Wanda's back on the Fury Road. Axel's human again. And Dmitri hit the disco. You never know what the vampire apocalypse will bring!
We spoke with Neil LaBute about Van Helsing Season 2, Episode 7: "Everything Changes."
1. Dmitri Night Fever might be my favorite teaser on the show to date. Was it always the plan to have him fleeing from a disco?
Glad you liked that one! We had a great time doing it and our costume designer, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh, really outdid herself on that one. Powder blue is a powerful color and Paul Johansson wears it well and I must say, he is not just a terrific actor but also a good sport. He has put up with endless amounts of make-up in this role, a very chilly 'blood bath' with his sister and now a pair of white platform shoes. How much lower can we go? The sad news is: even lower. We still have many challenges ahead for Dmitri and Paul did them with a smile on his face and the good of the show in his heart. I don't remember if we were set on the disco era as a time for learning more about Dmitri and his time at The Farm but the timing of it made sense and we thought a disco would be a natural place for a vampire to hide out and even find a few willing victims along the way. It was a lot of fun to do, even though for story and time we weren't able to go inside the disco but only watch as Dmitri left the premises in a hurry.
2. Vanessa going into berserker mode after drinking Scarlet's blood was great! What kind of training regimen did Kelly Overton do for this season?
That moment is one of my favorites this season and it's becoming a Kelly Overton specialty: turning Vanessa up a notch and becoming frighteningly intense. The fact that she gets a bit high off of the blood that she's been drinking and it pushes her to another level (the guys from This is Spinal Tap would say it takes her 'up to eleven') is something I really like and would want to investigate if we get a chance to go further with the series. Because of where she began as a character, we are able to take Vanessa in a lot of different directions and I do really like the idea of someone becoming a lot like the thing that they're trying to destroy in the first place. As for Kelly and her regimen, you're better off talking to her about that but she's always approached the role very physically and even while pregnant tried to do as much as she could — I'm sure her workout routine was different in Season 2 but whatever she was up to, that moment when she bites Scarlet and then freaks out with an axe in one hand and a hammer in the other is pretty damn good.
3. Hooray Wanda! Where was she in-between seasons? Did she have to be reconstructed in any way?
Even during Season 1, we all thought that we'd like to see Wanda again so we made general story plans to return to the vehicle at some point in Season 2 and made sure that our transportation team held onto the ambulance over the hiatus. I think she was stored in a garage somewhere and came back when we needed her — and yes, there were some changes inside which the actors pointed out when we got to the set. A changed seat or two and one or two different props as well but mostly she was the same great machine that we used in our escape from the hospital. She'll have a tough go of it again this year but if we manage to get a Season 3 then I hope we could fire her up again if the story works that way.
4. The show became a little less stressful when Axel became human again. But then he died! But then he came back. Whew! I'm very glad he's alive, but was there ever a point when the writing team was considering leaving him dead and buried?
I really love what Jonathan Scarfe and Kelly Overton did with the moment when Axel is brought back from the brink of vampirism. We stretched that story point out for quite a few episodes so we needed to make it worthwhile when he turned again — we also needed to have him go through a death and rebirth as well to help illustrate what it was that made Vanessa balk at the idea of just biting him and getting it over with. Vanessa likes Axel a lot, I think, as much as anybody can in this apocalyptic nightmare that she's living in, so to finally give in and bite him, feeling the relief of it working and then losing him and burying him, only to feel again that he's alive and running back and digging him up with her bare hands — all that stuff is rich stuff for an actor and Kelly made a meal out of it. Almost two meals! I really love what she does in episode 207 and of course that's why so many people love her and her character, because of how tough she can be and how vulnerable at the same time. Not everybody can pull that off in a believable way but I think she has the gift and it was nice to showcase both ends of her spectrum in a single episode.
5. Doc and Axel's reconciliation was very moving. However, I have a feeling that Doc's redemption arc isn't quite complete. Are there more harrowing challenges in store for her?
You may be right about that! I think Doc is going to have many more twists and turns in her story before she's through — part of that is because she really is the 'every person' of the show — no matter how you feel about her, she's probably a lot closer to how most people would act in the midst of a vampire apocalypse than what Axel or Vanessa do. Of course we all want to think of ourselves as heroes but in reality most people would be s*** scared and either die or panic or make the same kind of morally questionable mistakes that Doc makes every season. That's why I like her so much — and also thanks to Rukiya Bernard's brilliant portrayal of her — because I think she acts just like I would during a real s***storm of trouble. Anyway, you're absolutely right on when you say that Doc still has a long way to go before she'll ever feel redemption or have other people feel that way about her. The nice thing that's starting to happen is that there is another character on the horizon who seems to see the real Doc and I hope their connection will continue to grow… we shall see.
6. What was your favorite scene to film in this episode, and why?
As much as I enjoy watching vampires get the s*** kicked out them (I secretly pretend that they're Nazis — it's a childhood thing) and had a great time watching Missy [Pergrym] and Kelly tear up the stunt guys during the big fight — and director Kaare Andrews did a nice job with that sequence -- I think seeing Vanessa and Axel together again was the highlight for me. It has been a long time coming and we got just a taste of it last episode so the richness of seeing her bite him and his turning human again, only to die and Vanessa react so emotionally to that, followed by the burial and then his resurrection… that was a very special part of the episode for me. Great writing from the team of Jeremy Smith and Matt Venables and deep acting by two of the best actors we've got (and we have a huge stable of really great actors, especially for a genre show). As you can see from the end of the episode, which I also thought was well staged and edited and musically supervised, the reunion might be short-lived but it felt really good while it lasted. Who knows what the future will bring? Well, actually I do… but I'm not telling. Not yet, anyway.