Warning: This post contains spoilers for Episode 7 of The Midnight Club.
If your heart hadn’t already been shattered by The Midnight Club, “Anya” surely finished the job.
In Episode 7 of Mike Flanagan‘s supernatural thriller, we follow Anya some time in the future, as she’s working at a grocery store and living a rather listless life. She tells a survivors support group how she almost died, but when she woke up from her coma, her body healed itself. Her life was no longer defined by her illness. But instead of feeling saved, she felt “chewed up and spit out… and here I am. Whatever’s left.” She confesses through seething anger that the rest of the Midnight Club are all dead, and that she hates herself for being alive.
Her struggle of feeling broken and facing her past is gut-wrenching to watch, and soon her reality starts falling apart. Her former friends begin invading her consciousness, sometimes in their characters from the club’s past stories. One morning, after a hellacious night of torture, she hears her friends coming in loud and clear through the radio. And that’s when the rug is pulled out from under us: Anya is still unconscious at Brightcliffe Hospice, and her friends are actually the ones still alive. They tell her a story about a future that will never be for her, husband, kids, house and all. But unfortunately for Anya, she had reached the end of her road, and she dies shortly after her friends leave her bedside.
Helping sell the horror and heart of Anya’s story is newcomer Ruth Codd, who creators Flanagan and Leah Fong, along with executive producer Trevor Macy found on TikTok, thanks to help from their longtime casting director Annie McCarthy. (McCarthy was also responsible for finding a pre-Room Jacob Tremblay for Flanagan’s Before I Wake, in addition to The Haunting of Hill House‘s marvelous Victoria Pedretti.)
“Casting was harrowing on this,” said Flanagan during an intimate press event at Netflix’s New York headquarters Thursday. “Anya was a really hard part to cast. She’s written to be an amputee in the book, and we really wanted an actor who was [too].”
The team casted “a huge net” looking for the right Anya, a search that spanned six countries. McCarthy’s partner Morgan Robbins sent Codd a DM. The actress-to-be had been doing makeup in London’s West End, but was back in her home country of Ireland at the time due to the pandemic.
Flanagan continued: “[Robbins] asked, ‘Have you ever thought about acting?’ and Ruth being Ruth — she’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met in my life — was like, ‘Oh, sure.’ She sent in an audition and it eclipsed everybody else.”
The writer/director was more than pleased with Codd’s performance, which obviously comes to an excruciating, yet heartfelt climax in this installment.
“Ruth crushes that episode,” said Flanagan. “In the book, Anya dies in the hospice and that’s kind of it. It’s very sad, but we were talking about one of my all-time favorite series, Six Feet Under, which I think is still to this day the single best series finale I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s a remarkable episode where [Peter Krause’s] Nate is in surgery and he goes under, and they kind of flash forward as though the surgery’s over. Then that reality starts to break down, and it becomes incredible.
“It leapt out at me when it first aired as just like, ‘This is one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen.’ And so, we realized we had an opportunity to have an episode where the B-story wasn’t so much something being told around the campfire. It was something someone was experiencing, and that, in the way all of the stories the kids tell impact each other, we thought there was a chance to pull those threads together and see how these things existed in Anya’s mind at a very specific moment. It was my brother Jamie who wrote that episode, and they pitched it very passionately in the writers’ room about how to live in Anya’s experience. It was a big gamble. It breaks format for us in a big way. It was initially like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work,’ but we encouraged Jamie to give it a shot.”
For many in The Midnight Club cast, the series was their first acting job. But Flanagan also clued TVLine in on how he “really messed with” Codd during the audition process.
“Initially it was, ‘OK, you nailed the audition for Anya, but let’s see how you handle this other character from the B-story. Let’s just start throwing things,” he said. “I really messed with her at first by giving her the wrong direction, the absolute worst approach to a scene. I’ll do this sometimes with actors I don’t know, and completely earnestly, to see if they’ll trust me enough to try it and really commit to it. If they know I’m wrong and know that that’s not the way to play the scene and they don’t make the adjustment, then I’m like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to get there together.’
“We ended up with a remarkable group of young actors who were such a delight to be around. Some of the vets like [Zach] Gilford, [Samantha] Sloyan and [Rahul] Kohli, we’d sit around afterward and just be like, ‘When have we felt this kind of energy and young joy on our other sets?’ We never have.”