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Sewer-dwelling nightmares, impromptu lullabies and hospital shoot-'em-ups. And it's only the sixth episode!
We spoke with Neil LaBute about the events of Van Helsing Season 1, Episode 6: "Nothing Matters."
Okay, the 'bottom feeder' nightmare vampire thing in the sewer that bit Vanessa … what can you tell us about it?
We wrote in the idea of something nasty waiting in the sewers and then left it up to our great make-up team to bring it to life. We also had help from our special effects department and our VFX department, along with the creature work of the very talented Keith Arbuthnot (who devised several characters for us throughout the series). This character was one of the first to represent real threats to Vanessa along her journey; if there was nothing out there that can stop her, then she really isn’t dealing with any jeopardy in her life. You can expect this kind of beast to re-appear in subsequent seasons, along with new creatures that will put her and the others in real peril.
Susan singing the lullaby to Vanessa was very moving, and quite the surreal sight as she sings so sweetly while sitting next to a vampire corpse. What inspired this particular lullaby?
The writers wanted to have a moment that felt legitimate but tender; since Susan knew Vanessa firstly as a mother and a neighbor, it made sense that she would have heard Vanessa singing songs to her daughter and would then be able to sing these songs back to Vanessa. We even imagined that Susan might have even been a babysitter to Dylan and therefore knew the singing firsthand. This moment was a gamble but it’s the kind of little detail that really stands out if you pull it off and Hilary Jardine (who plays Susan) was just perfect in this scene.
Things are getting interesting with Rebecca and Sheema. Is some sort of Rebecca vs. Mohamad confrontation not too far away?
Things will definitely come to a head between Sheema and Rebecca and Mohamad toward the end of the season, but maybe in ways that you don't expect. These are all really fun actors and characters and I loved putting them together in scenes that pushed them dramatically forward. I'll be curious to see how the audience feels about each of them by the end of the season.
The massacre of most of Brendan's gang was shocking and amazing. Were there any other methods by which Axel could regain control of the hospital that were explored in earlier drafts or story meetings?
This was an interesting place that we found ourselves: the idea of killing people rather than vampires. At first we discussed having Vanessa do it but then when she was injured by the bottom feeder, it made more sense to have Axel do it and it became a sequence that we discussed doing all in one take. In the end, there are a few cut-aways but director Amanda Tapping mostly did the whole fight as one big choreographed piece, which was very impressive. Jonathan Scarfe (who plays Axel) was brutal and relentless in preparing for it and he executed it just right. Ultimately, it felt like the right thing to do at the right moment in the season — to show Axel to be the warrior that we always imagined him to be.
Ahhhh!! Doc seeming to take delight in sucking the blood from her finger. Is she regressing? Are all the vampires who became human again going to regress? We're freaking out. Help!
Doc is one of the most interesting characters to write about and to watch on screen, thanks to the brilliant acting of Rukiya Bernard. She has found such clever and subtle ways to turn this character on its ear and come out the other side in surprising fashion. I think her journey in the next few episodes is a really great one, so keep watching. As for regression by turned vampires … nothing is off the table, but I can't answer that question at this point (it might spoil the fun!).
What was your favorite scene in this episode, and why?
There were many scenes I really enjoyed this time around but overall I really enjoyed watching the actors and crew execute the 'kill box' sequence where Axel methodically goes about taking the hospital back from Brendan and his fellow survivors. I love the colors that Brendan (the director of photography) and Amanda Tapping (the director) used and I loved the way that Jonathan Scarfe (as Axel) moved through the action during this sequence; it was a real jolt of action, sound, color and acting that the show needed at that moment.