movie — it was like watching a tornado take your whole town.
Apparently, when you shot your huge monologue about Mr. Dudley's history with Hill House, the crew was so riveted that even the grips and the electricians applauded when you finished.
Yeah, it made me start crying! They all flooded onto the set and gave me a standing ovation.
And that was the fourth take. I'd done three takes, and in all three of them, I talked for like six minutes. And then [showrunner] Mike Flanagan came up to me and said the best thing. He said, "Rob, we have it six ways to Sunday. I can cut this scene a million ways, but if you want to do it one more time, and if we can get it all the way through, it will be art." And I was like, "Okay. Let's absolutely do that."
This was the biggest budget project I've ever done, and there was so much pressure, but Mike was so gentle and warm that even in my biggest pressure moment, even though I was scared, I had the relaxation to get lost in it.
It's also really affecting because up until this point, we've felt like the Dudleys know what's going on, but won't divulge what they know. And finally, Mr. Dudley feels compelled to share.
Oh, yeah. If we told the Crains what we know, they would kick us out immediately. And that house has already gobbled up the precious things that we had. We had a stillborn baby that the house had already killed, basically.
But there's something that clicks in that moment and he decides, "Let me tell you that your wife is about to go over the edge."
Why do you think the Dudleys never bothered to mention their daughter Abigail?
We just didn't want our little girl to leave the cottage. We wanted to keep her completely cloistered and home-schooled, just out of our own paranoia. We didn't want her to set one foot into that demon house. But it's another one of those things where you're never guaranteed to keep anything you have safe. And so you think she's an imaginary friend. Another little ghostie around the corner. But she's not.
What was it like shooting the finale scenes in which the Dudleys make their deal with Hugh Crain? Their daughter has just been killed by their employer. Hugh wants to burn the place down. They convince him not to.
So we can live there together forever. Yeah.
So it's basically your fault that the haunting continues.
[Laughs] If you want to blame it all on me, I'll bear the brunt of that!
Those scenes were so hard. And it's the first time that you see Mr. and Mrs. Dudley together. I had never worked with Annabeth Gish before, so I sent her love letters. I told her that I was ahead of her on our relationship because I had had a crush on her for 30 years, from Mystic Pizza onwards.
At first, I was like, "Oh s***, maybe I shouldn't have been so honest about that." But she wrote me back immediately, and she was incredibly sweet and generous. Before each of these scenes, we would hug and hold hands, off-camera, just to bond and develop a quick microwave relationship that we could play as real. So those scenes were kind of exhilarating.
It was scary to pull that relationship off, but we just surrendered to it, and it worked. It's just shattering.
Mrs. Dudley seemed like the more religious of the two of them. Do you think it helped?
I mean, it depends on how you view religion. I think they get comfort from it because it's something they can be rigid about, and it makes sense with the house, which makes no sense at all. But definitely, Mrs. Dudley is the taskmaster. I think Horace is religious, too. He mentions that they should say a couple of prayers.
I grew up in a religious household. My father was actually going to be an Episcopalian minister before I was the shotgun at their wedding and he became a businessman. I'm not religious now, but I'm fine with it. I definitely grew up with the church, but I also played with an Ouija board one night. I asked it to give us a sign, and then a lamp shut off. I can't tell you if that just was an electrical problem or what!
There just seems to be so many possibilities left open for Season 2. Should there be one? Maybe we need the whole history of the Hills themselves.
I would love that. I don't know whether it'll be a prequel, or whether it'll be an anthology like American Horror Story. But I'd love to come back as Mr. Dudley. Fingers crossed.
You're working with Mike Flanagan again on Doctor Sleep. How is that?
It's so good. It's so incredible. It's such a huge movie with incredible messages, which can be intimidating. But Mike uses a lot of the same crew, so it feels like a big family. We're just being silly and laughing and doing a lot of really terrible, scary, cruel things. [Laughs] I'm scared that somebody's going to beat me up in an airport for what I do in this one! People are going to point at me and be like, "You're a bad man. You're very bad." [Laughs] I'm definitely going to have to wear a disguise after this one.