There’s a moment in Hanna, premiering in full March 29 on Amazon Prime Video, where you realize it really isn’t going to be like other action romps. We’re talking about the series premiere, “Forest,” when the eponymous Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) gets her first period. Yes, you see the blood — no pad commercial blue fluid here. But, more importantly, our curious heroine tastes it just to be sure she’s really bleeding. Rambo could never.
In less than 20 minutes, Hanna announces it’s not merely an action series, or thin made-for-TV reboot of David Wright’s 2011 Saoirse Ronan-starring film of the same name. It’s a coming-of-age show led by a mysteriously genetically modified 15-year-old who could also murder you. And, she could really, really murder you, as the extremely well-trained Hanna reveals by the end of the premiere. It’s a skill Hanna only improves upon as the deadly organization that created her begins to close in on the teen throughout season 1.
So we called up Hanna’s portrayer, Esme Creed-Miles, to chat about becoming teen TV’s deadliest new member, making Hanna her own, and the drama’s born-to-be-Tumbled BFFship (or is it just a regular ship?). Keep reading to hear all about Amazon’s brand new “subversive feminist agenda,” as Creed-Miles says.
Refinery29: What did you want to bring to Hanna to separate it from the original movie?
Esme Creed-Miles: “Saoirse is such an amazing force of greatness. With respect to her, I didn’t really want to just copy her performance. I don’t think I could do that.
“I think [my] character is slightly more grounded in reality. Joe Wright’s Hanna, she was more of an ethereal, fairy-like, otherworldly girl … [My Hanna] felt a little bit more like a normal teenager who happens to also be able to kill people, rather than this otherworldly genetic creation.”
How did you react to reading about the period blood on the script page?
“I really can’t remember. But it was a really awesome thing to have on television. Getting your period is fucking weird. I think it’s quite isolating. It’s good to have something in there that young girls can feel that they empathize with.”
Did the Hanna crew talk about why she tastes it?
“I think it was just Sarah and I thinking, ‘What would you actually do if you hadn’t [a clue]… Like what do you think it tastes like?’ You smell something, you taste it. That’s one of the first points of call to working out what something is. So I think was just ticking off the list.”
What excites you most about Hanna’s journey?
“The physical aspect of the show is something all of us involved wanted to do really sensitively. Because we didn’t want it to be like every other action film or TV series where there’s this killing and there isn’t any kind of moral recompense.
“So there’s also this moment where she’s about to kill someone in a train station and her new friend Sophie (Rhianne Barreto), who’s so funny and brilliant, looks her in the eye in this way of asking, ‘Are you really going to murder someone right now?’ And Hanna doesn’t. She decides not to kill him. That was such a beautiful moment that [creator David Farr] wrote. This idea of discovering right and wrong in this way that she hadn’t really done before.
What was it like filming those physical bloody tasks?
“I really enjoyed it. When I was 11 years old, I got into taxidermy. I was in a cours,e and I stuffed a squirrel. I was a bit of a weirdo and I brought it to school with me.”
How did you evolve Hanna’s outlook on killing animals versus killing humans? There’s a distinct pause during an especially bloody murder in the second episode.
“For me, I was really personally traumatized by some of those scenes. Because it was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m actually killing someone.’ But for Hanna it means something else because it’s her environment. I think the killing up until she gets to the modern world is slightly different because she sees human beings like she would a deer. She doesn’t have any context.
“But when she does go into the outer world, there’s that brilliant moment. [Director Sarah Adina Smith] decided to have this photo frame [in the shot] when Hanna kills a doctor. You see the blood being splattered on his family. That’s really sad and horrible, and it creates this multidimensionality to this character. Because she’s not all good.”
Does Sophie have a crush on Hanna? Does she want to be her? Is it both?
“You’d have to ask Rhianne Barreto. I think it’s a mutual thing. ... At the start, Hanna is so out of touch that she doesn’t really get the concept that ‘We’re the same,’ with regards to Sophie. That they’re both young girls. It’s more just ‘Here’s another human being. Am I going to kill them? No.’ But that becomes such a beautiful friendship and such a heartwarming aspect of the story.”
Why is Sophie so integral to Hanna?
“Because she provides us with a paradigm of girlhood. Hanna is the opposite of that. Playing with that juxtaposition was an essential part of the subversive feminist agenda that takes place.
“There’s that moment where Sophie is saying, ‘We gotta get you clothes that show off your figure more’ and ‘Guys are going to love you.’ It’s this whole idea of catering to men and the male gaze. It’s something all young girls are taught to do. But that can be something really psychologically damaging to young women because it encourages us to constantly be objectifying ourselves. It’s quite demoralizing and dehumanizing … So in a weird way, it’s interesting how Sophie almost learns more from Hanna than Hanna learns from Sophie.”
What surprised you most about playing a teen who had never experienced teen life?
“How much I wanted to not be part of the modern world. Just [wanting to] delete all of my social media, even though I do for about 24 hours and then I end up redownloading it again.”
What can’t you wait for people to be talking about with Hanna?
“I can’t wait for people to be talking about how different it is from other TV right now and how it’s so cinematic. And the soundtrack — I can’t wait for people to hear the soundtrack.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.