It seems like we’ve known her for much longer, but incredible as it sounds, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is Millie Bobby Brown’s first feature film. She began acting on television when she was nine years old, breaking through as a legitimate pop culture star in 2016 when she made her debut at age 12 as the eerie, super-powered Eleven in Netflix’s hit horror/sci-fi series Stranger Things. Brown made such an impression in the role (winning a number of accolades along the way) that it’s odd to think that the jump to features didn’t happen even sooner.
Yet here she is, arriving on the big screen in one of the biggest (literally) movies of the year. Brown plays Madison Russell, a teenage girl whose estranged parents (played by Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler) have been broken apart by a family tragedy linked to their work as scientists for Monarch, the organization that tracks and contains the monsters known as Titans around the globe.
With her mom and dad espousing very different methods for dealing with the monsters and their threat to the human race, Madison finds herself dragged along on a worldwide hunt that gives her a front row view of the dangerous, colossal battles between the fearsome King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan and, of course, the king, Godzilla.
Brown will reprise the role in next year’s championship bout, Godzilla vs. Kong, and this July she’ll once again return to Hawkins, Indiana for the third season of Stranger Things. She’s also got her own franchise in the works — producing and starring in an adaptation of Enola Holmes Mysteries, a series of detective novels centered on the teenage sister of Sherlock Holmes. We spoke about all this and more when we sat down with Brown at the Los Angeles press junket for Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Den of Geek: This is your first feature film. What was it like jumping into your first movie, especially one this big?
Millie Bobby Brown: It’s daunting. It’s like, “Really, am I going to do this correctly, or is there any right way to do this?” And when I met the director, Michael Dougherty, we were so careful about how far we wanted to go with this character, how much we wanted her to evolve through the movie. And I think as soon as we started, I think over our long conversation about humanitarianism and our long conversation about animal conservation and nature, I think that we kind of finally came to the conclusion that we really enjoyed each other’s company and we knew that we were going to work together really well.
So when we kind of came to that conclusion it was kind of a breeze, it was like, “Why wouldn’t we?”, you know? We both fight for the same things, we both believe in the same things, we are both on the same team, so we should work together. And as soon as we did I mean it was perfection. It was definitely daunting. I mean, I think the only thing that really made me feel comfortable, initially, was Michael. He made me feel like, “Okay, this is good, this is just like any other thing I’ve ever done,” so it was nice.
Michael is known for playing pranks on the set, but you apparently had a lot of fun with a rubber rat.
Well, that got passed around slowly. I mean it started off in Vera’s trailer then ended up in Kyle’s then ended up in Ken’s and O’Shea’s, so it kind of traveled around. But it was usually me just planting it, you know. And it wasn’t like, “Okay, I’m going to do this,” it was kind of just like, “All right, well let’s see, yeah, if this works.”
Actors say when they go from TV to feature films, the biggest difference is the time factor. So adjusting to that, was it better for you in a way to have more space and more time? Or did you have to recalibrate after working under the constraints of TV?
They’re equally a representation of me. You know, Stranger Things, I’m very quick, I love to be quick. I’m just like, I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do it, let’s go,” I’m very much like that, I’m a kind of on-the-go person. And then on Godzilla, or any movie, I’m a perfectionist as well. So when I don’t get it right I kind of just, like, say, “Okay, let’s move on, let’s move on.” But then I’m like, “Oh wait, no, no, no, no, no, wait, we have to figure out something.”
So I got the best of both worlds. Like on Stranger Things I got to be really fast, and then on Godzilla I got to perfect everything they did. They both have their great aspects. I couldn’t really choose which one I think I relate to the most, or I had more fun or more enjoyment out of, like, the filming or time process. But I think they’re both equally a representation of who I am.
If you take the monsters out, this is sort of a domestic drama about a teenage girl caught in a bad parental breakup.
Absolutely, yeah. Divorce is a real thing, you know, loss of family and confusion. Without the monsters, you definitely do see a reality of just a teenage girl going through something really horrific that happens on a day-to-day basis. And it’s the way you handle it is the way you’ll get through it. And the way Madison handles it is through her strength, power, and then pride.
Was it nice to play that stuff with Kyle and Vera and have something more dramatic to work on as opposed to always looking up at where a monster will be?
I would actually have to agree with you. I think that working with real people that have real emotions that are real fathers, real mothers, it’s much easier for me, because I’m a one-on-one kind of person. But that doesn’t mean that the other part was any more difficult or any easier, I think. Looking up at a monster and acting scared, then looking at your mum and feeling scared, same thing. No, I’m kidding.
You really had very little sort of personal knowledge of Godzilla before you started.
Yeah. I knew the name, of course. I knew he was Japanese, I knew that he was awakened by an atomic bomb. I knew that there were many more Titans, I knew that they were called “Titans.” I knew that there were many movies in production and not in production that were made about him. I knew that it was a legacy. That was all I really knew.
But nothing, like, in-depth, like you know, “He arose and he lives in a temple down in the ocean,” I did not know that. Or that the fact that he was an amphibian. I had no idea.
So coming out of this experience, of working on this one and also Godzilla vs. Kong, what’s your sense of what they represent and why they have this kind of hold on audiences?
Because they’re not scary. I can relate to the titans. And I think that’s cool that, like, humans can actually feel like they’re related to the monsters, they feel they can actually see themselves through these titans. And for me I can see Mothra and, like, I’m a very anxious person and I want to save everyone all the time, I want to fix everyone, and Mothra’s very much like that. I like the fact that they have a hold over people. The fans have a loyalty to these movies.
What were the fictional creatures if any that did scare you growing up?
King Kong freaked me out. Not anymore, but he used to freak me out and then by the end of the movie I was always just crying and loving him. That’s why he has a hold over me. And when they said they were going to do Godzilla vs. Kong I freaked out. Because I was like, “Wow, this is what I grew up on, was King Kong.” And I was just in a Godzilla movie, so my two worlds were kind of colliding.
So how was it doing a movie with Kong?
Actually I feel like King Kong is more emotional than Godzilla. Godzilla’s very strong and masculine and you know, has this ego, you know? Whereas Kong, you just, you love. He has feelings, he has emotions, he has a heart. It’s adorable for me.
Does Madison have another big character arc in that next movie?
Oh, the biggest. It was really difficult on the last movie to make sure I was portraying this correctly. But you know, I had so much fun, so I’m sure that will play off on screen.
Can we get a word or two on Stranger Things 3?
I mean obviously it’s the summer of ’85, it comes out on July 4th which is, you know, Independence Day, and it’s also based around Independence Day as you can see in the trailer. It’s the summer of love, and it’s beautiful.
Stranger Things has a very loyal and huge following. Recently a number of Game of Thrones fans objected to the way the series ended and started a petition asking HBO to remake it. How would you feel if Stranger Things fans launched something like that?
You know, I think that the fans have a great opinion, and we base our show very much on the fan interaction. We want to make sure that we’re giving the fans what they want to see, but also not want to see. That’s what’s so difficult, you know, getting a healthy balance. On the other hand, it just shows the impact that Game of Thrones has had on people.
You’re now also a producer on a movie about Enola Holmes, who was created as a sister for Sherlock Holmes. What does it mean to you to become a producer?
Being a producer is, oh my goodness, it’s one of the luckiest labels I can be labeled, I think. You know, youth is so important nowadays, to empower people to understand that there is no limit to what you can do, no matter how old you are, and no matter who you are as a person. And it’s so important. There’s more to being a producer than meets the eye. I think it’s the creative input that I really want to have on this movie. So I’m so excited to film it. I cannot stop thinking about it. I’ve actually had a bunch of meetings the other day about it and I just got so excited, I was like, “Can we just make it now?”
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is out in theaters Friday (May 31).
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye