Carson MacCormac is a face Netflix viewers might recognize by now having appeared in several Netflix releases, from fantasy series like Locke & Key to October Faction and now the timely Luckiest Girl Alive, the 23-year-old actor takes on one of his most challenging roles yet in the dark drama film based on Jessica Knoll’s bestselling novel of the same name (Knoll also penned the screenplay).
Spoilers ahead for Luckiest Girl Alive
MacCormac plays the young counterpart of Dean Barton, one of three men that rapes a young Tiffani “Ani” FaNelli as a teenager (Alex Barone plays the adult Dean). Mila Kunis plays the adult version of Ani, but MacCormac does most of his scenes opposite her teen self, played by Cruel Summer star Chiara Aurelia.
Playing a predator like that is no easy feat, and Luckiest Girl Alive does not shy away from the trauma, forcing the audience to confront what Ani faced head-on. MacCormac told Netflix Life that Netflix and film director Mike Barker worked hard to create a comfortable set for the actors, including hiring an on-set therapist and an intimacy coordinator.
But still, how do you tackle a heavy role like this one and then leave it behind when all is said and done? Talking to MacCormac, he seems like a talented and bright young man with a great head on his shoulders. Discussing the movie, MacCormac told us about how he worked on bringing Dean to life, doing justice to the heavy material alongside Aurelia, and the upsides of working on a Netflix project.
Luckiest Girl Alive interview with Young Dean actor Carson MacCormac
Netflix Life: It’s cool that Jessica Knoll wrote the script for the movie. I love when authors do that.
Carson MacCormac: She nailed the transition from the book to the film. I didn’t read the book when it first came out, but I did in preparing for the role because I wanted to figure out who my character was. Lo and behold, I was very happy to see that he is the worst human on earth, [Laughs] but she did a great job translating it.
Netflix Life: Dean is a really dark character to play. How did you get into that mindset?
Carson MacCormac: The book was the first thing I went to because I wanted to make sure I did justice to the character she was putting in that story. One of the things I loved about the book so much was how strong the first-person narration was and all the opinions that Tiffani had about the people around her.
I think it did a great job of capturing the internal anger that is so prevalent throughout the film as well. So leading with that, I looked at everything about my character Dean and started there. It seemed like the main purpose of my character—as well as the two guys with me that I’m in most of my scenes with—is to create this sense of overbearing surrounding entrapment because that’s how a lot of these types of horrible human beings operate; this feeling of you can’t escape them.
That mixes with this guy’s entitlement, the feeling of being untouchable, lack of moral compass, all of that stuff, really hammering home what it would be like to think every instinct you have is a good one and going for it without any fear of repercussions.
Netflix Life: The thing about Dean is that he doesn’t think he’s a bad guy. That’s what makes these characters more interesting. They’re not one-dimensional, evil characters. You have to ground them in a sense of they don’t think they’re wrong, which we see later when we meet Dean again as an adult. What was it like sharing your character with Alex Barone?
Carson MacCormac: I talked to Alex a bit before filming, and then when we were on set, we bumped into each other a few times. He’s a great guy. Because our characters and storylines were so far apart, I didn’t know how the translation would work. But he did such an awesome job at molding together the character that was already there before the accident, as well as what happens after the big incident in the film.
I think talking about the character, we both agreed that a lot of what was important is that, at the end of the day, this guy has created this perception of himself in his head; like you said, that doesn’t make him a villain, doesn’t make him a bad guy, it just makes him someone who has made a few childish mistakes—in his own view of it.
That was really interesting to get the after-effect of all the events that happened because it helped me to make sure the character’s arc between the incident and when he gets reintroduced into the story, to make that change as drastic and prevalent as possible.
Netflix Life: I read another interview you did where you were talking about doing some improvisation on set with director Mike Barker. Can you expand on that?
Carson MacCormac: Mike and Jessica were fantastic on set. Mike is very hands-on and very lenient toward his actors giving their own creative interpretations of certain things. One of the first days we were filming, I asked him if it was okay if I threw in a line or two that would help add to these characters’ overbearing nature, and he said yeah, go for it. After that, he gave me the green light to do whatever I wanted, which was nice.
I could throw in little things, like in one of the scenes I opened the door for Tiffani when she was getting out of the car. That was added in there to add to the feeling that he’s not going to let her out of his sight because he’s still unsure where everyone sits after the night before, so just little things like that when blocking the scenes and filming.
We have a lot of scenes in the script that have a lot of cast members involved, a lot of moving pieces, so creating as much motion and discussion and dialogue within that space was really fun to play around with.
Netflix Life: You work closely with Chiara Aurelia during the movie. Did you guys have an intimacy coordinator on set for the tougher scenes?
Carson MacCormac: Yeah, we had an intimacy coordinator on set. There was an on-set therapist as well, to help us out. It’s really heavy material, so every precaution possible was taken. The set and everyone involved, Mike and Jessica as well, were so careful with the delicate subject matter.
Working with Chiara, we developed a great rapport with one another even before we got to some of the heavier scenes. I think she’s fantastic. We get along together so well off-set, and outside of the heavier material, we always made sure we had a lot of fun while we were filming, too.
I think that was a great way to make sure that when we did get to the heavier scenes, it felt more like teamwork, where we were both in it together and figuring out a way to make it believable and realistic while still making sure everyone was comfortable all the way through.
She was so willing to go as far as we needed to to make every scene happen. Both of us wanted to make sure we were doing justice to the heavy topics being covered, and she was fantastic for that.
Netflix Life: You’ve done a couple of Netflix projects now with Luckiest Girl Alive, Locke & Key, and October Faction, is that a coincidence or do you intentionally seek Netflix projects?
Carson MacCormac: Working on Netflix sets is incredible. They are always so professional and so well put together. Every crew I’ve worked with has been amazing. I mean Locke & Key and October Faction, those were such fun sets to work on as well because they had some fantastical elements with them and it let me do some cool stunt work and things like that. I mean Netflix does a great job of making sure that their actors are taken care of.
Netflix Life: After playing such a heavy, dark role in Luckiest Girl Alive, how do you shake that off? I know you said the set was comfortable and you had great people around you, so I’m sure that helped, but is there anything you had to do for yourself to get checked out of that?
Carson MacCormac: Totally, yes. To be honest, I think the best thing for me was that after filming I had time to just kind of check out completely. I would journal because I love writing, and making sure I was journaling, and getting my emotions and stuff out onto paper, whatever it was I needed to do.
Keeping in contact with the cast has been a nice blessing after this, I’m still friends with a lot of them. Having people who went through the shared experiences you did while filming definitely helps. I think we all managed to reach a great sense of closure after finishing filming. We spent like a month or a month and a half together, and by the end of it, we all were such a tightly-knit community. We got to walk away from it feeling like we’d done our best with this and can kind of put it behind us.
Luckiest Girl Alive is now streaming on Netflix.