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On the Verge: Amiah Miller in ‘The Water Man’

Amiah Miller currently stars alongside This Is Us Lonnie Chavis in the feature film The Water Man about two kids who set out on an adventure in the woods to find a mythical figure who may have healing powers. The film marks the feature directorial debut of actor David Oyelowo, who also stars in the film. 

Just a month shy of turning 17, Miller spoke to Casting Networks about the film and how her career trajectory is taking a different turn now that she is entering into her late teens. 


The Water Man was shot in 2019 before the pandemic, which means your audition must seem like a lifetime ago. Do you remember it?

I do. It was one of the best auditions of my life. I remember leaving and calling my dad and being like, ‘I’ve got a good feeling about this one!’ About a month after that, I had a callback with David [Oyelowo] and Lonnie [Chavis]. That went really well. Then a month later, they called me, and they told me I got the part.


You had these month-long stretches in between each audition. During those gaps, do you have to let go of the role and mentally move on because you may never hear from them again? 

I wish that I could just let it go. I’m currently still working on that, but when I feel attached to a role, it’s hard to audition and then leave it in the room. The Water Man audition came at a time when I was really down because I had been very attached to this one particular role that didn’t end up working out. So I was like, what is this acting thing? Do I still want to do this? Then The Water Man audition came along, and it went so well. Then there was that month-long stretch, and I got a little in my head about it. But I had this gut feeling. I knew deep down that I couldn’t have done any better during that audition. I got the call that I booked the role on Valentine’s Day!


This role has been your most grown-up to date. Looking at your filmography, you’ve played a lot of parts billed as Young Sara (Trafficked) or Young Rebecca (Lights Out) or Young Clementine (Clementine). In The Water Man, you’re Jo Riley. Not Young Jo. There is no younger version of Jo that needs to be cast here.

Yeah. It’s very refreshing to feel like this is my part, and it’s not me playing a younger version of somebody, or somebody’s sister or daughter. I wouldn’t trade it for anything because (those previous roles) gave me so much experience. But with The Water Man, it is very nice to be my own person and focus on my role instead of having to resemble someone else in their role.


You’ve been acting since you were 10- years old. You started modeling, then moved to commercials, followed by television and film work. What do you consider your big break so far?

I don’t feel like a seasoned pro yet. I feel like I’m just getting started. But Planet of the Apes definitely set the tone for my career. I filmed it when I was 11, and it came out when I turned 13. I was so new to this industry, and I was going on these insane press tours, doing all these interviews, and going to these huge premieres. That film completely changed my life, and it opened so many doors for me. 


Do you remember your audition for that? 

Oh yes! I remember that entire experience like it was yesterday. I didn’t know what I was auditioning for because the film was being kept under wraps. All I knew was that my character didn’t speak. I showed up, and they gave me a scenario: ‘Someone’s breaking into the house, and we want you to react with facial expressions.’ So I did it. Then there was another month-long stretch before meeting Matt Reeves, the director, in a callback. It was a lengthy process.


You just finished shooting My Best Friend’s Exorcism, based on the YA novel of the same name about two teenagers who have a skinny dipping mishap, and one of them ends up possibly being possessed by the devil. Sounds like a comedy with some horror, maybe?

There are so many funny, coming-of-age moments in this film, but yes, there is an exorcism. I’m very excited for people to see it. I self-taped for it this past January, and a month later I got an email from my agent saying the director, Damon Thomas (Killing Eve), wanted to Zoom with me. I was shocked because I didn’t think I was super confident in my self-tape. I could have done a much better job. But I did the Zoom with him, and it went amazing. Then we hung up and 20 minutes later I get an email asking if I could Zoom the next day in a chemistry read with (co-star) Elsie Fisher. I did, and it went well. Then another month goes by, and then I find out I got the part. Four days later, I’m out in Atlanta, quarantining, about to get ready to film. 


It’s so crazy how you have these month-long stretches between auditions, and then boom, suddenly you’re on a plane flying to a location. 

I know! I remember doing that self-tape and being with my dad. We had this conversation about how everything had been slow, and I was like, something good is coming, I can feel it. So I took a video on my phone and said, “Hey, future Amiah, this is a video before something big is gonna happen. You don’t even know it’s gonna happen yet, but your life’s about to change.” Then it did. The Water Man came out, I just wrapped this Exorcism movie, and now I’m getting ready to start my next one, which I can’t say anything about at the moment. 


I love that you sent your future self a reassuring self-video, and it was only six months ago you did that!

I remember being super little, like maybe nine years old, right before I started acting. I wrote a letter to my 16-year-old self because at the time, 16 felt so far away. That felt so old – you’re in high school and driving. In the letter, I wrote about everything I wanted to achieve. And it happened! I still can’t believe it. I think that when you write something down or speak it out loud, it’ll come back to you, and everything will align. I am so excited to be getting older. These two years coming up are going to be so amazing for me with the films that I’m doing and the films I’ve got coming out.


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