Van Helsing Showrunner Q&A: Season 1, Episode 4

Friday, October 7, 2016 - 23:00

Looking back on Van Helsing Season 1, Episode 4: "Coming Back, " we speak with Neil LaBute about Portland and canned peaches.

Oh, and vampires. Never forget the vampires ...

Any particular reason why Portland was chosen as the home base for the Resistance group we're introduced to in this episode? 

This was an ever-changing idea, the human Resistance and how best to serve the story with this thread. At first we talked about Portland because we were in Seattle and we needed a place to go, to turn the show into a road trip when necessary. We had one built-in goal, that of Denver (where Vanessa believes her daughter might be and that it could be a city that is safe from vampires due to its high altitude) but having a second goal was also useful. Ultimately, we placed Dmitri and Rebecca, along with the Resistance, closer to Seattle to keep the distance that people could travel on foot a bit more believable. In the midst of all this fantasy, it's often a detail like this that an audience member will trip over and not approve of, causing it to spoil their overall experience with the show.

Poor Cynthia. Was she doomed from the start, or were there other survivors who were considered for being killed off in this episode? 

Cynthia was on the chopping block rather early on, but we certainly went back and forth on various characters. Alison Wandzura, who plays Nicole, was only supposed to appear in the first episode but we thought she was such a strong character at the table reading that we decided to keep her on and make her a regular. Various other actors, including Hilary Jardine (Susan), Rowland Pidlubny (Scab) and Vincent Gale (Flesh) were impressive enough in their work for us to continue writing for them rather than killing them off. That said, I would've been happy to keep Avery Konrad (Cynthia) around because she was excellent, but in a vampire apocalypse somebody has to die … it's just the way it goes.

Sam being more than a little intrigued by Flesh's story of what it's like to be a vampire is a bit disconcerting. Without giving too much away, are there dark days ahead for our gentle giant? 

There are exciting days ahead for Sam, whether they're dark or not. I have great plans for Christopher Heyerdahl because there's nothing he can't do: scary, funny, sad, touching, etc. A brilliant actor who is also fearless but shrugs off his gifts like someone who almost doesn't fully understand them. He's amazing; I learned that watching him up close on Hell on Wheels and I loved being around whenever he filmed anything for Van Helsing. The beauty of this show is that people can go from dark to light and back again, thanks to the power that our vampire slayer has and this allows for endless variations of relationships with other characters. I'm excited to see where Sam ends up. 

Is there a story behind the canned peaches? Why was this chosen as the decadent post-apocalyptic treat for Mohamad and Vanessa? 

Have you ever opened a can of peaches and eaten them that way? With a fork, dripping with syrup ('natural juices' is a distant second in terms of pleasure). It was something that could happen — canned goods could still be fresh three years later, depending on the food type — and something sweet that reminds you of the past seemed like a perfect choice. Mohamad makes the most of it, I must say. He makes me hungry watching him eat (but that's actually not very hard to do with me!). I think when you're dealing with the trauma of what these people are going through, anything like canned peaches that brings you even momentary solace is a real treasure.

We love Julius' lair. What inspired this Mad Maxian stronghold of flesh, blood and industry? 

A great Production Designer and a fantastic Director of Photography. The Production Designer is James Hazell and the DP is Brendan Uegama, and both men are remarkable, quick and easy to work with. Not only that, but they each have the best teams of people around them that I've worked with in a very long time. James has an army of female colleagues (along with a few men) who are really gifted and intelligent and Brendan has the same, although a mix of men and women. These two groups took our limited resources and stretched every Canadian dollar out of it, which made us very lucky and thankful producers. As for the specifics: fire and metal and blood made sense for Julius and his followers, so Brendan and James poured it on and gave us a great space for the actors to work in.

What was your favorite scene in this episode, and why? 

This was our first episode without director Michael Nankin, so we were in new hands with David Frazee, who had a different energy and approach. It was fun to have a new set of eyes and ears and ideas on the table and I loved what David did on the set. Michael was brilliant and zen about everything and David was a ball of fire. Both exciting to watch. I like many scenes in the episode but the fight between Vanessa and the vampires under the bridge was a blast — partly because David had to work fast and on his feet throughout, but also because it's so fun to watch action sequences come together, especially when you're blending your lead (Kelly Overton) with her stunt double (Holly Raczynski) to create a seamless whole. Also, I love the ending shot of her being carried away over the tune "In the Year 2525" (which was my little contribution to the episode).