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Performer of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of October - T'Nia Miller.

23 Nov 2020

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This article was written by Darthlocke, Ellys Cartin, and Marko Pekic. The article was edited by Donna Cromeans (DJRiter). The open and close of the article were written by Ellys Cartin. Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks.

More of an eerie musing than a scary tale, The Haunting of Bly Manor will be remembered for the deeply affecting performances of its ensemble. T'Nia Miller, who plays loyal Bly housekeeper Hannah Gross gives one of the most emotionally devastating showcases of the acting craft. In The Altar of the Dead (1x5), the truth about Hannah is unspooled through a series of flashbacks playing on a loop, each revelation more heartbreaking than the last. Miller delivers a performance that is by turns commanding and terrifying, tearing up the audience's emotions as we along with Hannah process a truth she will continue to deny. Miller's work brings with it an incredible chill. For all these reasons and many more T'Nia Miller is SpoilerTV's October Staff Choice Performer of the Month.

Continue reading below to find out our thoughts regarding her performance. After reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Like all those who walk in Bly Manor, Hannah Gross's life is intertwined with tragedy. This episode uncovers the full extent of her personal tragedy, yet throughout the series, Miller's performance is the primary clue as to what happened to Hannah. How does she create the sense of foreboding in advance that makes the truth in episode five inevitable?

Darthlocke: One way I think the foreboding element occurs for Hannah is really an execution choice. Especially when one looks at an episode like The Altar of the Dead that intentionally goes back to alternate versions of scenes, in which Hannah argues with herself in the guise of Owen (Rahul Kohil). That's not to say that Miller wasn't absolutely the right casting choice here because she can present a quiet reserve that feeds into the tragedy of what happens to her character. She's a performer who can carry a sense of dignity and compassion without saying much at all. I think very few actresses can pull that off.

Ellys: While the show gives the audience many breadcrumbs, especially in the first episode, Miller herself is the revelation. Her Hannah is a pillar of poise, an elegant yet emotionally absent presence. Miller makes deep grief visible on and around Hannah's every movement; her very footsteps seem to have this weight. The mysterious nature of the grief in her performance creates as much apprehensive suspense as any fleeting glimpse of a ghost or ominous musical cue does.

Marko: Something was intriguing about Miller's Hannah from the moment she was introduced. Miller used Hannah's shyness and sensation of profoundly belonging at Bly, to create a character that intrigues with the sorrow that surrounded her. From the get-go there was a mysterious feeling about the character with a twinkle of sadness in her eyes and a hidden smirk on her face, making me ask myself was she a victim of the Manor or the master behind it all?

A recurring reference that Hannah makes is how Bly Manor is her home. In Miller's performance and in Hannah's story, are we shown that this statement is true, or is it a compassionate falsehood she clings to?

Darthlocke: I don't think it's a compassionate falsehood in terms of the story itself. The narrative is about different kinds of tragic love stories that for many of the characters happen through the space of Bly. Hannah is no exception since we view her mostly through her memories that dance around an almost romance with Owen. So, if home is where the heart is, then Bly is it for Hannah. If there are other meaningful relationships outside of Bly with characters unseen, that's a fair debate, but I don't feel that was the point the story was making through the scope of memories.

Ellys: We don't get to spend nearly enough time with Hannah, in my opinion, but one of the reasons this episode successfully packs the gut punch that it does is how effectively Miller translates Hannah's connection with Bly Manor. The way she goes about her tasks or even just her wanderings around the house is marked by ownership and love. Her protective nature over the house, her pride in it, her affection for it, Miller fills in these details between the lines for us with small gestures. When Hannah is in Bly Manor, there's a level of comfort with her surroundings that, of all the characters, only Hannah possesses.

Marko: Bit of both, I guess. Hannah really wanted Bly to be her home, she wanted to belong there, but it was just a place where she hid from her pain and the outer world. While the Wingraves deeply loved her and made her feel like part of the family, at the core she felt like "just" the help. The scene with Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in this episode reflects that. As Hannah was revisiting all the meaningful memories she had, she came back to that moment where Peter once again reminded her that at the end of the day she was just the help. And while I wouldn't call Bly Hannah's home, it was her safe haven.

Throughout this episode, Hannah is often in conversation with Owen Sharma, portrayed by Rahul Kohli, her frequent scene partner. How does the shift of their dynamic in their scenes and responses to each other in this episode create the uneasy atmosphere?

Darthlocke: Well again, Owen in most of these scenes are actually Hannah or rather a version of her subconscious. Just the fact that Hannah keeps getting brought back to the memories of when she interviewed Owen and the night where Owen and Hannah talked about the future together by the fire, was the push and pull of Hannah fighting what she has been denying or allowing herself to be lost in. It's truly a combination of the way Owen taunts her, the execution of scenes appearing as time slips, and eventually, Miller's performance reacting to coming back to Owen in near-identical scenes that make the atmosphere.

Ellys: In an alternate universe, we would have gotten an entire season dedicated to Owen and Hannah. Their story may be an afterthought in Bly Manor's grand scheme, but when Kohli and Miller are onscreen together you forget they are supporting players. Perhaps one of the most emotionally challenging aspects of this episode is that the majority of Owen and Hannah's scenes lack the usual warmth between the two. That glow of mutual affection and camaraderie is missing, one of the most significant indications of what is happening. As a reminder of what has been lost and what the two shared, these scenes are an impeccable showcase for both performers.

Marko: As mentioned in my previous answer, Bly felt like Hannah's safe haven and Owen was a big part of it. To have his presence and essence in her life made all that happened in the past with her husband/boyfriend Sam tolerable. So as the moments in the kitchen with Owen started to glitch and trigger Hannah's awareness a vacuum was created that gripped you as the fear and panic were starting to appear in Hannah's face and eyes. Miller and Kohli were impeccable scene partners, the way they were losing themselves in each other's eyes throughout the season left me tachycardic.

This season gave Miller a ton of amazing material to bring to life. What were some of your favorite performances of Miller's throughout the season?

Darthlocke: I really liked the one scene where she goes back to the night of spending time with Owen by the fire again because she gives him a different answer about going to Paris. I think up until that point, it wasn't clear if she shared the same feelings for Owen that he had for her. It is also what makes her realize that she's a ghost even more tragic. I also liked the scene where she was trying to help save Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) in the end, only to not have very much power against the Lady of the Lake.

Ellys: The finale gives us a vastly different Hannah for Miller to play, one that can no longer deny her reality, and her last moments compose a fragmented, determined effort to protect her home one more time. Miller hits every tragic note exactly right in the too-short last exchange with Owen, as well as Hannah's cruelly abbreviated farewell to Henry (Henry Thomas). Miller's performance here is truly just pieces of who Hannah is and has been.

Marko: I would say the scenes in the small chapel. I wouldn't really say Miller's Hannah was a preachy person but her black and white look at the world combined with the serenity and simplicity of those chapel scenes had something incredibly beautiful to them. The combination created some sort of confessionary that allowed these flawed people to get a sort of absolution as Hannah provided the characters with light when they were engulfed with shadows and the unbearable truth when they were blinded by the lights.

What do you think were Miller's most outstanding scenes from this episode?

Darthlocke: For me, it was the gravity of the scene when Hannah finds out what happened to her. It is so devastating because she had been trying to protect the kids, including Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), and right before Dani (Victoria Pedretti) arrived, Miles under Peter's influence just pushes her into the well. Hannah's ghost appears and deals with Dani's arrival like nothing ever happened. Everyone just walks by the well. For her to finally remember that and having that scene replay so casually is really what did it for me.

Ellys: Miller, in essence, gives a one-woman play in this episode. Hannah progresses from a tranquil participant in recreations of her life to an anxious actor trying to stick to the script, even as her mind processes and refutes the truth. Miller takes us on a whirling carousel ride, spinning in and out of reality just as her character does.

Marko: Most definitely the scenes with Owen in the kitchen. As earlier mentioned, the pain and fear that Miller exuded as her reality started to crumble were simply captivating. The tremble of panic in Miller's voice, the fear in her eyes just made me love the character and put her performance on an outstanding level. Miller had such a deep understanding for what Hannah was going through, she was on the edge of a mental breakdown and used that moment when she met (and in my opinion fell in love with) Owen to keep her calm and grounded, kept herself captured in the warm embrace of his kind and sincere heart.

What are your final thoughts on her winning this recognition?

Darthlocke: I think she is a wonderful actress! I truly hope to see much more of her, no matter the genre. Again, there are just not a lot of actresses that could carry the weight of dignity, compassion, and something solid, yet be so reserved in her speech and body language.

Ellys: This role was my introduction to T'Nia Miller, and I am looking forward to seeing her future projects. Currently, Miller is slated to star in AMC's La Fortuna miniseries scheduled for 2021. It's clear from her work in Bly Manor that she is a leading lady-caliber performer.

Marko: I wasn't familiar with T'Nia Miller till I watched this show, but from now on I am a fan and will follow her to the darkest corners of the entertainment business. This was a well-deserved recognition as she was able to give life to such a pure and honest character. Miller's Hannah didn't know for compromise, she had just this sense of right and a code of loyalty that carried her through life, even when haunted in death.

A good actor elicits a variety of emotions from their audience while making the task of bringing a complex character to life seem effortless. The performance of T’Nia Miller as Hannah in The Altar of the Dead episode of The Haunting of Bly Manor is the very epitome of that statement. Her exceptional work has rightfully earned her a legion of new fans. For all the brilliant elements of her work discussed in this article and all the other elements we didn't cover, T’Nia Miller is SpoilerTV’s October Staff Choice Performer of the Month.

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of T'Nia Miller's performance in The Altar Of the Dead.