Oh, man. People died. Like, horribly. And it looks like there’s a new Big Bad in town, and he can walk around in sunlight! Will our heroes ever catch a break? Maybe not in this mad world, folks.
We spoke with Neil LaBute about Van Helsing Season 2, Episode 12: "Crooked Falls."
Paul Johansson has directed a couple of episodes this season. He immerses himself so deeply into the role of Dmitri that I have trouble picturing him directing out-of-character! What does he bring to Van Helsing behind the camera?
Yes, this is the second episode that Paul Johansson has directed for Van Helsing and I thought he did a terrific job of moving a number of players around the chess board and tying up a lot of story threads in our penultimate episode. This wasn't the flashiest episode or the most mind-bending, but a good director gives you exactly what you need and doesn't feel the need to put his or her handprints all over the thing so we know who's responsible. We had to fight a lot of weather during this episode but also a lot of high tension between characters — just like with Jonathan Scarfe (who directed last week's episode), it's great having an actor at the helm because they instinctively understand what their colleagues are going through and are able to help them reach vastly different emotional levels in a short period of time. Paul didn't have to act in this episode so that was a help for him, no doubt, and that allowed him to create all the strong action and dramatic beats that the episode called for.
Of course correct me if I'm mistaken, but I believe this is the first episode to introduce the moral quandary of possibly bringing a child into such a violent, mad world. What made Lucky and Flesh the right couple through which to address this issue?
While we've touched on the issue of dealing with children during a major crisis (like a vampire apocalypse, for instance) — people like Dylan and Callie and the kids in the van left behind after Vanessa killed their father, etc. — this is indeed the first time we've talked about birth and bringing a child into the world as it is now. I really liked how Lucky took control of that part of the conversation and that some things, even under duress, don't and shouldn't change — she made it clear that no matter what happens between her and Flesh, this is her baby and she's going to make whatever choices make sense to her in the situation. Andrea Ware really played these scenes beautifully and she had a great partner in Vincent Gale, an actor who digs deep into every line he's given and has created a character of great depth and humanity. I have a strong feeling that this subject will rear its head several more times during the run of the series (depending on how many seasons we are lucky enough to spend on this journey).
I'm so happy we still have Julius, but we lost Flesh and Lucky! What can you tell us about their journey through Van Helsing, and the end of it?
This was a crushing moment for a lot of us and something that we're still dealing with story-wise as we begin the long journey of getting scripts and stories ready for Season 3. We knew that "Crooked Falls" would have to have its bright and dark sides and once we put the Scarhead storyline into play, it seemed like a natural conclusion to their adventures by having them talk about becoming parents and then having that moment to fight for at the end — 'saving' their child from a life as a vampire or perhaps something even worse.
Axel was quick to get angry with Doc after it seemed like she once again left a friend to die. Loyalty and personal honor are very important to Axel — does this come strictly from his military background, or does it also come from something in his past or upbringing that hasn't been revealed yet?
I think a lot of Axel's reaction to most things is immediate and severe — yes, in the military he has been trained to be quick and decisive — but we also want part of this to be connected simply to who the man is himself. Remember the significance of the story he tells Scarlett in Episode 208 about his younger sister (losing her on the playground) — I think this moment in his life has continued to haunt him and color who he is as a person. It would be easy to just keep throwing Jonathan Scarfe into scenes and letting him be cool and kill vampires and say clever things and every so often take a shower — I think many viewers would be more than happy with that recipe. As an actor, however, Jonathan wants to stretch and so having him deal with struggling against becoming a vampire or having feelings for both Vanessa and Scarlett or letting someone get close to him (including the viewers) is what keeps a great actor on their toes and allows that character to keep from repeating itself.
I loved the revelation of Doc's actual first name. Has she always been named 'Sarah' or was this something that was decided/discovered while writing Season 2?
This is something that existed earlier — first season as we were filling in details on characters and working with the actors to create each persona — but we only pulled it into the forefront now that she is connecting with someone on a personal level and we start to see a relationship blossoming between them. Rukiya Bernard is someone who likes to be in on the creation of her character — she has even come into the writer's room and spent time with the writers, listening to story ideas and riffing on ideas of her own. That's the mark of someone who cares and it's great to be working with people who actually give a s*** about the story we're trying to tell — the ones who are there to just pick up a check are thankfully few and far between on Van Helsing and I think you can always tell when someone loves what they're doing rather than looking at it like a 'money job.' Rukiya is far from that and I feel like you get that in her work — she's committed and courageous in her work, which is an ironic contrast to her character who is often self-serving and cowardly.
The running gag of Callie being seemingly indestructible never gets old, and now she's even showing off some of her self-proclaimed "skills" with fixing the radio. Is she just going to be completely in charge of everyone and everything by, like, Season 4?
I agree! It makes me smile every time I see Callie, played by the actress Macie Juiles, escape some horrible situation or pop out of the bushes in her pink boots, still alive and on the run. This whole idea was a happy accident that the writers noticed at some point last year and it was then that I made a gentle mandate: 'Keep Callie alive at all costs.' I would love to see her make it all the way to the end of the series, just barely escaping disaster after disaster — it makes me laugh and feels honest as well. Some people are just lucky and live through things that they have no business living through, with no training or expert abilities, and that's just the way it goes in life. The perfect scenario for me would be Callie making it right up to the last episode, and then stepping out onto a street and getting hit by a military truck that is just arriving to 'save' her (but that's just my dark sense of humor). You may be right, however — by the time we finish it might be Callie sitting on top of that military vehicle and leading the way for the forces of good. Some days I also wonder what it'd be like to have a 'vampire Callie' running around… but that's another story.
Anything you can tell us about Ice, the dog who played Shadow? He couldn't help but steal a few moments.
Well, you can tell by his name that he was a little bit cold and stand-offish but I appreciated his work and respect him as a colleague. Kidding! I love dogs so the fact that he was even on set was a thrill for me — I love watching these expertly-trained animals work, especially when they're well taken care of and Ice obviously was. I did find myself on the set more often when there was an animal performer around — I got a chance to work with an enormous bear on the set of Hell on Wheels and that was a life-altering experience. So amazing and so much work! It was unreal how many specifications and rules were in place when the bear was on set. Anyway, I loved having the character of Shadow at Crooked Falls and I hope he makes a return visit some time in the future — also, I don't have a dog right now so I have to get my quality time with them when I can.
What was your favorite scene in this episode, and why?
A number of good ones this time around: loved seeing Callie give Doc a dressing down and show her skills with a ham radio, loved the return of Julius (although I think we could've handled the part of him surviving the grenade explosion during the sequence with Scarhead a bit better) and I loved hearing Axel say "goddamn apocalypse…" again. The best moment for me, however, was probably the last looks between Flesh and Lucky as they were pinned down by vampires and lucky chose to die rather than be turned into a vampire. Andrea Ware and Vincent Gale really gave depth and meaning to the little relationship that flourished between them — two top-notch actors making the very most of a handful of scenes — and I thought they really handled these final few seconds together very well. I hate to see them go as characters and just as people to hang out with on the set but our world must continue to be severe and unpredictable or it's a cheat and doesn't work. Strange things can happen and I love surprises — so stay alert — but we have to play by the rules that we've established for ourselves and our fictional world and I very much plan to do so for however long I'm associated with Van Helsing.