Madeleine Coghlan made a name for herself in the world of indie film and has gone on to prove her talents go far beyond acting as she has thrived behind the camera as well. We spoke to her about her upcoming indie feature, “We Burn Like This”. Check it out below!
Q. Hi Madeleine, I am Hardik Agrawal from The Movie Culture. How are you doing today?
Madeleine Coghlan: Hi Hardik! It’s great to be speaking with you. I’m doing well. I’m currently drinking a cold brew so I’m feeling caffeinated!
Q. We Burn Like This revolves around a very prevalent, yet seemingly silent issue of Neo Nazis and their impact on the descendants of Holocaust Survivors. How did this project come along, what brought you to it?
Madeleine Coghlan: This project came to me untraditionally as most great things often do. I live in Los Angeles and a few years ago, I became friends with some pretty fantastic people originally from Montana. In the summer of 2019, one of my friends, Zach, told me a friend of his was making a movie in Montana and searching for an actress. He recommended me to Alana. She sent me the script and out of self-preservation, I attempted to hold back my passion and love for the character and the story, but ultimately, I was just smitten, and after several meetings with Alana, I was over the moon to come on board.
Q. Could you give me an insight on who Rae is? Her aspirations, dreams and fears which come alive during this turn of events…
Madeleine Coghlan: Absolutely. Rae is a character that initially felt so different from me. At first glance, I think it’s easy to judge some of her self-destructive behavior, but as I got to know her, I was frightened because I saw myself in both her strengths and her flaws. I think ultimately, Rae is looking for freedom from herself, from her trauma, and her past. In the film, the idea of generational trauma is explored, the idea that in order to find that freedom, you have to not only reckon with your own past, but that of the family members who came before you. As Rae begins to face the trauma of her ancestors, she begins the journey to find the freedom she’s after.
Q. “May we find the perfection even in the darkest times and in the darkest memories.”, Alana Waksman, the director and a fellow descendant of a Holocaust Survivor, says this as she concludes her statement. Could you dwell further and the countless things that make this film so important for her, and for every other victim?
Madeleine Coghlan: I love that quote from Alana. Being another descendant of Holocaust Survivors, I can relate to the fear around confronting such horrific events. Especially as a child, it’s hard to even fathom such atrocities, you can’t wrap your head around it. And then even as an adult, it’s still painful to go to those dark places. I think this film really humanizes the healing process. We’re with Rae basically the whole movie. We see her alone and in relationships with others, and I think as we truly get a chance to know her on an individual level, we’re able to find compassion not only for Rae but for others and for ourselves.
Q. Trauma, Survival and Healing, this is what We Burn Like This is all about. How do you, as an actor, prepare yourself to showcase such complex phases of brutal history?
Madeleine Coghlan: I definitely had to go to some dark places during the making of the movie, and one of my methods was changing my self talk before scenes. I would pace around and say cruel things to myself to get me in to the headspace of my character. Kind of like the opposite of a positive affirmation. Words are so powerful and by repeating terrible things to myself, there was a part of my brain that really started to believe them and it felt like I could really connect with the decisions Rae was making.
Q. Indie Cinema happens to be one of the most powerful means to bring raw, unabashed messages into the limelight. Since you have worked in so many projects, even directed one of your own, do you think there’s something in Indie Cinema which makes you feel right at home?
Madeleine Coghlan: Yes. Indie cinema has always been where I feel most comfortable. Throughout my life, I always felt like a bit of an outsider and I think Indie cinema belongs to the outsiders. It’s always been about creating, unconventionally, unabashedly, and without asking for permission. There’s a grittiness in independent filmmaking that I find beautiful and absorbing. I’m proud to call it home as long as it will have me.
Q. From something as fun and ridiculous as Witchin, to something as heartfelt as We Burn Like This, what is the process of transition like for you?
Madeleine Coghlan: I’ve always been drawn to characters, and nothing makes me happier than being someone else, so I find transitioning from genre to genre, exhilarating. The more different the characters are, the better. I put on a variety show a couple years ago where I played about 10 different characters one after the other, so I think that kind of work has helped prep me with moving from one project to another. Honestly, I think I’d be scared if I had to be myself.
Q. What’s next for you in your career of varied and vibrant movies and TV Shows, and is going mainstream, something you consider from time to time?
Madeleine Coghlan: I love this question. Going mainstream is something I don’t think I could do if I tried. Obviously I would love to keep working as much as possible, so I think there will be some “mainstream” aspect to that, but I will always gravitate off the beaten path, towards the weird and the unorthodox. I love what I do and I feel so lucky to continue having opportunities to work and help tell interesting stories. So as long as I keep getting to do that, in whatever medium, whether it’s tv, film, or spoken word poetry, I will be very happy.
Q. Thank You for interacting with me Madeleine, I can’t wait to see We Burn Like This soon, and I wish you the very best for your future!
Madeleine Coghlan: Thank you so much for taking the time!
The Movie Culture Synopsis
We Burn Like This is about a descendent of Holocaust survivors, Rae, who finds herself in a vulnerable position as she navigates her own trauma as she is targeted by Neo-Nazis in her hometown. This film will make its European debut at the Deauville American Film Festival in September.