Having your identity stolen or being locked out of your social media accounts is a very real possibility in 2018. Cam, a new psychological thriller starring Madeline Brewer, shows just how dark that experience can be.
In the film, Brewer plays a 20-something girl named Alice who lives a double life as a cam girl, performing sexualized acts via webcam for money from anonymous sources on the other side of the screen. Online, she goes by the name of Lola, filming herself in her plush pink bedroom, and having full conversations with her “fans” on the cam girl service. The more money she earns, the more popular she becomes, and the higher up she climbs in the ranks of popular cam girls men pay to watch. But one day, Alice notices something off—her account has been not only hacked into, but a doppelgänger has taken her place. Alice’s identity has been stolen, and so have her “points” and the money she has earned from performing as Lola online.
Cam is the combined effort of Netflix and the horror production studio Blumhouse (which is responsible for the distribution of a string of high-impact, low-budget thrillers like Get Out, Happy Death Day, and Game Night). Directed by Daniel Goldhaber and written by Isa Mazzei, the psychological thriller draws from some of Mazzei’s prior experience as a cam girl, but its themes of identity theft, techno-paranoia, and invasion of privacy are universal. Brewer, who has starred in a handful of critical television series, with roles on Black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the upcoming Captive State, spoke to W about both the drawbacks and positive aspects of social media, and how she keeps her own identity in check despite being addicted to her phone like the rest of us.
Between your performances on Black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale, and now Cam, I have to ask, what draws you to roles that live at the intersection of technology and terror?
We live in such an online age now, and there’s really no going back from that. I’ve always enjoyed stories about the supernatural, and with horror elements. I’ve always found them to be enjoyable and entertaining, but they also make you think, and I really enjoy being a part of projects that when you leave the theater or when you finish an episode, you don’t move on to the next one, you sit with it for a second because it forces you to take a look at something in a way that you maybe haven’t quite yet. I was madly in love with Black Mirror long before I was on the show. I’d thought to myself while watching, If they ever opened this up to American actors, I have to be a part of this! Cam takes something that is so universal—everyone is online, there isn’t a person nowadays who doesn’t represent themselves online in one way or another. That idea of being locked out of an account, or to feel that you’ve lost control on this thing that is the Internet, that truly we all use but I don’t think anybody really understands, we all just know that it works.
That’s true, we put so much of our trust into this entity that ends up having so much control over us, and in the case of Cam, I think you make a good point about the universal nature of experiencing that moment of being locked out from your account and subsequently your identity.
Yeah. I think we’ll see this more with the younger generation, the 12-year-olds, what they will be like as 28-year-olds, growing up online and creating their entire personalities and identities online. It seems like losing a part of yourself, or like you no longer have control over this part of yourself, but it’s not. It’s separate and fabricated.
You mentioned loving the horror genre, and the way that this film opens really draws you right into Alice’s world, shocking the viewer with violence and tension fairly immediately. How difficult was that opening scene—the staged suicide—to film?
That was actually my audition scene. I think that they really had to be sure that someone could understand what is happening in the scene and understand the drive to do something that crazy, for lack of a better word. Alice is completely driven by the response that she gets, and climbing that ladder. You have to understand what she’s willing to go through, and what she’s willing to put herself through and subject herself to, and you have to be able to show that she’s kind of naked, emotionally. She’s letting these people who she’s come to have friendships with online allow her to pretend to kill herself, and to egg her on. When I read the script, it was this brilliant portrayal of trolling online. If you have someone actually saying, “I’m going to go through with this, I’m going to do it,” there are people in this world who would say, “Yeah, we want to see this girl kill herself online.” We’re all so desensitized, I think, and we don’t realize that there is a whole, complex human being on the other side of that screen, and we will say horrible things. Right off the bat, it shows that the way we’ve been desensitized and the way we speak to each other online has become subhuman. I love that that’s the big grab in the beginning.
As an actor, how did you approach telling a story that exists at the nexus of both the performative nature of sex work, which is an occupation, and the performance of sharing yourself online, either through social media or other avenues?
You can replace Alice being a sex worker with being an Instagram model, or YouTube star, or Twitch streamer, and the plot line is still the same. Someone is locked out of their account that houses their online identity, and there’s someone else pretending to be them and doing things that don’t represent them. That’s something we can all relate to. We’re all online, we’re all putting cultivated and curated versions of ourselves online.
What was it like on set to film these extremely vulnerable and sometimes sexually explicit scenes? How much of a priority was safety and comfort for the actors?
If there was any element, any brief glimmer of creepiness, I would not have done this movie because ultimately I’m playing a cam girl, but I’m not a cam girl. That’s not my occupation. That’s not what I’ve chosen to do. I have chosen and I have also been chosen to tell the story of a cam girl, but I think that we confuse that for a minute, and think, Oh, you’re playing a cam girl so you’re totally comfortable doing all of this stuff. No, if I were, I’d probably make a lot of money being a cam girl and I could go do that. If there was even a hint of any sort of creepy vibe I wouldn’t have done it because I needed to be absolutely safe and comfortable on this set, and I was at every turn. It was important to me, obviously, but it was also of the utmost importance to all of our producers and our whole crew that I felt safe to do this job. It’s a heavy lift, and we shot it in, like, 20 days, and I’m in every frame. It was emotionally very taxing.
What were those conversations like between you, the screenwriter, and the director?
There was so much collaboration. We sat down and went through the entire script together, and we talked about where nudity was written and if I felt comfortable doing it the way it was written, or did I think there needed to be less, did I think there needed to be more. All of those decisions were based on my comfort level and my decisions for Alice, and Alice’s comfort level, and honoring that and doing her justice. Often times, I was written fully clothed and I was like, “No, I think she should be in a bra,” or something.
How do you, personally, handle juggling your identity between your public persona and the characters that you play?
That is something that, especially after doing Cam, I’m recognizing my own presence online and who I am online. I have my real Instagram, and I have a finstagram, where I post the stupid stuff that I wouldn’t post on my regular Instagram because no one would get it or like it. It’s difficult because now that I’m at a level where I get recognized on the street, young girls specifically will be like, “I love your Instagram,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” [Laughs] They’re like, “Yeah, you just post so much stuff, you’re so glamorous.” I was like, “Dude, what you’re seeing right now, this is actually me. That is a very specific version of myself that is performative and that I pay a decent amount of money to look like because I have to pay people to make me look like that! I’m not a glamorous person.” It’s all part of a game. Hollywood is a game! If you play it right, and you listen to the right people, and surround yourself with the right people who understand who you are and will enhance that and help you make a living out of it, that’s a wonderful thing.
Do you find playing “the game” to be difficult at all?
It’s difficult because you can sometimes get lost in it, and you can lose yourself in it. If I were younger and didn’t have such incredible people around me, I think I would get lost in it. It’s consuming and it’s enticing, and you can get drunk on it, honestly, on thinking that you’re this person everyone else thinks you might be. You have to have a very real and strong support system and a strong sense of self to not be consumed by it, and be chewed up and spit out. That’s how you, in my opinion, stay away from getting lost in the, “Oh, I’m so glamorous, wait, people think I’m glamorous, maybe I’ll try to be more in my everyday life like the person I present myself to be online.” If that’s a better person, that’s great. To me, it’s not a comfortable person.
What do you find to be the good or positive aspects of social media?
There are people that I’ve connected with on social media that I’ve never met, who, especially in this age of everything is available to you online but also people’s opinions on things—people just write their opinions or Instagram Story themselves, and if you follow those people you see that, and there are people in this world who don’t look like you, and if you listen to someone who doesn’t look like you, you will get a good experience. You will see someone who thinks about the world in a way that is completely different from the way you do. I am a petite white woman from South Jersey, and I follow some beautiful, black, full-figured women from the opposite coast who are experiencing life in a way that I will never know and I will never understand. I can empathize and learn and listen, but I will truly never experience that. And that’s the best thing that social media has brought me, is into their world as much as they’ll allow. Into the world of another human being whose experience is different from my own.
In the film, Alice meets up with some of the men she’s communicated with online. Have you ever become real-life friends with anyone you’ve met online?
I mean, I don’t know how much of an actual friendship is a friendship when you’ve never met. You know what, I do feel like, for example, being a fan of people’s work—I follow plenty of actors and actresses online because I appreciate their careers. And all of the sudden, they’re following me, and I send them a message like, “Yo, what’s up! I just saw you followed me. Wanna be friends?” [Laughs] And replying to people’s Instagram Stories. I do that with some of the girls from Dear White People, like Antoinette Robinson, Ashley Blaine Featherson, and Logan Brown. I met them on Instagram before I met them in person. I was just a fan of the show so I followed them all, but I guess they had all seen either Orange Is the New Black or Handmaid’s Tale or something, and we became friends. Netflix family. It also makes it much better that you have friends at parties and events because you’re like, “I know you! We’re friends on the Internet!”
You mentioned having a finsta, and I would guess finstas are still popular because many of us are still finding a need to splinter ourselves off into multiple online identities, which reminds me of the end of Cam, where an entirely new identity is developed for Alice because she needs a job, and despite the horrors she has endured, she continues to work as a cam girl. How do you interpret that ending? Why do you think she keeps going?
I think that, in a very real way, the way I relate to Alice’s ambition is that if somebody told me not to be an actor and not to pursue acting, I’d just be like, “No, you’re wrong. I’m going to keep doing this, and this is my job, and this is what I love, this is my creative outlet. It’s how I make money, this is how I come for a peace of mind. Throwing myself into this makes me a better person.” Those are all true of Alice. I think that you want to say, “Well, she only goes back to this because she’s addicted to being online, she’s addicted to that thrill.” No, she enjoys her work. She enjoys what she does, and she’s passionate about it. She feels like a better, more complete person for doing it, so that’s why she goes back, and that’s why you watch the movie and you don’t want to touch your phone for a few minutes and eventually you’re like, “Well I’ll just hop right back on and talk to people and connect with people.”
We all have a bit of an addiction to being online, I think, but how do you unplug?
How do I unplug? I don’t know that I ever have. [Laughs] Just kidding, I totally have. Often times my boyfriend and I will go up and hike in the Angelina National Forest, like, two hours outside of L.A., and there’s no service there. We kind of unplug and talk to each other. Being in nature is mostly how I unplug. I put my phone on airplane mode and leave it in the car and go out for a hike and just get some fresh air, view some things with my eyes instead of through a screen or camera.
Madeline was out a couple days ago at the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund. She looked so lovely! I’ve also added a photo session of her spread from Vemi magazine. I am trying to find the magazine to buy. I will add scans when I can. Enjoy!
I’ve added HD screencaps of Madeline’s film Hedgehog which costars her Handmaid’s Tale actress, Ann Dowd. It was a good film and a different role for Madeline. You can rent it on Amazon.
I’ve also added magazine scans of Madeline from GQ (Mexico) and The Hollywood Reporter.
I’ve added missing photos of Madeline from recent events and I have many more photos to sort through and add on the site. Sorry for the lack of updates. Be sure to check back for more photos. Enjoy!
Madeline is in attendance tonight at the 2018 Emmy awards and she looks stunning!! This post will serve as a master post of photos and videos of her at the event. I will update this post with new links to photos and videos so be sure to check back! Enjoy!
Madeline has been out this weekend attending pre-Emmy events in honor of The Handmaid’s Tale nominations. We’re so excited for her and the series! The Emmy awards are tomorrow night so be sure to tune in. Check out photos from her attendance at pre-Emmy events. She looks magical at the events. I’ll update this post with new photos as they surface. Enjoy!
September 14 – Audi Celebrates The Emmys
September 15 – Television Academy Honors Emmy Nominated Performers
September 15 – Entertainment Weekly Pre-Emmy Party
September 15 – Variety And Women In Film Pre-Emmy Celebration
September 15 – BAFTA LA + BBC America TV Tea Party
2018 – Photo Session #011
September 12 – “Assasination Nation” LA Premiere – recent additions
I just want to say, this is my most favorite photo session of her!! My goodness, she can’t be real. hehe. / end fangirl rant
What is your favorite place to be? To live?
My hometown Pitman, on my front porch with my best friends. I love living in LA and NYC but to be happiest, I need to be near lots and lots of trees.
Favorite thing about the place where you grew up?
It’s my home! It’s tiny. You can walk the entire thing easily. The people there are so supportive and it was a nice place to grow up.
Your favorite was of spending time when you are between jobs?
I love hiking, being in the trees, but i also love to lay on the couch and binge entire docu-series.
Favorite way to do so in your downtime on set?
I read voraciously when I’m working.
I can think of a million thoughts on this question, but what are your favorite things about the character of Janine/Ofwarren?
She’s a badass. Janine looks like someone who has been broken but she really is quite the opposite. There’s always something left to be discovered with her as a woman and a character that is endlessly fascinating to me.
Hedgehog is a movie you recently starred in and produced. It’s a lovely film. What were your favorite and least favorite aspects of producing?
Ah producing in the capacity in which I produced on Hedgehog didn’t involve a lot of actual producing.
Was this your first undertaking into a behind-the-camera responsibility?
Yes although I learn so much through every job. I definitely want to spend more time learning about producing and writing and directing so I can eventually be more hands on in those departments.
You also are cast once again against the incomparable Ann Dowd. What is your favorite thing about working with Ann? About Ann in general?
YES! Ann is a generous, intelligent, warm hug of a human being. I love working with her as an actor because I learn so much about what it is to be gracious and an incredibly hard worker. Ann is a very dear person to me. She is a confidante and friend and comedian and mentor. She’s the best, really.
What is the favorite question somebody has ever asked you in an interview?
Oh I love any questions in which I get to gush about the people i work with.
Just a few things I would like to know about you that I couldn’t figure out how to frame within my (probably tedious) thread above:
In my research for speaking with you, it appears that OITNB was your first professional hiring. Is that the case? Could you talk a bit about how that opportunity came about?
Yes! I had spoken with an agency in NYC after they had seen me in a showcase at my college. I was about to graduate and go to do a musical in Connecticut for a few months. When I got back and was looking for apartments in NYC, I was working at Victorias Secret, and this agency thought we should just start sending me out for some TV stuff just to try it out. First audition, I booked Tricia. I went into that room shaking like a leaf, didn’t have my lines memorized, I was completely terrified. Thankfully, Jen Euston saw potential where anyone else would have seen a scared little girl.
Was it your first acting experience – what were you doing when that was happening acting or otherwise. After getting the job were you terrified?
I did theater since I was 7 so i wasn’t unfamiliar with acting in general but i was TERRIFIED when I was on set. Everyone was so kind and helpful. Once, they called second team and I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t move. Lea Delaria just grabbed me and said something like, Hey come here. If you have any questions at all feel free to ask. I remember what it was like to be on set for the first time.
You imbue each person you play with a beautiful purity, even in the women who aren’t necessarily pure. Do you specifically make a point of finding this emotional arm within the person you play or does it just come about naturally through your, for lack of a better word here, performance?
I do think I try to find an element of vulnerability in every character. I find their “weak” spots. Their moments that make them more human than just character. I’ve been lucky to be on shows in which the writing is outstanding. The writers do most of the work in making these characters whole and nuanced.
What is on the horizon for you in your work both completed and coming up?
My film Cam will be on Netflix by the end of this year I think! I’m so, so proud of that film and the story it’s telling. It’s about a cam girl, a camera sex worker, who in the world of online porn has her identity stolen and she fights to get it back.
Just a few more Favorite questions –
Favorite dress you’ve ever worn?
I wore a Georges Chakra dress earlier this year that made me feel like a punk rock cinderella.
Favorite pair of shoes you own?
I like kicks. I will wear sneakers to any event if you’ll let me (which no one ever does).
Favorite piece of jewelry?
I have a bracelet that says “fucking psychotic” on it. My boyfriend got it for me after knowing me for all of a week. He sees me!
Favorite hair color?
RED. I miss the blonde sometimes but redheads have more fun
Favorite beauty product?
I use mostly all natural Aesop products. My cleanser and exfoliant are Kate Somervile and they are perfect for my skin. I have a Natura Bisse facial peel that is my FAVORITE.
Favorite beauty secret?
My teeth are white as heck since I started brushing with activated charcoal.
Favorite way to end an interview?
Eating food. let’s go!
Madeline was out yesterday and recently and I’ve added photos to the gallery, as well as recent scans and photo sessions. She looks so lovely in all the photos. I’m in awe of her style. Enjoy the photos. I’ll add more as they surface. I have a lot more photos to add in the coming weeks so be sure to check back!
What an amazing season 2 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale!! I am still processing it. haha. I can’t wait for season 3.
I’ve added HD screencaps of Madeline from the episode. Enjoy!
Madeline was in attendance at Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Finale Event last night along with the rest of the amazing cast. I have added photos from the event and panel session to the gallery. Enjoy!