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This Eden is just chock full of snakes. Vampire snakes! (And a few human ones, too.)
We spoke with Neil LaBute about the trouble in paradise that went down in Van Helsing Season 1, Episode 10: "Stay Away."
Theo's so handsome it kind of makes us want to punch ourselves in the face. Where'd you find him?
Ha! I like that it makes you want to punch yourself in the face rather than him in the face — I guess you could call that progress. We're still a violent society but we've learned to now take out our anger and aggression on ourselves instead of others. Hey, that could be a new series on Syfy! Anyway, his name is Christopher Russell and he was a pretty obvious choice for the part of Theo, although there was a moment when some producers thought "This guy is just too good looking …" For me, Christopher was perfect — handsome face, in great shape and had acting chops on top of that; exactly what we needed and, after all, we're supposed to be in a place called Eden, so what else would you expect other than someone perfect? Having just lost Axel from the cast, it was nice to have someone whom the audience could identify with and want to see in a possible relationship with Vanessa.
Magdalena might be our new favorite vampire with her perfect mix of menace and tragedy. What inspired her character?
She was another product of our excellent writer's room. We had three very fine female minds in the room — Jackie May, Karen Lam and Shevon Singh — who were always pushing us to not only create strong characters but specifically strong female characters, on both sides of the apocalyptic line (humans and vampires). Magdalena was a fun one because of who she turns out to have been before The Rising and what her twisted relationship is with Micah, the man who runs the little community of Eden (played with great flair by Tom Cavanagh). Gwynyth Walsh is the actress who brought the character to life and she instantly made her a wonderful creation — both attractive and repulsive and really fun to watch on screen.
The unholy pact between Micah and Magdalena had us thinking that there are probably all sorts of such dark arrangements between human communities and vampires around the world. Will we be moving out of the Seattle area in future episodes, or in Season 2?
Yes, ultimately this series will spend a lot of time on the road, no matter how many times it stops to search for something or fight someone or help someone else — there are ultimate quests and shorter chores to be done by several characters that will take us to various dark places across the United States and put the characters into jeopardy while facing both new forms of vampires and even more ruthless and cruel human predators. As they say, "You ain't seen nothing yet …" (that's a reference to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Canadian band from my childhood that I now hear a lot of again on the radio in Vancouver where we make the series).
Sam murdering Xavier is definitely one of the most harrowing moments of the series so far. Was the reunion between Sam and Mohamad always planned to have such a dark twist?
Yes, I think the actors and the director, Simon Barry (also one of our head writers), did a wonderful job of making this fight frightening since they shot it all in one take, in silence, with two men fighting to maintain control of the blade that Sam pulls out of his pocket. Later we added a few cutaways to Mohamad but I really loved it when it was just the two men locked in battle all the way up to the death of the Xavier character. Chris Heyerdahl has such a strange and benevolent look on his face after he kills the man — really good stuff. We knew that Mohamad and Sam would see each other again but this was the writer's room again looking for a way to put a unique spin on a very traditional kind of scene; I think we were very successful this time around.
Doc howling in anguish amongst the infant skeletons was an amazing image. The poor thing … is she ever going to find redemption?
Yes, that's a really nice moment and I love the version of "Blue Moon" that comes in and plays over it and the end credits. Rukiya Bernard, who plays Doc, just keeps knocking all of her scenes out of the park and I can't wait to see what happens to her in the future. One thing I can say for sure is that she will be back in Season 2 and I look forward to seeing what choices she makes out there in the wilderness. She now finds herself in such an interesting place — can't go backward, so forward or sideways are the only options — and that can make a person become pretty desperate sometimes.
What's your favorite scene in this episode, and why?
Well, one thing I'll say is this was a very full and long episode and we had to lose a lot of wonderful material along the way, especially some really brilliant moments from Vincent Gale (when Flesh was confessing his sins to Micah). I really hated cutting those scenes — and a number of other good ones — but television is ruthless; these episodes must be timed out exactly to the second (thanks to the commercials) and so you have very little flexibility in the end to do exactly what you want. It was also great to get Mohamad back with the core group again — that makes me happy and it'll be good to see what comes of that reunion. That said, my favorite scene is probably when Doc and Vanessa are in the infirmary and Doc is confronted with the truth of what really happened to Axel back at The Farm. When Vanessa banishes Doc from the group, it is a really beautiful moment of acting between Kelly Overton and Rukiya Bernard; very simple but it takes your breath away.