Something's rotten in the city of Denver! We spoke with Neil LaBute about this week's episode of Van Helsing.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Van Helsing Season 3, Episode 6, "Like Suicide," which aired on November 9, 2018.
The B'ah's physicality is a lot of fun (and unpredictable), but what's most striking about her is her multi-layered voice. What was the initial concept and approach behind it?
Neil LaBute: These Elder characters have turned out to be a lot of fun, and there is even more fun to come in future episodes (hint, hint!), but at the center of them has been good writing by the longtime Van Helsing writers and then careful casting of great actors to bring them to life (including Mr. Keith Arbuthnot, Ms. Hilary Jardine, and now Ms. Jennifer Spence). We have smartly given each free rein to add words and movement to these characters, and the results have been outstanding. Jennifer had a small role in the first episode of Van Helsing, and when we were casting the B'ah, I asked why shouldn't we bring her back? She's amazing and can easily create a new person for us, and we have a history of finding ways to get people in the VH family back in front of a camera. This time it worked out amazingly well again — she brought a wonderfully weird stillness to the part, and the voice was done by our brilliant post-production sound team at Propeller Studios, led by the awesome Mr. Frank Laratta.
Ha, is Jared ever going to catch a break? Or am I kinda missing the point with him?
I'm not sure what a guy like Jared would do if he ever did catch a break — he might just turn it into another opportunity to act creepy with someone else. I think what's fun about this character (and also true about him) is that people are funny and even in extreme situations, like a vampire apocalypse, for instance, are capable of the same kinds of behavior they exhibited when life was easier or quieter or whatever. It's important to remember that and to clock that within our universe — emergencies don't always bring out the best in people, it often just distills, increases, and magnifies the kind of behavior that a person is used to exhibiting.
Hats off to Mr. Aidan Kahn for his embracing of the character and going for it every time we bring him back — he follows the advice of This Is Spinal Tap and turns the smarm up to eleven. Like the ever-resourceful young survivor Callie (Ms. Macie Juiles), Jared just might be the kind of person who will make it through a mass tragedy simply by stubbornly living on in the same way that they always did — never looking back, always plowing straight ahead and never taking "no" for an answer. Ironically, what made him a bit of a stalker/predator in life may now be his saving grace.
Oof, Flesh's stand-up monologue was quite something, and timing the "punchline" to one of Denver's semi-frequent brown-outs was very effective (and unexpected). Any behind-the-scenes tidbits you can share about this scene?
Mr. Vincent Gale. Say those words with me: Mr. Vincent Gale. There's nothing the guy can't do, and when we came up with this idea, Flesh pushing a terrible vampire comedian (because they would surely exist in this world, wouldn't they?) offstage and mocking the audience for laughing before plunging into his own story, which is taken to be a comedy act… until it's not, we knew this would be a highlight of Vince's work this season. Like always, we prepped the space and then got out of the way and just let Vince go to work — like any smart director of actors, Mr. Jason Priestley created a mood and a work space and then stepped aside and let Vince weave his magic. Perfect match of material and actor — he killed this one — and after having to remove a brilliant monologue that he did two years before in the Eden episode, I knew I would fight to keep every second of this scene intact.
Big kudos also to the man who just walked into casting off the street wearing his own Dracula costume and nailed the audition: Mr. Andy Thompson as Count Laughula. Just hilarious and no shame at all. Amazing.
And oof, Flesh jumped. I'm happy he had a moment of reconciliation and peace with Julius before he did, but there's something about this latest "stunt" of his that seems permanent. Or is he destined to be the Kenny of Van Helsing?
It did look kind of permanent, didn't it? A fall of 15 stories will do that to a person… but thankfully, Flesh is not just anybody. That's not a spoiler, because we do love to kill people, and sometimes right as they are finding a moment of bliss, but you'll just have to wait and see with Flesh. No matter what happens next, if anything, it's been a really incredible journey with an actor that I admire and an acting team (adding his frequent co-star and straight man, Mr. Aleks Paunovic as Julius) that is second to none, it's been so fun, personally and professionally, to watch these actors take our material and make it come to life in the most unexpected, painful, and human of ways.
What a cast we have — every time I write about one of them it makes me think about the rest of them, and it reminds just how damn lucky SYFY has been to have such a huge collection of talent available for one show over the last three seasons. Bravo, cast of Van Helsing, bravo! Take a bow, you bastards!
Axel had a fun "flying monkeys" reference with the B'ah in this episode. Between that and his Young Guns quote from last week, is he outlining some sort of epic crossover fan fiction?
Hey, don't forget the Tic Tac joke he made at great personal expense as well — I think this speaks more to an actor, Mr. Jonathan Scarfe, who is running in perfect rhythm with his character and writers who know just how to write him now more than it does to any notion of us being clever clever about the future. Who knows what will happen? Axel might not even make it through this season (not a spoiler!) let alone spin off into another universe or a show of his own.
However, the Axel Kicks the Absolute Ass of Anyone Who Gets in Front of Him show would be one that I'd be interested in working on, so take that for what you will, SYFY!
More than anything, people often fall back on humor, sometimes pitch-black humor, to keep their sanity in moments of extreme peril, and I think this character often does just that: He makes himself and others laugh and see that, for all the bad things around them, they are still alive and kicking, and that makes all the difference in a vampire apocalypse.
This is more an observation than a question. There were a lot of nice small character moments in this episode, though one I wanted to call attention to was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment with Julius. There's something about his small exhale/gasp upon seeing all of the volumes of the Registry that was just terrific. I love all the subtlety Aleks Paunovic brings to his character -- it's hard to believe that Julius was once one of the most violent and, well, relatively non-subtle characters of Season 1.
Glad you noticed that moment! I didn't until I was in the editing room, and I was on the set as the scene was being shot — those are the glorious little surprises that await you as you're putting a show together, and it honestly keeps you going through the last stages of the process. Little nuggets of gold like that. Look, there's an obvious difference between characters and actors, and Mr. Aleks Paunovic has been very vocal about how much he loves the show and his character, and for all the fun I've had taunting him about his upcoming death, he's been like a great shortstop/captain on a baseball team — a fan favorite, a huge piston in the engine that is Van Helsing and someone that makes you actually enjoy the work because of their unbridled passion and joy at being part of the process.
Frankly, it makes me sick.
Just kidding! It's infectious, and that big lug of a man makes me smile every time I see him, on set or in life, and being a big lug of a man myself I get it: It's nice to be around nice people. Pretty simple, really, and if they're talented on top of that then it's just about the best way of creating that you can hope for in a business that can be cold, transitory, and kind of faceless a lot of the time.
Axel's got a new lady! I miss Wanda, but this new vehicle looks set to make quite an impression. Anything we should look forward to? Missiles or an oil slick?
Rhonda! We love that big new beast of a truck, and yes, Axel couldn't be happier, but I do hope there's a way to see Wanda again, because, well, because she was a thing of beauty and deserves to be seen again. Maybe we can find some way for Susan to come back as the driver of Wanda — that would be kind of perfect. On Van Helsing, you should always expect the unexpected, and yes, you'll see Axel behind the wheel of Rhonda a few more times this season.
Fun fact: Two trucks had to play the part of Rhonda, as the first one you see, in Episode 5 and 6, was gorgeous but couldn't run on the road, and so we had to call on our tireless transportation team to find us another truck that could stand in and play the part on the road — imagine finding a matching truck to that behemoth! All I can say is this, we still have both of those beauties in storage, and if SYFY gives us the chance to tell more stories about these characters — come on, SYFY, renew us! — you can count on seeing one or both of those beautiful monsters back on the road.