Well, we knew from the previews that Dracula was going to be a sexy, bloody feast, but get ready for something completely different when the new series premieres tonight on NBC, said executive producer Daniel Knauf in an exclusive interview with Blastr. In fact, the vicious Dracula isn't even the worst bad guy we'll meet tonight, which will lead him to join forces with Van Helsing.
“What can we possibly do with such a creepy old property as Dracula?” asked Knauf (Carnivàle). “Every generation has had its own version of Dracula -- and what [creator Cole Haddon] did was he basically just create an enemy that was even more insidious and evil than Dracula himself, and that was the Order of the Dragon.”
Dracula, which is a reimagination of the classic Bram Stoker novel, follows an American entrepreneur who arrives in late-19th-century London to bring modern science to Victorian society. Secretly, though, he is Dracula, and he wants to destroy those who cursed him with immortality and murdered his wife centuries earlier. Unfortunately, there's a woman who appears to be the reincarnation of his dead wife, and that puts a crimp in his plan. The series stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jessica De Gouw, Thomas Kretschmann, Katie McGrath, Nonso Anozie and Victoria Smurfit. Ten episodes have been ordered.
“It's an epic story of love and revenge. And it's about a guy who is 400 years old, and he is an alpha predator, and he's not your sparkly vampire. I love Anne Rice's work, but Anne Rice's work sort of blew out in a whole generation of these self-loathing creatures,” said Knauf. “Like, oh my God. Either we had vampires like Lestat who were reveling in what they were, or we had vampires that were very uncomfortable with what they were. But with Dracula, he is what he is. He's had 400 years to get over any issues he had with being a vampire, you know? He's real comfortable inside his own skin.”
There is that “dichotomy of the old and the new colliding as they're moving into the 20th century. Alexander Grayson/Dracula is very tapped into that whole thing. He's sort of a Steve Jobs character. His eyes are very much on the future, but he's definitely got one foot in the past. But at the end of the day, for a man that's been essentially damned with a curse, and he's certainly forsaken God, he sees this new God in science, and he's starting to embrace that,” he said.
While Dracula is ready to rip off some heads when it comes to his issues with the Order of the Dragon, he becomes infatuated with Mina, who may just be the reincarnation of his dead wife.
“What it does is it creates a real problem. Going in, [he] had this plan. He spent 15 years creating this this false identity, this false background of Alexander Grayson” so he could take out the Order of the Dragon, said Knauf.
“When you talk about a secret cult, you're dealing with this trilateral commission [which] used to be a religious order, but now they're just a secret society. You're talking about this systemic oppression that is much more damaging than just a vampire running amok. So by making a bigger, badder guy in the story, all of a sudden we have somebody that Dracula is trying to destroy,” said Knauf.
“In the first episode we find out that Van Helsing and Dracula were in league against this common enemy. The minute you do that ... I mean, when I read Cole's pilot, and I hit that point where, 'Oh my God, he's in bed with Van Helsing ...' When you do something like this, what you want to do is you want to say, 'Okay, you think you've seen Dracula? This is a totally different thing.' So he makes that thesis loud and brash and coming right out of the gate. The rest of the season was a matter of just living up to that original premise. Trying to make a story that is just as brash and brave and innovative as Cole had in mind when he created the pilot. We all had our work cut out for us,” he said.
While Dracula's plan is just to crush their wealth, in steps Mina. "It's the old Helen of Troy thing. His brain just flies right out the window. Poor Van Helsing has no idea. He doesn't know what she looked like. He has no idea. It's like, wow. Suddenly my partner in this seems to be really, really off his game. It's weird, because even as Dracula is trying to seek redemption through destroying this group of people -- this is justice for the death of his wife -- what he still doesn't understand is that revenge, at the end of the day, is not going to bring Ilona back. Even as he's thinking, 'I'm going to crush these guys in order to obtain a vision of justice,' because they murdered his wife, here comes this creature that is basically the spitting image of his wife. So it's like a big circuit. And then he begins to realize, well, he's got a choice now. 'I could turn her into what I am, which means degrading what is almost sacred, or I need to become what she is, which is basically impossible given this curse that's on me.' And he begins to think about pursuing humanity. It's a very complex little story,” he said.
NBC's Dracula does bring in many characters from the classic novel, including Lucy, Renfield and Harker.
“All the characters that were in the novel, or a lot of them Cole brought into the new story. So yeah. They're all recognizable archetypes from Bram Stoker's novel. The other component that was brought in by Cole is this whole dangerous-liaison aspect, to play it not so much as a fright fest. Although obviously there's horror elements to Dracula. But to really, really push the romance, betrayal, scheming and triangles that you see in a lot of costume dramas. We have Gareth Neame, who produced Downton Abbey, involved. It feeds into that as well,” said Knauf.
“It's stunning-looking. The images are so arresting, and it's such a rich palette. It's kind of like Carnivàle in that way. A little easier. When we did Carnivàle, it was all cops, doctors and lawyers on TV. If you're flipping around and you came across Carnivàle, you go, 'Whoa, what is that?' Dracula's kind of the same thing. If you're flipping around, nothing else on TV looks like it. It's so sumptuous,” he said.
“I'm hoping that the people who are fans of Downton Abbey tune in and take a look. There's a lot there for them. This is classic Gothic horror. It's not an in-your-face Saw bloodbath terrorfest. So it's not something that would put off somebody who wasn't a horror fan. It's a very sexy Dracula.”
Dracula premieres tonight on NBC at 10 p.m. ET.
Here's a look:
Do you think this Dracula will be worthy?