Myha’la Herrold Isn't Afraid of the Dark

Myha'la Herrold Isn't Afraid of a Little Controversy

The Bodies Bodies Bodies star talks woke culture, ghost stories, and creating authentic comedy.

Myha'la Herrold is coming in hot — the 26-year-old actress's career may be in its early stages, but her projects already reflect the depth and range of someone with twice her experience. It doesn't seem like she has any plans to lower her standards either, especially as she racks up critically-acclaimed job after job on her résumé. "I'm a drama girl," she says of her favorite genre. "Give me high drama every day, and I will be set. The deeper the issues, the more at home I feel. I love seeing people at their best and their worst. It's very relatable."

Herrold is most known for playing Harper Stern, the headstrong and ambitious lead in HBO's financial drama Industry (its sophomore season premiered earlier this month), as well as her roles in the 2021 coming-of-age comedy Plan B (which carries even more weight now in a post-Roe V. Wade world), and Prime Video's star-studded Modern Love anthology. She's also joined the cast of an upcoming thriller, Leave the World Behind, alongside major players like Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Kevin Bacon, and Mahershala Ali. The film, based on the 2020 book of the same name by Rumaan Alam, takes on topics like family, race, and class. Before her foray into film and television, Herrold's theater background — she graduated from the prestigious drama program at Carnegie Mellon University — landed her a stint on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning The Book of Mormon.

But her latest project to hit theaters, A24's Bodies Bodies Bodies — a bitingly funny slasher-thriller directed by Halina Reijn — takes more of an obvious stab (literally) at satirizing the toxic tropes of today's society, with an emphasis on Gen Z's self-proclaimed wokeness.

Bodies follows a group of privileged 20-somethings camped out in a giant mansion during a hurricane. Seamlessly blending comedy and horror, the movie will have you hysterically, yet contemptibly, laughing in-between moments of bloody mayhem. Even within the film's farce, authenticity led the cast — Amandla Sternberg, Rachel Sennott, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, and Lee Pace — and their creative choices. And Myha'la credits this approach for why it works so well.

"I think all of us do everything from a place of honesty and truth," she explains. "The comedy comes out of reality. The way they cut things together is funny as an observer, but it's not funny to the people it's happening to. It's very real. And that's what makes it funny; the best comedy moments are done when something feels truly real. I don't think it would be as good if it were played as a pure comedy."

Myha’la Herrold Isn't Afraid of the Dark
A24

Each character has their own pernicious qualities that lead to the demise of the group when a simple game turns into a murderous party from hell. Herrold plays Jordan, a self-righteous, condescending friend who actually has a few of her own skeletons tucked away. The actress slyly drops that she drew inspiration from somebody she knows in real life while fleshing out the character. "I had been made to feel stupid by this one person with that attitude," she says. "The outward appearance of 'holier than thou' was paramount to them. And that seemed so obvious to me that Jordan can have all these sneaky links, [but] that she has actually talked mad shit behind someone's back. That she could do all those things, and then she'll die on the hill that she's the smartest, the chillest, the most woke."

Luckily, the cast had a much better vibe on set than the fatally flawed friends on-screen. Herrold says her co-stars Sennott and Davidson (unsurprisingly) supplied the humor. "I think Pete is really fun," says Herrold. "He's a fun person, and he makes people laugh when the cameras aren't rolling. And then, when the cameras are rolling, it's Rachel who's making us laugh. So, I feel like the two of them brought levity and playfulness."

InStyle spoke to Myha'la about filming in the dark, her experience with ghosts, and if she'll ever return to Broadway.

Congrats on Bodies Bodies Bodies! It's suspenseful and, at times, scary. Were there any times on set when you felt spooked?

No, because we all knew that things were going to happen. But being in the dark in that house was actually creepy just because it was so big. And there were all kinds of wildlife coming in and out of the house. There was a raccoon that came and was eating the props. The basement was really creepy. There's a part where it looks like they're running through an indoor garden thing. Something happened there.

How did you film in complete darkness once the house loses power?

We had to figure out a way to create light and what we had was our phones and, of course, some flashlights. So, technically speaking, there were moments where we had to make sure we shone the light into a certain part of the camera or at a certain angle to create different light looks. It was just another fun element to play with while we were also running for our lives and covered in blood and spewing words.

If you camped out in a mansion with your friends during a hurricane, would anything go wrong?

Based on the one time that I went camping, I feel like the thing that could go wrong is if somebody forgot the firestarter. Or you could get bit by some kind of bug, and that can go really wrong. Or you run out of toilet paper.

What is your dream role?

I would love to play some kind of princess. I think most of my roles are quite hard and biting and sort of passive-aggressive. But I would love to play someone soft and romantic. I think if Brandy would ever let them do another Cinderella, I would really love to be Cinderella.

Do you have hopes to return to theater?

Yeah, of course. I would love to when the right project comes along and the time is right. It's my first love, and live performance is unlike anything else.

Myha’la Herrold Isn't Afraid of the Dark
A24

SMALL TALK

Who is your first celebrity crush?

Oh, Aaron Carter. Actually, Aaron Carter and Christina Aguilera at the same time.

Are you into astrology? What is your sign?

I'm into it enough to know what my signs are. I'm an Aries sun and a Scorpio moon. And I think my rising is Aquarius. But, it is always fun to look up whether or not you think you're going to get along with someone. Or you look it up, and it's like, "Ah, that's why I don't like him. He's a Capricorn."

What was your last binge-watch?

The Bear on FX. Jeremy Allen White is nuts.

Which celebrity have you been the most starstruck to meet or work with?

Before I really got into this world, I was in L.A. visiting a friend. I was still quite young, and we were in some place, and Emma Stone walked in. I see her come in, and she walks right by me, and I go, "Oh my God. What?" So loud. And she kind of flinched, poor thing. In retrospect, I felt so bad, because now I know what it feels like to be screamed at by a complete stranger. It's just startling because you wouldn't do that to just anyone on the street. My friend was like, "Bro, shut up. What's wrong with you?" And everyone around her was like, "Ugh. Crazy super fans." I was truly starstruck.

That's okay! Someday, you'll meet her again.

I'll apologize. "I'm so sorry. That was me who yelled at you in that bar that one time."

What's your favorite Y2K trend?

Low-rise anything.

That's a hot take.

I used to like high-waisted, but I'm short. And have almost no waist at all. The illusion of longness is important for someone as short as me.

What's your favorite party game?

We're Not Really Strangers. It's an intimacy/friend/relationship game. You ask questions like, "When we first met, what was your impression of me?" It's all about relationships, which I think is a great conversation starter.

What's your favorite TikTok or social media trend at the moment?

Can I just say Amandla Stenberg, because everything she does is a trend to me? She's everything, bro. She's the coolest. I'm always like, "How are you so cool all the time?"

What is one beauty product you cannot live without?

Probably a good cleanser. I like a good milky, really soft cleanser, but it's important to thoroughly cleanse. I always do, too, because I have oily skin.

Do you believe in ghosts? What is one spooky experience you've had?

Yes. I believe that our bodies are made up of all kinds of matter, but then the thing that ticks and the thing that leaves is our spirit which is, I guess,, essentially energy, and in science, energy can't be destroyed or created. So, I feel like it just disperses into ghosts, kind of.

The only [story] that I can think of is from when I was born. My mom said that they took me home from the hospital on the first night, and I was crying and throwing a fit, which I didn't do before. And my mom told me that she took a breath and sensed that there was energy in the room. She likes to say there were a lot of people in that room, and they were all the people who had ever loved me. And she was tired, obviously, because she just gave birth. And so she sat up in the bed, and I'm screaming, and she goes, "All right y'all. I know you love her, but she's here now. So, you ain't got to go home, but you got to get up out of here."

And then I stopped crying and went to sleep immediately. And she felt the room clear out, and they were gone.

What do you think your most Gen Z quality is?

Probably, you know when you say something self-deprecating or something that's awkward, but true. And then you're like, "Oops?" You know that new meme that's like "Little Miss does her own taxes?" It's very like, "I'm cute, oops." But you're actually saying, "This is my deepest trauma."

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