Hey, we're in Denver! And San Francisco. The gang's all split up as we traverse further into the vampire apocalypse, but at least Axel's back in uniform.
We spoke with Neil LaBute about this week's episode of Van Helsing, which introduced many new characters as many new layers were added to some of our old friends.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Van Helsing Season 3, Episode 5: "Pretty Noose."
Again, this feels strange to say in the context of an apocalyptic vampire series, but one of my all-time favorite scenes on the show is now the emotional exchange between Doc and Jolene in their apartment. No one can do self-loathing quite like Doc, but she added so many new layers to her character in this scene, and only in a handful of minutes. I've always loved Rukiya Bernard's portrayal, but this took it to a whole new level. What went into writing and preparing that scene?
Neil LaBute: Thank you for the nice words about the actors, in particular Rukiya Bernard and Caroline Cave in this instance, but throughout our three seasons we've had a bevy of really great characters and actors to play them. We are lucky, but honestly to me it's a vital ingredient of a show if you want to survive: You must have actors/characters that the audience wants to follow every week. Mind you, they don't have to love them — Sam in particular is someone that many viewers love to hate, but he's so interesting that you have to see what happens to him. You care about characters like that in a very specific, visceral way, and that's very true of Doc and Jolene. They really played all the fun and discomfort of that scene and made it their own. Week after week, our cast just steps up to the plate and knocks these emotional or comedic scenes out of the park, and still manages to keep the stakes of the apocalyptic elements high as well — I love what actors do, and I try to let them know that. They are our direct conduits to hours of adventure that we spend with them each week.
It's great to see Axel in uniform again, and he seems to be enjoying it as well. Finally back in his own "skin," especially after his tenure as a vampire. His exclamation of "Regulators! Let's mount up!" -- is that a direct quote from Young Guns (1988)?
No one was happier to be back to basics than Jonathan Scarfe, who plays Axel. Much of last season he had to play a person changing into a vampire, and he fought that with all his being — that was a fascinating performance — but now he's back and doing what he was born to do. He has a great command of himself and his physicality, and I think all the cast and guests feel comfortable with him and "safe," too, like you might in a situation like the one on the show. Axel feels like he's in control and it works; you need that guy in an apocalypse, and Mr. Scarfe plays it with panache and humor. He doesn't fight doing a shirtless scene, and he doesn't shy away from the violence; Jonathan understands exactly what part Axel plays in our universe and what his audience wants. He gives them that, then he turns around and breaks your heart (just wait) or screams at someone and scares the s*** out of you. Axel is very real to me, and I am glad to have him back in cammo (and yes, Young Guns is the quote!).
Axel also got to mutter his signature "Goddamn apocalypse" line in this episode … right before he got sucked into the void. The firefight with the B'ah is easily one of the most terrifying sequences of the series so far, and the use of fog and mist was excellent in heightening the sense of vulnerability and claustrophobia. What went into choreographing and constructing this scene?
If you thought that firefight was fun, just wait until Episode 306 — some epic action awaits you. The whole thing was very well orchestrated by one of our favorite directors returning for two episodes, Mr. Jason Priestley, along with our brilliant stunt coordinator, Mr. Kimani Smith, and our amazing new director of photography this season, Mr. Ron Richard. Lots of other departments as well, including production design, props, SFX, VFX, etc., and together these artists created a really fun environment in a relatively bland but cavernous building. A few vivid pops of red and some atmospheric lighting and we had a wonderful playing space, and play we did; Jason really knows how to direct actors and to keep it light on the set — he's also just a warm person and a "can-do" kind of director, and people blossom around that kind of energy. He has repeatedly given us great work on the show, and we're lucky to have him in the Van Helsing family.
Haha, oh, Jared. He hasn't changed much since Season 1 (and, like, the second episode of Season 1, am I correct?), has he? Without ruining any surprises, are there any other characters from yesterseasons that might be returning? Any vague hints you can give, at least?
So glad you noticed Jared! That was a callback to the past that was just too juicy to resist! We would love to do more of that when it's possible, and we do have plans for more of that kind of thing down the road if we're given more road — right now we're waiting to see if we get renewed for another season, so who knows? — but if we do tell more stories in the Van Helsing history, I can think of a number of characters I'd like to bring back. I really miss vampires like Dmitri and Rebecca, and I can see more of that particular story being told, and we're always looking for ways to bring Hilary Jardine back. Van Helsing is essentially a "road show" — always on the move — so it's tricky to realistically be able to go back to places and to revisit stories, but families like the Johnsons and characters like Felix and Antanasia will always be welcome.
There seems to be something a little … off about Denver. Am I on the right track in assuming there might be something sinister beneath its seemingly "normal" facade?
What kind of vampire genre show would we be if everybody got to Denver and everything was okay and they lived happily ever after? What a crappy series that would be! Of course things are too good to be true in Denver, but the cracks in the facade will come from many different directions and hopefully surprise you a bit. It will take a while, and a few really surprising, funny, sad, and wild things will happen first, but just like the ancient city of Troy, Denver is going to have to deal with certain outsiders who promise death and destruction — who will live and who will die? Those are the big questions (along with keeping some romances burning, starting new ones, ending others, etc.). Be prepared for mayhem!
Tell me about the actor who plays Barry, aka the Burier, just one of many great new cast members in this episode. I want to be best friends with him.
Mr. Michael Jonsson arrived like someone just off the boat from Vikings and ended up being a big, lovable bear of a character, another example of the fantastic pool of actors in Vancouver and the casting witchcraft of Ms. Jackie Lind. The writers keep writing fun characters like Barry, and then wham! Just like that, we have these great actors to choose from, and so this time it was Mr. Jonsson's turn. He brought a great physicality to the role, of course, but also a humor and an innocence that was just priceless. He has some delightful scenes ahead, and he really made the most of a relatively small part. Who knows what the future might hold for Barry, but I do know that Mr. Jonsson has a bright career ahead of him.
Have Aleks Paunovic and Vincent Gale considered doing a stage production of The Odd Couple? After seeing their apartment scene together, I don't think there's a better possible Oscar and Felix (respectively) working today. They'd have to find a way to fit in the microwave joke, though.
What a great idea! There's a really strong theatre scene in Vancouver, and Mr. Vincent Gale in particular has a vivid history as a theatre actor (Mr. Aleks Paunovic comes out of the music and sports worlds instead). It was so fun to see these former vampires setting up house together and sharing a few new scenes as well (they have some really great stuff coming up in a local bar, as well as their domestic moments). I think those two would be brilliant as Oscar and Felix … or Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello, for that matter. The difference in their sizes, their performance approaches, etc., really set them up to be very funny together, but they also kill their more emotional moments together as well. Lucky us. We love having these two back this season, and while I usually terrorize Aleks with rumors of his death, I would be just as happy if Mr. Paunovic and Mr. Gale carry on with us for a long time to come (maybe we'll just rip one of their arms off or something).