Chloë Grace Moretz says she has a problem with sci-fi. Well, it’s not exactly a problem. The 25-year-old former child star knows the genre well, having played a kid vampire (Let Me In), possessed teenager (Carrie) and apocalypse survivor (Mother/Android) in her career. But if she’s going to sign on to your supernatural project in 2022, it’s got to be special.
“I think one of the pitfalls of sci-fi is that it can be very clinical, and it can feel really distant and really cold,” she explains, curled up on a plush sofa in an immaculate London hotel suite. During our interview, she’ll pop her feet on the table, entertain us with The Devil Wears Prada impressions and insist on giving countless, breathless video game recommendations as we try and get out of the door. But she never loses focus once. “I feel like a lot of sci-fi doesn’t really rely on familial relationships and it doesn’t feel warm – so that was something I really grabbed onto with The Peripheral.”
“I’ve planted the seeds – and now I’m finally able to reap what I’ve sown”
Moretz’s new project, a bold new Prime Video series which aired its first two episodes last week, sees the actor play forthright young woman Flynne Fisher, grappling with the meaning of family in present, past and future, making peace with a changing world and alternate reality only she has the power to understand.
Developed by Westworld producers Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, and adapted from William Gibson’s 2014 novel, The Peripheral marks Moretz’s first foray into TV streaming and, well, her first major project in a while. She shot to fame as a child actor some 20 years ago, spanning every possible genre and impressing filmmakers including Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton, to name a few. Since 2016 though, she’s been slowing down somewhat, re-thinking how she chooses projects in order to make every one really count.
There have been voice roles in Snow White, Addams Family and Tom & Jerry revivals, a fittingly kickass lead role in 2020 thriller Shadow in The Cloud (still no word on an actual Kick-Ass revival, but we’re not ruling out the return of Moretz’s Hit-Girl just yet and neither is she) as well as the “proudest role” of her career with sensitive indie triumph The Miseducation of Cameron Post in 2018. It’s The Peripheral though, that has really spoken to Moretz.
In the show, much of Flynne’s path is defined by her relationship with her brother Burton (Midsommar’s Jack Reynor), as Flynne uses his avatar to explore the different worlds and times she’s grappling with – they are bound by blood but also, here, technology. It’s a sibling bond like no other.
“I just really fell in love with Flynne and Burton,” she says. “This is a dystopian future, obviously. But what’s important about it is no matter how far we boomerang into the dystopian future of London in 2100, we always come back around to the warmth and the home that is Flynne and Burton.”
Tell us more about Flynne, your character in The Peripheral…
“She’s a huge coup! You usually walk into sci-fi with trope-y female characters. In this, I had a much more multifaceted female character who really spoke to the things that I love to creating on screen: a character that lives in the subtext, that lives when she isn’t having to carry all the dialogue.”
Did you take much inspiration from the book?
“This is such strong source material [from author] William Gibson. The book is intricate, and dense and immense in its detail. And the way that Flynne is depicted in is super specific, and that really sets the tone for the story.”
You’ve been acting for 20 years now – what have you learned?
“What I’ve learned continues to change – and I’m continuing to learn a lot about who I am. I’ve learned how to use my voice, what that looks like on set as well as what that looks like when you’re put into a situation where you have people that listen to what you say, and that your words have weight to them.”
What would you tell your younger self?
“I’d tell my younger self to trust herself more and to stop listening to the outside influx of information from everybody around you. Trust your instincts and your heart will tell you exactly what you should be doing.”
In 2016, you had a career shift in a public way – you appeared as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention…
“[Politics and my career] coexisted for me, I was deeply integrated into Hillary’s campaign at that time. It made me really reflect on what I was doing and why I was doing it, and what projects I was creating, and what I want to put out in the world.”
So you were more picky about the roles you played?
“When you’re a child actor, it’s really about making hay while the sun shines, working as much as you can. As I grew up, I realised that I wanted to peel back. I’d rather make zero movies in one year if it means I didn’t connect to anything. That’s literally what I did this year. 2016 was kind of a trial run to figuring that out.”
Has that made acting more enjoyable for you?
“What’s fun about this job is that it should change with how you grow. I read a ton of scripts and had a ton of meetings this year, but I just did not find a project that connected with me. And this is the first time, outside of the pandemic years, when I actually just effectively chose not to work. That was really scary and brought up a lot of insecurities in my body, but it’s important for me to sit back and trust how i’ve been planting the seeds, and now I’m finally able to reap what I’ve sown. And I need to just trust myself. I’ve been calling it my ‘fuck it’ era!”
What else has changed for you recently?
“From 2016 to early 2018, I’d stopped training for the first time in my life. I felt really out of touch with my physicality, and that’s a really big edge to who I am. Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve really ramped it up again. I’d get home from doing The Peripheral and jump into Muay Thai [boxing], and I now do about five days a week almost consistently. I’ve been doing Muay Thai, judo and mixed martial arts. Judo in particular has really changed my life. I feel a lot more steady and grounded.”
And you’re into gaming too, aren’t you?
“I am! The term of intense gaming is called sweating. I was playing Call Of Duty: Vanguard yesterday with a friend of mine, Andrew. He’s my best friend from childhood. And we’ve gotten so close because he and I just game for hours on end. And Karina, his girlfriend, is like, ‘So what did you and Andrew talk about today?’ She’s so jealous that he and I are closer friends right now!”
When did you start gaming?
“When I was super young. I have four brothers, so they used to be able to totally beat me up when we played football. I would never be able to win. But when we would game, it was the one time where I could equal the playing field and kick the shit out of them a little bit. I got really competitive. I would work on set and [come home and game]. It was exciting and relaxing.”
Online servers can be quite male-dominated, right?
“All of my avatars online are guys, except for Final Fantasy. Her name is BacallMonroe. All my others are aggressive male gamer names because you get less hate. I think it’s partly because it’s a patriarchal society and they don’t want women to infiltrate male-dominated fields – but gaming actually isn’t. The ratio is that women are just as much avid gamers as men. They’re just not as loud yet.”
What do you think it takes to properly adapt a video game for film and TV?
“I think it’s not correct when filmmakers just rely on aesthetic. I think sometimes they’ll get the outfits completely correct, or the set design will be perfect, but what’s interesting about a game is that it really relies on the audience. And I feel like a lot of these game adaptations show don’t rely on their audience at all. They just have big set-pieces and action sequences. The reason you love games is because you’re choosing your own path, and you want to feel more active.”
‘The Peripheral’ is streaming now on Prime Video