How Waves Stars Alexa Demie and Taylor Russell Got Each Other Through Tough Scenes

Emma Specter

You probably already know Alexa Demie from her role as Maddy on the HBO teen drama Euphoria, and if you don’t know Lost in Space and Escape Room’s Taylor Russell yet—well, you’re about to. The two actresses star in Trey Edward Shults’s new movie Waves, which opens today, and which the director has described as “a panic attack followed by a hug.”

Demie and Russell share the screen for a brief moment, but their characters bookend the film, with Demie’s popular party girl Alexis dominating the first half of Waves and Russell’s shy, thoughtful Emily—the sister of Alexis’s athletic, troubled boyfriend Tyler—coming to terms with tragic events during its second half. In real life, Demie and Russell are the best of friends; recently, they spoke to Vogue about singing along to the Spice Girls, being “spiritual angels,” and supporting each other after long days on set.

First of all, thank you for doing this interview together.

Taylor Russell: Of course.

Alexa Demie: We love being together.

Did you meet filming this movie, or had you known each other before?

Demie: We met on set.

Russell: Yeah, we met in Florida.

How long were you shooting for?

Russell: A month and a half, but it felt like three months. [Laughs]

You two are close friends, but you’re only in one scene together in Waves, right?

Russell: Actually, that scene is a funny story. We watched this movie called Persona, and Alexa and I were obsessed with it. Then we asked Trey [Edwards Shults, the director]—we were like, “We need to come up with a scene between the two lead female characters in the movie.” Trey set that interaction up for us, and we did it really quickly, in like, fifteen minutes, and ad-libbed the scene. That’s my favorite scene in the movie.

Demie: After we saw it, we realized it’s kind of a pivotal moment because we meet in that bathroom, and it’s like an exchange of energy. Shortly after, it shifts into Taylor’s part of the movie, so it feels like this exchange where Alexis is giving her this little something [by putting lip gloss on her], and she becomes this new young woman. It meant a lot to us to have that scene together, and it meant even more after watching it.

Photo: Courtesy of A24

How did the process of suggesting that scene go?

Demie: It went really well. We just felt really strongly about asking for that scene, it almost wasn’t an option, and we’re so happy we asked.

Russell: They were so receptive to everything, and we felt like we could always say whatever we wanted. It was a very young set, too—everyone was around 35 and under—and Trey knows exactly what he wants, but he was like, “You can say whatever you want—if it doesn’t feel good, you can change it.” He just surrounds himself with people he trusts and respects, and then he lets them run free.

Waves is obviously a pretty heavy movie. How did you both deal with getting into that intense headspace?

Demie: It wasn’t an easy one, depending on the scene. I listened to a lot of music for this film, and there’s a song my mom dedicated to me when I was younger. I was listening to that over and over again, along with a couple of others. Music played a big part in my process for this film. I took a lot of alone time, and luckily, after the hard scenes, we had each other to support and nurture each other.

Russell: I was just thinking about all of these things I’d felt before, like extreme loss, and falling in love for the first time, and how precious and new that is. What I really love is researching something a lot before you go into it, and then feeling free to try new things. I was reading a lot of poetry, and Lucas [Hedges, Russell’s love interest in the film] watched Like Crazy as a reference for our characters. I have a brother in my life who has gone through really hard things; he didn’t do what Tyler did, but he’s gone through really hard stuff with the law as a young black man, so there were a lot of feelings already in my life that I used.

How did you unwind on set? What did you do together in Florida?

Demie: Taylor and I did a lot of things together. We’re both spiritual angels, so she would make me all these really comforting tonics with herbs and potions. We’d drive into Miami together and go to the spa and really enjoy ourselves there.

Russell: We would pull cards, angel cards. We would pray together; we prayed a lot, and we would text each other every day if, like, she was on set and I wasn’t, and I knew she had a hard day. We just wanted each other to know we were there for each other. We would drive through Florida, listen to music in the car and sing, try to take it light.

What would you listen to?

Demie: Rap.

Russell: And the Spice Girls. We’d just be screaming to the Spice Girls on the freeway from Miami back to where we were staying.

Demie: That was kind of the beginning of our relationship.

Photo: Courtesy of A24

Do you have plans to work on more projects together in the future?

Russell: Yes, we do. We have a particular project that we really want to happen, but something is definitely going to happen.

What do you hope people take away from Waves?

Demie: We’ve been doing screenings all over, and the main theme is that everyone is emotionally connected in this experience of watching the film. A lot of people either want to talk about it afterward, or they want to go home and think about it, but they’re really affected by it. A huge theme of the film is forgiveness, and I know Taylor and I both really believe in forgiveness and love and unity and not being so hard on each other.

Russell: Communication is also really important, and it’s so easy to assume how people are feeling and create a whole story in your head. I think you see that on a bigger scale in this movie, with a lot of adverse effects, but we shouldn’t be scared to communicate.

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Originally Appeared on Vogue