Maddie Hasson stars in a new YouTube Red show called Impulse, based on the 2013 novel of the same name
“I like thinking about why people do things,” Maddie Hasson said. “Right now I’m visiting North Carolina, which is where I grew up, and whenever I get around family it’s wonderful because you all love each other, but you all have so much history, so there is a little bit of strife sometimes. Whenever I get around my family and something happens. I’ll go into the other room and I’ll turn to my husband and say, ‘Why do you think she did that? Let’s talk about this and dissect it.’ I’ve always been that way, and I think that’s part of the reason why I act.”
Hasson is only 23, but already she’s co-starred on the series The Finder (2012) and Twisted (2013-2014). On the big screen she’s appeared as Billie Jean Jones, second wife of Hank Williams, in I Saw the Light (2015) and as a young nun in Novitiate (2017).
Her latest project is Impulse, a show that will premiere June 6 on YouTube Red. Based on Steven Gould’s 2013 novel of the same name and executiveproduced by Doug Liman, Impulse unfolds in the small town of Reston, New York, and centers on Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Hasson), a high-school outsider who attracts the attention of a star athlete, Clay (Tanner Stine).
Henry learns through horrible circumstances that she possesses the ability to teleport: Clay attacks her in his pickup truck, which triggers the teleportation process, and that process crushes the truck, paralysing Clay. That all occurs in the first episode. Subsequent episodes will explore the ramifications of that night and address how Henry will harness her power thereafter.
‘Buffy was my favourite show’
The easygoing, mature Hasson explained that Impulse immediately stuck a chord with her. A “big sci-fi fan,” she grew up watching strong female characters such as Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). “Buffy was my favourite show, and I loved that world that she lived in,” Hasson said. “So I thought, ‘Wow, what a cool opportunity to be … ‘ Not that Henry is really a role model, but to play an iconic character in that way. Henry was written so well. They really didn’t ever try to subdue how strong she is in an effort to make her seem likable, which I think happens with a lot of young female characters. I never once felt that way in reading the script or on set. I felt like we wanted to make Henry hard and real and emotionally damaged, and that was just so fun for me, as an actress, to play.”
As if Henry didn’t already feel like enough of a pariah between her burgeoning powers and paralysing the football star, mysterious forces apparently want her dead. That lends the show an action element, though Hasson’s Henry serves as the calm center of the storm while everything else churns chaotically around her.
“Henry’s journey is trying to get over this thing that happened to her,” Hasson said. “Her powers are linked to an assault. The moment that she realises she has this extraordinary gift, something so terrible happens to her – and it happens, unfortunately, in many women’s lives.”
“She’s grappling with how to deal with that and process that on her own, at the same time as realising that her body is out of her control,” the actress said. “She has to, in order to get control of her powers, come to terms with that and find a way to move past it so that she can, in a sense, save herself.”
“I do the emotional journey,” Hasson added. “I don’t do the hard-hitting action of the show.”
Shooting difficult scenes
Understandably, Hasson considered shooting the initial assault sequence to be the toughest part of making Impulse. However, she felt that Henry as a character and the series itself hinged on making that sequence raw, honest and effective. “Those scenes were really difficult, I’ll be honest,” Hasson said. “It was a really emotional time in my life. I spoke to a therapist who works with a lot of assault victims. Before we started shooting, I spoke to her at length about what somebody in that situation goes through and how it feels. It was really painful. When you’re doing something like that, you know that, though it is painful, it’s worth it because you could be positively affecting somebody’s life. Hopefully. That’s the goal.”
Steven Gould and Doug Liman fans surely will connect the dots when it comes to Impulse. Gould’s book is the third in his Jumper series, which started with Jumper (1992). In 2008 Liman directed a rather disappointing big-screen adaptation of Jumper that starred Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Hayden Christiansen and Samuel L. Jackson. Hasson liked the film, though, and shared her opinion with Liman one day.
“I told Doug that I liked it,” Hasson said, “but he’s a perfectionist and he wanted it to be something different than what it was. I’m not going to be the one to say, ‘Hey, that’s wrong,’ because it’s his project, not mine. But, oh, my God, Doug’s so cool. I so enjoyed working with him. Doug’s so interesting. He’s like a child. He has a child’s passion. He’s so excited and so positive all the time, but he’s very direct. If he doesn’t like something you do, he’s like, ‘Ah, don’t do that.’ You just have to be like, ‘OK, all right, I won’t do that.’”
“Once you get used to that, it’s really fun,” Hasson added, laughing. “I love Doug.”
Why Hasson is ‘inseparable’ from her husband
In addition to Impulse, Hasson has completed the indie film More than Enough. The film, which co-stars Billy Burke and Melora Walters, is currently playing on the festival circuit in anticipation of a theatrical release later this year.
“That was called Good After Bad when we shot it,” Hasson said. “It’s a classic coming-of-age story. I play this young girl who is bullied and very shy, and it’s about how she breaks out of her shell and creates this unexpected friendship with a man (Burke) who’s got some problems of his own. I’m hoping people will get to see it.”
Hasson married composer Julian Brink in 2015. They live in Los Angeles, or wherever else she may be working. “We haven’t spent a night apart since we’ve been married,” Hasson said enthusiastically. “We’re inseparable. He can work from anywhere. It’s so nice. It’s so nice.”
“I would fall apart without him, especially on this show,” she said. “He’s a saint. He was really my full emotional support during the show, because it was so physically and emotionally tough.”
Peering into the future, Hasson plans to take things role by role, project by project. However, Impulse already has helped her formulate the kinds of roles and projects she intends to pursue. “I just want to keep working,” she said, “and I want each thing to be different from the last, and interesting, and very challenging. I’ve found that the most challenging things are the most rewarding, which is something that I really learned from Impulse, because it was so challenging. I’m very, very proud of it. I can’t wait for the world to see it. If I weren’t in it and I didn’t have to go through it, and it weren’t painful for me to watch, I would be watching it. But I can’t.”