Bailee Madison returns to The Hub’s “Haunting Hour” with “Scarecrow”

By Stacey Harrison

Even using the exaggerated standards befitting a precocious child actor, Bailee Madison can be said to have an extremely sunny disposition. The 12-year-old rising star is genuinely kind and courteous, immediately and effortlessly turning an over-the-phone interview into a real conversation. She emphasizes how important schoolwork is to her, despite her demanding acting schedule, and she even makes time to serve as a national spokesperson for the childhood-cancer charity Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

So what’s this sweet little girl’s obsession with horror stories?

Aside from terrifying audiences on the big screen in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Bailee also found time in the past year or so to star in the two-part premiere episode of R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, where she played a girl obsessed with her new (and unspeakably evil) doll. Now, she’s returning to The Haunting Hour for this week’s episode, “Scarecrow,” which airs 5pm Saturday on The Hub.

“I guess I do enjoy it,” she said, speaking from Atlanta where she’s filming the comedy Parental Guidance with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. “It’s really fun to get a little bit scared sometimes, to not always be smiling — to sit on the edge of your seat and scare yourself.”

In “Scarecrow,” Bailee plays Jennie, a farm girl struggling to save her corn crop from some pesky crows. She meets a mysterious, T.S. Eliot-quoting stranger (Juan Riedinger), who offers her a scarecrow to help her out. But there is definitely something odd about this man.

“She thinks he’s a friend and that he’s going to help her. … But as you progress into the show you can sense her getting a little bit more suspicious and more scared. It’s very hard to figure him out. I remember I had to read the script a couple more times just to get over everything. That’s the coolest part, you can’t really figure him out watching it. He’s kind of that mysterious, go-either-way kind of guy.”

(NOTE: Speaking of going either way, viewers will get a chance to see two different endings for “Scarecrow” as The Hub will air back-to-back showings of the episode, one with a creepy twist at the end, and one where good triumphs over evil. Following the second episode, viewers can visit to vote for which ending they liked better.)

Getting a chance to work with the same Haunting Hour crew was an opportunity Bailee said she couldn’t pass up, given her “wonderful” experience the first time around. It was just a bonus that this episode allowed her to play a much more sympathetic character, and required the South Florida native to do some hands-on farm work.

“I so much enjoy any kind of country work,” she said. “The clothes were so cool, because I had the long skirt, that kind of country look. I had to feed the chickens, and every day you’d come up and you’d pet the horses and the cows. So for me that was a blast and I got to learn so much in real life. … I was there on an actual working farm, so I got to see the people who own the house work their farm, which was very exciting.”

When she’s not delving into horror movies or TV shows, Bailee is making her mark in both comedies and dramas. She stole all her scenes in Just Go With It from the likes of Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, and earned raves for roles in Brothers and Bridge to Terabithia. She hopes to be returning to TV soon after having filmed an adaptation of the superhero comic Powers as a pilot for FX.

She plays Calista, who in the comic grows up to become Retro Girl. “It was a very different character, because you can tell just by reading the comic that she has something very different to her,” she says. “She’s witty, she’s sarcastic, and a girl that when you look at her, you’re like, ‘There’s something different. There’s something that I don’t know, but I will know pretty soon hopefully.’ She has pitch black bangs. She’s her own character, and she’s her own self. It was really cool. … Hopefully we’ll get to do more for it. Fingers crossed, for sure. I check every day on the Internet.”

While her path to a long acting career appears solid — thanks largely to performances that are based in real skill as opposed to just cute-kid manipulations — Bailee says she’s prepared if things don’t work out.

“I love to cook, so maybe I’ll open up my own restaurant one day and I’ll be a chef. That would be awesome!”

Photo: Credit: Katie Yu