"“I’m sorry if I have shoddy connection," Madison Davenport says over the phone on Thursday morning. "I’m at Disneyland."
It's a family celebration, apparently, for her little brother's high school graduation—not that the 22 year-old doesn't have plenty to celebrate herself. The day before, after all, saw the premiere of Davenport's Black Mirror episode, "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too." As one of Netflix's most captivating—and popular—series, the episode had already been voraciously streamed, and then deciphered online, by the show's fanbase over the first 24 hours. Davenport, though she stars in it, hadn't seen the episode yet, nor had she checked in on the online reactions. "I didn’t get to see anything negative or positive regarding it, because I was so caught up in Disneyland," she said. "It’s kind of a good idea."
It had been almost a year since the actress first auditioned for the episode, which, at the time, she didn't even know what it was for. "When you get the audition sides, it definitely doesn’t say Black Mirror," she said. By November, however, she was off to South Africa to shoot the part of Jack, a punk rock teenager and sister to Rachel, played by Angourie Rice, who is obsessed with the pop star Ashley O. and her animatronic doll that shares her likeness. Of course, in true Black Mirror fashion, there is an underlying and ominous darkness to it all.
Luckily, Davenport says, the set itself was anything but. "We had quite a blast," she said. "I walked in [on the first day] and was doing my costume fitting and all of a sudden, I see this precious girl and her mother and I’m like, ‘I think you’re my sister!’ We ended up having afternoon tea the next day, and then we were thick as thieves. She is so sweet and so talented and made it so easy to do. We really did feel like sisters."
Rounding out the titular cast is none other than Miley Cyrus as Ashley O., playing a purple-wigged pop-star exhausted with fame. "I heard there would be an actual pop star playing the pop star role, but they wouldn’t give me a hint," Davenport said. "Honestly, I was really excited. If anyone can do this role, it’s Miley. It’s basically her story, but amped up and dramatized... And, everyone needs to understand that when Miley was in Cape Town and we’re filming the scene where she wakes up from a coma—these really charged, emotional moments—her house was in the process of burning down in Malibu. I wanted to just commend her because she worked through that shit."
While Jack and the real Ashley O. do get to meet eventually, many of Davenport's scenes were filmed with her doll form, putting the actress's acting skills to the test. "We had a doll that animatronic and there were two guys—one was in charge of moving the head and arms, and the other was in charge of the wheels. It is an art-form," she said." It was a very interesting process to watch. Then we would also be takes where we were reacting to a blank desk. They’d pick up a pencil and be like, ‘Look at the end of the pencil.’"
In the show, Jack, in stereotypical angsty teenage form, is also a punk rocker, complete with a nose ring and bass guitar—the latter of which Davenport had never played in her life. "I had never picked up a bass guitar in my entire life, and as soon as I got to South Africa, they were like, ‘Here’s the song you’re going to have to play,’" she said. "So I learned how to play bass guitar over the course of a few weeks." It was worth it, in the end, to be able to live out everyone's rock star fantasy and play a punk show, albeit staged, with Miley Cyrus. "Miley was so awesome. I was like, ‘What do I do?’ And she was like, ‘Just go with it.’" she said. " It was so much fun. It was a lot hotter than I expected to be. When you’re up there jamming, it’s a good workout." The workout, and the fact that they were playing a reworked song by Nine Inch Nails—a personal of favorite of Davenport's—was just a bonus. "I’m such a big Nine Inch Nails fan," she said. "That’s a big secret that nobody knows about me, but growing up, I listened to so much punk music. My mom was really worried about me."
Whether you are aware of it or not, chances are you caught a glimpse of Davenport sometime during that phase, as well. The actress has been steadily working over the past 14 years, first guest starring on episodes of shows like CSI, ER, and Bones, as well as reoccurring roles on Shameless, From Dusk to Dawn, and last year's Sharp Objects, and in films like Sisters and Noah. "I get scripts and I audition for things, because the answer is always going to be a no if you don’t go out for it," she said of her approach to picking roles, now 10 years in." I was never not going to do Black Mirror, because it was an amazing opportunity. I like to choose roles that I think I can do justice to, but still push me outside of my comfort zone."
This summer, she'll head to Wilmington, North Carolina to shoot Hulu's upcoming series Reprisal, co-starring Abigail Spencer and Mena Massoud, and executive produced by The Handmaid's Tale's Graham and Warren Littlefield. "It is going to be a wild ride," she said. "I’ve heard some people describe it as Kill Bill meets Pulp Fiction meets Sons of Anarchy, on acid. My character is going to be very interesting. She’s unlike any character that I’ve ever played."