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'Elm Street' icon Heather Langenkamp returns to horror with 'Midnight Club'

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Heather Langenkamp can now be seen in the horror drama, "The Midnight Club." Photo courtesy of Netflix
Heather Langenkamp can now be seen in the horror drama, "The Midnight Club." Photo courtesy of Netflix

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- A Nightmare on Elm Street icon Heather Langenkamp said she connected on a deeply personal level to her role as Dr. Georgina Stanton, founder of a hospice home for terminally ill teens, on Netflix's new young adult horror drama series, The Midnight Club.

"It was really exciting to me. You might know I lost my own son to brain cancer four years ago, and when I read the sides for the audition, I literally burst into tears because I really felt like it was a ghost story of my very own - like something very supernatural was happening that I was being asked to play this role," Langenkamp told UPI at New York Comic Con on Thursday.

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"I felt very equipped," the 58-year-old actress emphasized, recalling how she told show creator Mike Flanagan, "I'll probably cry the first few times I run through this, but just stick with me, and I'll be able to deliver it straight-faced like a doctor would."

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Langengkamp said she was flattered Flanagan -- the mastermind behind recent hits The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor and Midnight Mass -- thought of her for the role in his screen adaptation of Christopher Pike's young adult novel about youths who meet secretly at night to tell each other scary stories and pledge to reach out to each other from the other side to let their friends know what to expect when they die.

They call their gatherings The Midnight Club.

"I was very nervous, turning in my self-tape [for the audition]. I didn't know that I probably didn't have to try so hard on it, but I did work really hard on it. It was a big monologue in one of the first scenes where you meet me at [the hospice called] Brightcliffe," Langenkamp said of the casting process, which was conducted remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I turned it in and, literally, a few hours later, I got a call saying, 'They love it!' So, I didn't even have to wait too long. As soon as we had the paperwork signed, I got in my car and drove up to Vancouver with my dog because they needed us to quarantine for two weeks."

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Dr. Stanton set up the hospice in an old Victorian house with a troubled history in Northern California after her son died of brain cancer.

She wants to give kids a different experience than being in a hospital and dying hooked up to machines with no control of their lives, Langenkamp said.

"When you are terminal, you don't know whether you are going to live six months or a year or maybe two years, but it's a great thought project for everybody to think, 'OK, if I knew that I were going to die in a year, what would I do? How would I live and what kind of friendships would I want to make?'" she said.

Langenkamp praised the young cast -- led by Iman Benson, Adia, Igby Rigney, Ruth Codd, Aya Furukawa, Annarah Shephard, William Chris Sumpter and Sauriyan Sapkota -- for their moving and realistic performances in the show, which premiered on Netflix Friday.

"Some days were just truly heartbreaking, watching them play out such anguish," she said. "It's bizarre to say, but I think people are going to really appreciate it and really love going there with these kids."

Langenkamp said she loved how the show allows the actors to play different characters in scenes in which the kids are telling each other stories.

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For instance, Dr. Stanton is portrayed as Satan, tattooed with long hair, in one vignette.

"It was so fun creating the devil. She has these long nails. You can't see it, but my purse has brass knuckles on it. She is bad, really bad," the actress laughed.

"It was like a dream come true for me to play the devil. After being Nancy Thompson my whole life. Everyone thinks I'm so nice and so sweet -- and I play the devil."

In a separate interview, Benson described her character, Ilonka, as "an intelligent, headstrong girl" who is on track to go to Stanford University when she is sidelined by thyroid cancer that spreads to her lungs.

"Her world gets turned upside-down when she is diagnosed, and then she finds out she is terminal. She is extremely optimistic as a whole," Benson said of Ilonka, who also sees ghosts in the house and believes the place holds a secret remedy for the diseases killing her and her friends.

"She is determined to find this cure, not only for herself, but for everybody else. She finds a great sense of camaraderie with The Midnight Club -- a sense of family."

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Codd, a Tik Tok star, plays Anya, "who is a below-knee amputee, like me, and she is kind of this ballsy firecracker, sometimes harsh human being, but I think, ultimately, she is just protective over the people she loves," she said.

Benson said the young cast members -- most of whom were relatively new to acting on television -- bonded easily and looked out for each other on the days they had to film dark or difficult scenes.

"We were all portraying such emotional characters and dealing with a lot. I feel like we all kind of leaned on each other," she said. "We were uplifting each other in the green room and had a lot of beautiful moments."

Codd said the co-stars also hung out a lot together after work.

Although the show essentially is a horror story, pitch-black humor is woven throughout it.

"One of the themes that we do portray is that we are not just terminally ill kids -- we are teenagers with personalities and imaginations," Benson said. "The youth are funny."

Codd agreed that the jokes give the series an air of authenticity.

"I feel like that's how people deal with things," she said.

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"Dark humor -- very dark in Anya's case sometimes," Codd said. "The show places an emphasis on people and how you help each other through things. It's not really surprising that it is a bunch of teenagers having a laugh some of the time."

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