Ruth Codd Talks Netflix’s The Midnight Club and Figuring Herself Out

“There's nothing wrong with not having your shit figured out."

Wearing a Cruella de Vil-esque ensemble, complete with black-and-white hair for her Teen Vogue cover shoot, Ruth Codd confidently shares her biggest life lesson so far: If she doesn’t like doing something, she can just quit. There’s no reason to make yourself miserable living a life that doesn’t feel right. It's the reason it was so easy to walk away from TikTok despite the platform's role in starting her acting career. When I ask her what else she’s quit, she quips wryly, “Every job I’ve ever had.”

Before her big acting debut on Mike Flanagan’s Netflix horror show The Midnight Club, Codd was working backstage doing makeup for Shrek The Musical in 2019, airbrushing layers of green, day in and day out. Shortly after, she found herself on TikTok, where she racked up more than 672,000 followers in less than a year for her sense of humor and hot takes. When Codd's wit landed her an unexpected acting job for Netflix, she couldn’t believe it.

Where she is now, at 26, is so incredibly different from where she’s been. Much of her life has been spent on her family’s farm in Ireland with her little brother and her childhood best friend who still lives down the road. In the last eight years or so, Codd has worked as a barber, a makeup artist, a hairstylist, and in prosthetics. “Some people know what they want to do when they're 15. Some people don't figure it out till they're 40,” she says, shrugging her shoulders as if she’s talking about choosing between her favorite fruits. “There's nothing wrong with not having your shit figured out. I think it's almost better that you get to experience lots of things.” 

Ruth Codd wears a Moschino dress, Arturo Rios headpiece, Charles and Keith shoes, Misho earrings, and a Katkim ring.Jingyu Lin

Codd was discovered on TikTok and had never acted before, not even doing drama in school. When she got the call that she’d been cast in The Midnight Club, it was the middle of the night and, like any practiced insomniac, she was awake playing PlayStation. “I was just sitting at my desk thinking, 'Everyone's asleep. I can't tell anyone.'” However, like any self-described obnoxious person, Codd went and woke both her parents at 3 a.m. to tell them the news.

When she was 15 her right foot was seriously injured while playing soccer, and Codd was no longer able to ride horses, which had been her whole life and a huge connection to her family. Nearly everyone experiences angst as a teenager, but she was wading through the grief of not knowing if she’d ever again experience the pure joy of doing something she loved. “I was just really lost and didn't know what to do with myself and wasn't sure how to navigate being newly disabled.” Like many newly disabled people, Codd didn’t know what life could look like. Disabled people are not often depicted as happy, capable, or fulfilled. Instead, disabled people are shown it must define everything.

“It took me the bulk of eight or nine years to accept that I'm a different version of who I was. But that doesn't make it any worse or any better. That's just life,” Codd says. When she first became disabled, she was terrified that everyone was going to move on with their lives while she spent the rest of hers going in and out of the hospital. Dealing with feelings of being stuck, Codd decided she couldn’t let her life revolve around one thing that had happened to her. That’s when she decided to have her leg amputated. When she finally received her prosthetic leg, she felt relief.

Ruth Codd wears a Moschino dress, Arturo Rios headpiece, Charles and Keith shoes, Misho earrings, and a Katkim ring.Jingyu Lin

Through her character Anya in The Midnight Club, who is also an amputee, Codd was able to express the indignance — and a lot of other emotions like anger, sadness, and a desire for rebellion — that she felt as a teenager. “I really just wanted to watch the world burn. I was like, ‘If I'm having a bad time, everyone else is, too,’” she says. There were many times as she read the script that she felt her own emotions were articulated in ways she previously hadn’t been able to. For her, that’s the magic of acting. “That's probably why I was so angry because I just couldn't articulate how I was feeling. It was quite a healing experience because I was getting all of the emotions out and they were worded so beautifully.”  

Now that Codd has moved through doom-and-gloom scenarios, she’s focused on enjoying a career she says she’s obsessed with. “It's just a privilege to be able to go to work every day and do something that brings me so much joy. I don't know if it's the universe or if there was a meaning to it, but acting found its way to me,” she says. “I love being on set. I love getting up at four in the morning for an early call time. I love night shoots.” 

Next up, she’s starring in another Mike Flanagan series, an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, set to premiere in 2023. And though Codd is a forever horror fan and loves the catharsis of getting paid to run around on a set crying and screaming, she’d love to dip her toes into romantic comedies as well.

She’s already got it all planned out: “My dream rom-com would be a Christmas movie with The Rock, Danny DeVito, and Lindsay Lohan. I can retire after that.” Danny DeVito, her favorite actor, would be the caretaker of a lodge, of course. The Rock would own a struggling family business. Obviously, Lindsay Lohan would be the rich businesswoman who tries to buy out the town. “And I'd make myself the hero that comes and saves the day if I was writing it,” she adds.

And with her career taking off, Codd's imagination has run away with her to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where she says she’d play a cool, disabled superhero (sob-story background rooted in ableism not included). She’s ready to work for it all.

Ruth Codd wears an Issey Miyake jacket and skirt and a Tapley earring.Jingyu Lin

Despite being on a hit Netflix show, Codd still doesn’t consider herself famous and has no interest in being treated that way. “I never get recognized, or only when I’m hungover in the supermarket in my hometown,” she says, laughing. She’s just a lot more financially stable than she used to be. Fame aside, acting has allowed her to forgive herself for many things. When she begins to understand where a character is coming from, she can ask, “Why don't I cut myself the same slack?”

Like her character, Anya, Codd says she hopes people see her as much more than her disability. “I think I'm very adaptable. I'm very pragmatic. In any situation I just go with things,” she says, “I've learned that it doesn't really matter what you're doing, just give it your best shot. It's not always going to work out. There's nothing worse than thinking, I could have done more.” So she never lets anyone make her feel like she doesn’t deserve to be somewhere because she keeps showing up. 

Much of that self-confidence comes from her experiences with disability, Codd muses. “I think I would be a completely different person if I'd never gotten injured,” she says. It gave her a fire in her belly, one you can clearly see in her eyes. Her determination makes her voice burst when she talks about acting and all the possibility she now not only sees for herself but also demands. “You don't really know what's going to happen tomorrow, so you need to just do you.” That realization came to her while she was sitting in a hospital bed after having her leg amputated. “I realized I hadn’t actually done anything fun with my life. I hadn’t done anything I wanted to." 

Since then, Codd has worked at becoming more present. “When I was younger, I was worried about things I had no control over,” she admits. Now she understands that making mistakes is not that bad. “When you're younger, you're so scared of making a mistake. As long as you grow from it, I think mistakes are good because you're not going to go through life without making a single mistake, so you might as well just embrace them.”

Ruth Codd wears an Issey Miyake jacket and skirt, Grenson shoes, and a Tapley earring.Jingyu Lin

When I ask if she’s made a mistake recently that she’s learned from, Codd thinks hard. She makes mistakes without ruminating on them, so most of them she's already forgotten. But the other day in New York, she got into the back of someone else’s car. The driver turned around and yelled, "You can't just go hopping into people's taxis!” After the rush of emotions, she realized it was her mistake and got out, trying to play it cool. Lots of people might linger on that mistake. Codd is not interested in being a martyr. She’s already accepted that condemning yourself and beating yourself up for small things won’t make you change. It won’t make you suddenly the person you want to be. As she tells the story, Codd laughs about it honestly and it’s easy to tell that she’s not faking it and has already let the moment go. She’s forgiven herself. Her eyes drift away and she’s ready to talk about something else not because she’s worried about being judged, but because she knows there are more important things we could exchange stories about. 

Instead, Codd is interested in telling me more about how she was a “little shit” as a teenager and why she centers kindness in her life as much as possible now. “Not everything's about you. Everyone's dealing with their own shit,” and she moves on to explain how she got to this moment of self-acceptance. Her family has always been a good example for her: “They never would preach at me, but just seeing the way they interact with people and how they treat others has taught me that it's actually way easier to go through life being pleasant.” Learning to walk away from things and people that aren’t right for her has been crucial to maintaining humility and perspective. "It’s being able to understand, Oh, you're not a bad person, but you are just not the person for me. You only learn this through trial and error.” 

And so the errors are very important as long as you’re committed to letting them teach you instead of running away from them. But the learning doesn’t require the lingering or self-hatred she was once so familiar with. Prior to this career path, Codd felt “like a pressure cooker.” That pressure has been released now. “I'm a much happier person since I started acting.” After everything she’s experienced, Codd says if she could go back and tell her teenage self anything, it would be, “You're not going to get left behind. It's just not your time at the moment, but it will be someday.”