McKaley Miller Gets Her Mouth Sewn Shut In Ma — Here's How They Did It

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Kooris/Universal Picture.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Ma.
In juggernaut horror factory Blumhouse's latest endeavor Ma, Octavia Spencer plays Sue-Ann, a lonely vet tech who thinks she has found solace from her sad existence when a group of teens ask her to buy them booze. Unfortunately for the youths, Sue-Ann — whom they coin "Ma" — isn't just lonely. She's deeply unhinged and soon becomes the gang's worst nightmare.
One of the people who has it the worst in Ma is McKaley Miller's Haley. The teen may be the ringleader of the squad, but it's her mouthiness that eventually leads her to one of the worst punishments that Ma can dish out: Sewing Haley's lips closed while she's drugged. (The girl talked too much!)
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Fortunately, Ma is just a movie — and Miller had a lot more fun filming it than Haley did getting shushed in Ma's basement. Over the phone, Miller — who also appeared on Scream Queens and Hart of Dixie — shared how Ma's craziest moments really went down, how she kept the characters real, and the epic prank that nearly had her running out of Mississippi (where Ma was filmed).
Refinery29: How did the scene in which Ma sews your lips shut work?
McKaley Miller: "So, I showed up at this location, and I thought we were doing a wardrobe fitting. Instead, they were like ‘Okay, so we’re casting your entire head today.’ They do a mold, and then they do a cast, and then they break the cast. They pull it off you, and you have a perfect mold of your face. So then the prosthetic was made. In the scene where Octavia is sewing my lips shut, I’m wearing a full prosthetic, from my cheeks down."
The movie deals with a lot of FOMO, or fear of missing out, thanks to social media. How do you deal with the pitfalls of social media?
“I feel like there are so many different messages you can pick up from this [movie], and FOMO is totally a big one, but truthfully, to be 100% honest, I don’t get FOMO. I seriously don’t. I am the kind of person who, if I can sit on my couch, yeah, I’ll do that. You guys have fun. I totally understand how people get it, because it sucks to feel left out, but for me it’s like ‘No, I don’t need to be there, it’s fine.’"
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The teens at the center of Ma feel like actual teenagers. Did you help make sure the script and performances felt authentic?
"When [director Tate Taylor] was casting, he kind of just went with who he thought fit the character and brought something to the role. I think with all of us, with the script, he was like, ‘Hey, I’m a grown man, I don’t know what a 16-year-old girl would say in this scene. You’re closer to that age, would you say this?’ And we could say ‘No, I think a teenager might say something like this instead.’ He was so collaborative and really wanted us to bring our own version of the characters to life."
There are a few uncomfortable moments in Ma, how were they handled?
"The scene with Corey [Fogelmanis, who plays Andy] and Octavia [where they kiss] was handled very respectfully. I know both Corey and Octavia were like ‘Oh, this is weird,’ but it was handled so well. They had multiple conversations [with Tate] before it happened about being comfortable, exactly what it was going to look like, and where the cameras were going to be. They did as minimal takes as possible."
What was it like to film this movie on location?
"We were in Mississippi for six weeks, and there is not a lot to do in [that part of] Mississippi. We really bonded as a family, the cast and crew. We were super, super tight by the end of it. It’s really nice to make meaningful connections like that. It’s kind of like summer camp."
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Any particularly fun memories from your time with the rest of the young cast?
"We loved telling ghost stories. I hate them but I love them. I would always tell ghost stories, and the boys would always try to scare us. We were in two houses, boys in one house, girls in the other. One night I was like ‘I swear, every place in this town is haunted, because everything is so old, it’s so scary.’ Diana and I got home that night, and opened up the kitchen door, and every cabinet was wide open. If you have ever seen Paranormal Activity, it was like that. We were like ‘We can’t stay here! This is so scary!’ We called the boys and they started laughing. They’re like ‘We did that!’ It was traumatizing. It was very clever, but I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of it being a good prank!"
Ma hits theaters May 31.
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