There's a bit of trouble going on down Denver way ...
We spoke with Neil LaBute about Van Helsing Season 3, Episode 9: "Loud Love," which aired on SYFY on Friday, November 30, 2018.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW.
My vote for the two best line readings in this episode are Julius' "Why would someone … piss in my Corn Flakes?" and Flesh's "Oh, hey, Frankie." Do you have a favorite?
Neil LaBute: Ha! Don't make me choose a favorite child! That's too hard and no fun at all — I love all these cast members equally but in different ways. I have said it a million times, but hey, you asked, so let me say again: We are so lucky to have the cast we do, and we try to give them all real, believable, tangible goals and fears and desires and all that human or vampire crap that you deserve as an actor trying to tell a long-form story about a character.
Sometimes — again like a big family — people get left out or pushed aside for a moment, but eventually we try to feed everybody at our table and not just use them as an "idea" or a "trope" or a way to hop from one adventure to the next: The people who have survived to this point are in this to try and survive, to get to the end — however many episodes we have left (fingers crossed that we get to tell a few more in the future!) is the number of deaths and funny lines and romances and whatevers that we get to tell about Vanessa and the others, and we do not take that opportunity/responsibility lightly.
We've had a few good catchphrases along the way (Axel repeatedly whispering "goddamn apocalypse…" and Vanessa growling "f*** the dark" are two of my favorites), and I hope we create a dozen or so more before we're through.
The episode's best sight gag is the morgue tech drinking from an almost completely empty bottle of whiskey in reaction to Flesh coming back to life and walking out of the morgue (the bottle being almost completely empty is, of course, key). I've heard of many different (and amusing) kinds of liquids being used to pass for liquor in film/TV/theatre productions — what does Van Helsing use?
Who says it wasn't whiskey? Anything can happen in a vampire apocalypse (and in Canada)! Actually, it was probably iced tea or root beer cut with water or something along those lines. Cream soda. Who knows? Each prop master has their own favorite solution (even coffee, believe it or not), and our props department had to constantly come up with amazing options for us in terms of food and drink and obviously blood.
Blood is one that we've spent the most time on — speaking of something you can drink — because we have the rare issue of needing blood that our cast can swallow and not get sick doing so. The trick with whiskey (or any alcoholic beverage) is that a lot of the substitutes one might use have carbonation or just don't do well with water added to lighten the color — it ruins the taste or the drink becomes flat and horrible-tasting, so getting a stand-in beverage that looks right and doesn't cause an actor to gag is a real find.
This was a fun question — and just one more of those weird "behind the scenes" things that people do seem to enjoy learning about in the TV and film industry. Hope my answer helps solve some of the mystery.
Actually, there were a lot of unexpected and delightful physical bits in this episode — Ivory elbowing Scab in the face (completely unexpected!); Julius pausing his voracious making out with Frankie to briefly consider the overturned lamp (very Julius); and Scab doing that amazing duck under the handrail as the Daywalkers descend the steps and prepare to attack the kids in the park. Do you have a favorite?
Aahhh, once again you ask me to choose between the children — and so this time, like a bad, harried, workaholic father … I will … but only because you mentioned such a beauty. First, the others: I love both the Ivory whack to Scab's face and the Julius interruption of his make-out session; those were both wonderful moments in an episode loaded with nice moments, but the Scab swing under the handrail is pretty hard to beat.
Mr. Roland Pidlubny (the man behind the mask of Scab) has continued to confound, delight and amaze in his portrayal of this character, to the point where even a simple walk down a staircase gets filtered through a new lens because of his total commitment to his character. Just one little detail, but you can't forget it, that's what Rowland keeps doing, and we love him for it. In other interviews, I've heard him speak about following the movements of ravens and other animals as he continues to evolve the Scab character, and I admire that — he just keeps looking for new ways to push the boundaries of how to build a character, and I think that's really gutsy and impressive.
There, now you've made me choose a favorite child! Hope you feel good about yourself!
Caitlyn Bruce made for a fun if short-lived villain. I love her bizarre physical gestures, such as grabbing Doc by the arms while enthusiastically claiming that they "have to take this country back — make it great again!" and later putting the tips of her fingernails on Doc's chest as a threat. I also love that she actually writes down "gene sequencer" on her evil little clipboard. She apparently met a very gruesome end, but … any chance we might be seeing her again?
Once again, we found another great actress in the Vancouver acting pool, and that's thanks to our wonderful casting director, Ms. Jackie Lind. Week after week, season after season, Jackie keeps providing us with top-notch talent like Ms. Enid-Raye Adams. The great thing about Enid-Raye is that she played a pretty dark character with a twinkle in her eye, and that's pretty Shakespearean of her ("smile and smile and be a villain"). Her bouncy attitude and mean little looks and gestures were kind of perfect for the part, and she seemed to relish every naughty moment we sent her way. I also loved the way she died, bleeding and wild-eyed and panicking: the way a person really would die.
And when I say "die," well, who knows? The strangest people have found a way to show up again on the show, so only time will tell. I, for one, would welcome her back, because she was so game and so easy to work with — time and again I've found the Canadian cast and crew being worth waking up to work with in the morning: great people who suck it up, have a laugh and get the job done.
As for the "make it great again!" line … that was almost too easy, but hey, take your shots where you can, and so we did … I mean, come on, we're talking about America here, and actually, I do think the U.S. of A. is pretty great, even with its many, many flaws (did I mention that we have a few flaws?). "Democracy" — it's way south of perfect, but it's better than almost anything else out there on the market — and that's kind of how BlakTek imagines itself: doing a little harm in the hopes of doing lots and lots of good (big pharma, i'm looking at you… !).
The birthing scene was terrific — I may have had a mild panic attack while watching it (partly because I still don't completely trust that baby). Axel doesn't have the best bedside manner (I love that he exclaims "Goddammit!" in frustration while trying to turn the baby around), but he gets the job done with an impromptu C-section. What were the considerations when structuring this scene in terms of SFX and VFX?
Never trust a baby, especially in a vampire apocalypse! Who knows what will happen with that thing… only time (and the crazy collective minds in the writers' room) will tell! It's a really tense scene, and everybody involved handled it really well, especially Mr. Jonathan Scarfe and Ms. Maddie Phillips. However, you are correct when you ask about the effects teams (VFX and SFX), because both were involved, but mostly SFX in this particular case. Lots of "real" blood (fake blood but blood that's actually there in the scene) and sweat and even some tears (although the artificial tears — if needed — are usually provided by the makeup team).
For all the horrible deaths and killings and things we've had on Van Helsing, I must say the birth of a baby and the loss of its mother is one of the more tense moments we've cooked up on the show. It's probably because they are real emotions that anyone human can understand — it's a real suspension of disbelief to imagine vampires around and the insane genre world that we've created — but hate and love and anger and pain, all those emotions that you and I and other people feel on a daily basis, those are the ones that really move us when we see them realistically done, even on a fictional show.
That's our secret weapon on the show: characters, both large and small, that you care about and when they die, it honestly makes us sad, and that is a pretty amazing magic trick.
Jolene's jail scenes are made all the more unnerving by the taunting voices of the unseen convicts — some great voice acting there. Does Van Helsing have a go-to ADR team, or are the voice characters cast specifically for each particular scene?
What we have is an amazing team of post-production artists, including soaring supervisors, editing shamans, color timing gurus and sound sorcerers (I just made all those names up!). I've mentioned the team at Propeller before, but I'll do so again, led by Mr. Frank Laratta, and that's where all the great voice work gets done. I'm sure there is a core unit of voice actors that are used, but each sound company does things a bit differently and I don't know their exact process.
What I do know is the wonderful product they offer us each episode, and it's been a hugely fruitful collaboration for three seasons now. This kind of genre show requires both realistic and supernatural elements, and that's a tall order — it's also a lot of fun to do, more than just doing doorbells and office noises and things like that. I think for most of us who work on Van Helsing, part of the fun is doing something that's pretty unique in our careers; a lot of jobs are so straightforward that this vampire apocalypse comes as a breath of fresh air and a unique and particular challenge.
Another great character added to the Van Helsing universe: Shawn MacDonald as the clerk. I love how he turns every possible scenario into one of Danielle Steel-level romantic intrigues, probably to escape what's probably a very boring job. He's also considerably more unfriendly with Flesh than he was with Julius — is Flesh not only doomed to never die but also to just inspire conflict wherever he goes?
Happy that you enjoyed the performance of Mr. Shawn MacDonald as much as I did — his approach to the clerk really made me laugh, and it was fun to see him pop up more than once in the narrative. He's definitely got an edge as well, and that's what makes his appearances so funny. He had a cheerful little back-and-forth with Julius previously, but this time there's a few more sparks when dealing with Flesh, and the payoff is pretty sublime.
As for Flesh, this guy has basically just lost his filter: He seems destined to live forever now, and he just does and says whatever comes to mind. I really love the scene where he realizes that the only way he might ever be reunited with his wife is if he commits a crime like murder: Immediately he steals a gun and shoots a guard in the chest. Boom! This guy doesn't mess around anymore. Flesh has been through a lot, and Mr. Vincent Gale makes us feel every agonizing choice and every bit of hateful shame that he's felt along the way — Vincent might not actually be aware that we're doing a vampire show and thinks it's a Greek tragedy instead, but I'm totally okay with that; we need a few people in the cast to go for broke with their emotions, week and week, and for us one of those people has been Vincent.
And to answer your question: Yes, Flesh is cursed to bring a lot of heartbreak to himself and those around him.