In the film Hereditary, the Graham family is on the losing side of the genetic lottery. When Grandma Ellen, not the milk-and-cookies type, passes away, it unleashes an evil, seemingly genetically linked, force upon mom Annie (Toni Collette), dad Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and their two kids, Peter and Charlie. It’s Peter, played by Alex Wolff, who bears the brunt of the deeply hair-raising domestic psychodrama that ensues, and the experience often followed him off the set. “I completely immerse myself in what’s going on. You’ve got to lose yourself a little bit,” Wolff admits of his acting style. “The movie is pretty upsetting and it was a pretty upsetting experience making it.”
Backed by A24, the independent film company behind Lady Bird, Hereditary has horror fans buzzing thanks in part to director Ari Aster, whose haunting short The Strange Thing About the Johnsons also centered on a family plagued by demons. Wolff, on the other hand, is known for more harmonious family dynamics: as a tween, he was one half of the sibling duo on Naked Brothers Band, a Nickelodeon movie-turned-TV series created by his mother, Polly Draper, and costarring brother Nat. “My introduction to the business was working with my family and friends, and everything was loose and fun,” Wolff says. “It was a good experience. I’m super proud of Naked Brothers Band.”
After NBB, Wolff played a therapy patient on HBO’s In Treatment opposite Hereditary costar Byrne, who became a real-life father figure. “He’s the person that I’ve worked with who has probably inspired me the most,” says Wolff. “After In Treatment, he said, ‘We are going to work together again and you’re going to be a star.’ I reminded him of that on Hereditary he was like, ‘No. I definitely didn’t say that.’ I was like, ‘I’ve been carrying that around for the past seven years!’”
After the intense three months spent shooting Hereditary in Utah, Wolff got a tattoo on his right shoulder to mark the experience. “It’s a circle shape and it was sort of a representation of me coming out on the other side,” he says.
And Wolff isn’t done sacrificing for his art; he recently wrote, directed and starred in the film The Cat and the Moon, which he says may have been his most taxing to date. “It was also very dark and emotionally demanding, so I’m continuing to torture myself,” he laughs. “But it was also the most fun experience I’ve ever had. It’s turning out to be something special, so I’m excited.”
Main image credit: Bil Brown
Styled by: Elijah Vielma
Grooming by: Brandie Hopstein