School Spirits Interview: Milo Manheim on Playing a Different ’80s Jock
ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with School Spirits star Milo Manheim about playing the ’80s jock ghost Wally. The actor talked about breaking clichés and driving a golf cart. The series is set to debut on Paramount+ on March 9.
“In the series, Maddie, a teen girl stuck in the afterlife investigating her mysterious disappearance,” reads the synopsis. “Maddie goes on a crime-solving journey as she adjusts to high school in the afterlife, but the closer she gets to uncovering the truth, the more secrets and lies she discovers.”
Spencer Legacy: What about Wally really drew to the character when you first read about him?
Milo Manheim: On a surface level, he’s just fun! Who wouldn’t want to play Wally? He has such a fun energy about him. He’s so positive. I really try to get into my character [and] put myself in their shoes. Oftentimes when you’re playing a stressed-out character, that can come home with you. Wally always put me in a good mood and I was always in a good mood on my way to work, listening to ’80s music to get into the Wally Zone.
But when I agreed to do this show, I only read the first two episodes. It’s a murder mystery and they don’t want you to know what happens because they want you to be surprised and they want to lower the risk of anything being spoiled. So I kind of just trusted that his journey would be one that I would enjoy taking. And I was really pleasantly surprised with how … when you take a deep dive into his life, his story becomes — at least for me — super relatable and there were so many multilayers to him, like you said. He breaks the ’80s jock stereotype the more you get to know him.
Since he’s from the ’80s, you’re playing a character from a time you weren’t alive, but you’re playing him in the present while he’s from that time. What were some challenges that came with all those different layers?
I definitely studied. I watched those ’80s movies, I listened to a lot of eighties music. In fact, I think when I was in Vancouver shooting, it was all I was listening to. As an actor, I love these challenges and for me, a big thing was the physicality of it all. I watched all these movies, especially those ’80s jocks, watched how they moved and how they walked and they had this bounce to them, and when they sit down they sort of take up the space — they don’t really care.
That was really cool to explore with Wally and I’m just happy that he was generally positive as opposed to the other way around. Sometimes jocks can be too cool for school and while Wally is very cool, he enjoys being at school with his friends. Yeah man, it was a great time playing him and exploring him and creating. As I grew, he grew, and that was really cool.
Another really good scene with him was the cart driving. Was that actually you and Peyton [List] in the cart for those scenes?
I don’t know like how much I’m allowed to talk about this stuff. I haven’t even seen that episode yet! But we do drive a cart. We had an amazing time. We were driving the cart. In fact, I hate to toot my own horn, but I’m amazing at driving a golf cart. I am amazing. We had an instructor who would tell us what to do and we would just go on rides around set when we had spare time, I’d be like, “Yo, hop in!” I think his name was Jasper. I was like, “Jasper, hop in!” And we would just cart around and Peyton is a great passenger — I love Peyton. Those were some of my favorite scenes, Wally and Maddie’s scenes, and that clearly was one of the most fun experiences I had during the series.
You mentioned a bit before that Wally’s a lot more laid-back than the other ghosts. How fun was it to play that light contrast with the other actors who have to be a bit more serious?
Dude, it was amazing! First of all, I’m a problem solver in real life. I don’t like to cause any issues like some of the other characters do — Rhonda. But it was really awesome to be able to explore that with those amazing actors, by the way — so talented, all the dead people. We got to improv a lot and we got to bounce off of each other. Wally’s a very relaxing character to play because he’s never worrying too much. He gets to eat a lot on set, which is cool, and … yeah man.
I don’t have much to say about it because I’m literally just living in those times and going through it in my head and just remembering how nice it was. But yeah, man, those other characters are incredible and I couldn’t have had that contrast if it weren’t for them. I’m so grateful to have worked alongside such incredible actors.
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