Super cool. Badass. Kickass. These are just a few of the adjectives that Maika Monroe often uses in casual conversation. They’re also completely appropriate descriptors to use for the 22-year-old nationally-ranked-kiteboarder-turned-bonafide-leading-woman as well. Hailing from Santa Barbara, Calif., Monroe is just getting started in her quest to carve out her place as a young actress in Hollywood, and she’s doing it with remarkable proficiency. A cursory glance at her IMDb page boasts an embarrassment of riches in both directors (Sofia Coppola, Jason Reitman) and actors (Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Zac Efron) with whom she’s already collaborated. Most important, Maika Monroe is making power moves on her own terms.
After a spate of minor roles in projects like At Any Price and The Bling Ring, Monroe watched her star power explode in 2014 after the one-two punch of Adam Wingard’s pop home-invasion thriller The Guest and David Robert Mitchell’s chilling sexual terror tale It Follows. The former became an instant cult hit while the latter not only rejuvenated the art house horror genre—paving the way for films like Goodnight Mommy and The Witch—but also grossed tenfold its $2 million budget. Monroe became instantly celebrated for her impressive acting chops and her eye for smart scripts that feature powerful, multi-faceted female characters.
This summer, the actress is out to prove her range, transitioning from indie darling to blockbuster boss in this summer’s highly anticipated Independence Day: Resurgence, in which she plays Patricia Whitmore, the daughter of the former president, played by Bill Pullman. It’s Monroe’s first step into the mainstream, but also proof that she’s up for anything. Think that Monroe is ready to settle for the “scream queen” label? Think again.
Having a major role in one of the most anticipated sequels of the year is a big move. We’re experiencing a high tide of reboots and sequels. What was it about Independence Day: Resurgence that made you want to get involved?
Well, growing up, my dad absolutely loved the original and he showed it to me on VHS. And you could just tell it was something special. When it came out in ’96, [with] the CGI and everything, I was blown away by it.
It’s something about the characters. Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman—their characters were all so specific and real. You fall for them. And for a movie that’s so ridiculous and so big, you have to have those characters that you care about. I think Roland [Emmerich] does that well. That’s what I really liked about it and the original film.
We got a brief glimpse of you strapping into a fighter jet in the trailer. Any other details you can spill?
Oh, gosh. I’ve gotten in trouble in the past for saying too much. But I’m really drawn to kickass female roles. I will say that my character Patricia Whitmore is just a really well-written, strong female character.
“Stick up for what you believe in and never ever feel that you can’t say something
or speak your mind.
Be strong. Be confident.”
Speaking of growing up in '90s, most kids who grow up in California get into skating, surfboarding, or even snowboarding, but you got into kiteboarding. How did that happen?
Both my parents were windsurfers so I got into that when I was super young. Then when I was about eleven, my dad started transitioning over to kiteboarding and I became so fascinated by the sport. Finally he taught me, and I just fell in love with it. I also liked that not many girls did it, so I was feeling kind of badass.
What’s your most badass kiteboarding story?
Oh, I definitely have one of those. [Laughs.] I was going to a competition in New Caledonia, which is a French Polynesian island off of Australia. So I’m traveling across the world to get to this competition. It was the day before the competition and I was practicing this one trick over and over again and I kept falling. At that point, you usually should just get out of the water and be like, "Okay, it’s not happening today." But one of the last times I was trying to land it, my foot came out of the board and I kind of twisted it and went head first into the water. The water we were doing the competition in was super, super shallow and there were rocks. I went head first into a rock and cracked my head open.
Oh my god.
[Laughs.] Yeah, I know. And since the competition was the next day, there just happened to be a doctor setting up the tents for the event. So this doctor was on the beach, and I ended up getting my stitches on the beach with no anesthesia or any numbing because he was just like, "Let me just do it." It was awful, but hey, I’m still here!
That is truly badass. I would have definitely thought twice about ever getting back in the water.
I sucked it up. I had to wear a neck brace because my spine was really messed up. So I had this silly looking brace on and got back in the water the next morning. I could only ride back and forth just to say that I competed. I was so upset that I traveled halfway across the world for this competition just to get hurt and have a doctor tell me, “Don’t do that.” But, yeah. I had to.
You mentioned there weren't too many girls in professional kiteboarding—Hollywood certainly functions as a “boy’s club” as well.
For me, I grew up doing kiteboarding where no girls are doing it, and you had to prove yourself. You just had to know that you could do it, too. It’s the mentality you had to have to make it. I work hard like anyone else. I haven’t been in this industry long enough to have any horror stories, luckily. But yes, it is crazy, especially the wage gap issue.
What do you think about the knee-jerk reaction to label actresses as a certain type? After The Guest and It Follows, the term “scream queen” got attached to you.
Yeah, I don’t get it. I just thought The Guest and It Follows were two really awesome scripts with two awesome directors. That’s just how it played out, and people wanted to say that I’m the next “scream queen.” Sure, whatever.
The industry tries to define you instead of letting you define yourself.
They just want someone to fit into that perfect little “scream queen” box. Well, I might let you guys down on that one. [Laughs.]
Do you have a preference? Are you trying to hit every genre? What’s your approach to this?
I don’t think I could have a preference. To be totally honest, I don’t think I could have ever thought horror just because I’m really a fan of the old school horror movies.
The horror movies that are made now, I really don’t enjoy. So I would’ve said that I would stay away from the horror genre, but then I read It Follows and just followed the director. I don’t have a preference. It’s more about the story.
Are there any other genres in particular you still want to explore?
I mean, I would really love to play a superhero. That is definitely up there on my list. Captain Marvel especially. That would be so cool.
Does that mean you’ve chosen a side in the Team Marvel vs. Team DC debate?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I don’t think that I can choose because on both sides there are such amazing characters.
That’s a very political answer.
Yeah, let’s not get too controversial. I’ve gotta be open to working with both of them! [Laughs.]
In Resurgence, not only are you the daughter of a president but you also work in the White House. How are you feeling about the current presidential race?
Ah, the Trump bullshit. It’s hard to talk about. Look, it goes without saying that it’s important to vote. As a woman, I initially lean toward wanting to see a female president—hell yeah—but I think it’s important to know exactly what each candidate stands for and what they believe in.
What advice would you give to all the young women aspiring to succeed in Hollywood?
Stick up for what you believe in and never ever feel that you can’t say something or speak your mind. I think that would be the best advice. Be strong. Be confident. That’s really all you need. I think that is the definition of “badass.”