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SYFY WIRE Renfield

Ben Schwartz on how Jean-Ralphio of 'Parks and Recreation' inspired his 'Renfield' character

Get a load of mobster Teddy Lobo when Renfield opens Friday, April 14!

By Brian Silliman & Josh Weiss
Renfield Trailer

Imagine pissing off Count Dracula and the mob in one fell swoop. Such is the dilemma faced by Nicholas Hoult's title character in the upcoming Renfield movie directed by Chris McKay (hitting theaters everywhere April 14). When he decides to quit the employment of the most famous vampire of all time, the ferrety R.M. Renfield incurs the wrath of ol' Drac (played here by Nicolas Cage) and New Orleans' criminal underworld.

The latter takes the form of Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz), who strikes a Faustian deal with the undead bloodsucker in an effort to gain the approval of his icy crime boss of a mother (Shohreh Aghdashloo). Sitting down with Universal Pictures for a press junket interview regarding the genre-bending project, Schwartz confessed that Teddy's personality is partly based on that of his fan favorite Parks and Recreation character, the highly obnoxious co-founder of 720 Entertainment, Jean-Ralphio Saperstein.

RELATED: 'Renfield' director Chris McKay says horror-comedy draws from every corner of 'Dracula history'

"Amy Poehler had the best line where she said, ‘I’ve turned the character Jean-Ralphio into a little puppy where even when he pees on something, you’re like, 'Ugh, Jean Ralphio.' You can’t get too mad," said the actor/comedian. "I try to do that, I try to make you feel the heart of the character enough where when they do something stupid or something bad, you feel for them and you’re like, ‘Ohhh ... it’s bad! Don’t do that again! But it’s kind of adorable.’"

With that said, Schwartz doesn't want audiences to get the wrong idea about the ambitious mobster. Teddy, he affirmed, is a very deplorable dude. "He’s trying to kill people, he’s doing drugs," Schwartz says. "He’s such a bad person where I think putting that element in there is really fun because you’re like, ‘How am I rooting for this terrible human being?’ I think that’s the fun of it."

Speaking directly to SYFY WIRE, Schwartz confirmed that Teddy and Jean-Ralphio "would, unfortunately" be best friends if they existed within the same universe.

"I think Jean-Ralphio was the nice version, but Teddy can get him into the clubs," he said. "Are you kidding me? By the way, that's a really fun idea. But the idea that Jean-Ralphio, all he wants to be is around money and look cool and stuff like that. But Jean-Ralphio never knows he's doing something bad. He always thinks he's nailing it. He always thinks he's looking cool. Teddy is trying so hard and he knows what he's doing is... whatever. But them together would be a perfect team."

Benjamin Schwartz, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Nicolas Cage in Renfield (2023)

Renfield currently holds a fresh score of 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics are, unsurprisingly, enamored with Cage's delightfully hammy performance as Bram Stoker's indelible horror creation.

"Meeting him for the first time, you get in the tractor beam like, 'Oh my goodness. This is Nic Cage. I'm talking to Nic Cage,'" Schwartz remembered during his conversation with us. "And then I got to talk to him as a person. I'm like, 'Oh, okay, great. Now you get to meet him. Now we can act together.' But he looks like Dracula. He was choking me like Dracula, so it was so easy to ... I was supposed to be scared of him and it was the easiest thing in the universe to do that."

But who enjoys the bigger reputation: Nic Cage or Dracula? "That's the real question, right?" Schwartz mused when we placed the query before him. "Who's been around longer? I think Nic Cage has been around for a long time."

Renfield arrives on the big screen this Friday, April 14. You can pick up tickets right now on Fandango.

Need to satisfy your vampire craving sooner? Check out SYFY's Reginald the Vampire, which is set to return later this year for a second season. Or head on over to Peacock, where Vampire Academy is now in session! While there, you can also check out all seven seasons of Parks and Recreation.