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The siege of the hospital, the return of Balthazar and the unleashing of a sweet little ambulance called Wanda. We spoke with Neil LaBute about the many memorable moments of Van Helsing Season 1, Episode 7: "For Me."
This was the most action-packed episode yet. Did any particular movies or TV shows of yesteryear inspire the look and choreography of the many battles?
Glad you enjoyed it! We've been influenced by a number of great movies and/or sequences in movies, everything from The Great Escape to Oldboy, but we keep trying to put our own spin on things. We had a really gifted fight/stunt choreographer named Kimani Ray Smith who kept things fresh and inventive — special mention should also go out to Kelly's stunt double named Holly Racynski, who worked overtime to seamlessly blend her work into the fabric of who Vanessa is and how she moves. In terms of the fall of the hospital, though, we just tried to push out a big episode and make it a great halfway point in the season — it needed to be a 'no turning back' moment for us and I think it worked out very well.
We love the pre-battle blood ritual with Julius and his warriors - so macho and sensual at the same time. What inspired it?
That was a little bit of business devised by our great director, Amanda Tapping, and the man who plays Julius so brilliantly, Aleks Paunovic. Someone gave them a blood bag and they really ran with the idea — I loved the way the sequence ended up looking: weirdly beautiful. We thought it was a wonderful idea to have this quiet moment before the carnage got started and Aleks and his fellow actors all helped create this odd but almost spiritual little moment out there in the streets of Vancouver.
Poor Catherine! Poor Nicole! Is there anyone safe from this season's hit list?
Hopefully the audience will never feel safe when rooting for characters to survive — that's the fun of a series like this! If we only killed off extras or people who we specifically brought in to set up as a character one week, only to kill them the next, it starts to feel calculated and cheap. Life during chaos like this has to be surprising and horrible and we have to lose people that we love along the way. Both Alison Wandzura and Sarah Desjardins were so great to work with and created very vivid characters in a short amount of time; I hated to kill them off but somebody's gotta go in an apocalypse scenario — their time was up and so we had to be strong and bring on the havoc.
We were surprised by the return of Balthazar, and the idea of a former vampire remaining loyal to the vampire cause is an intriguing one. Was it always the plan to have him come back in some capacity?
I don't honestly remember who first brought up this idea in the writing room — there are a lot of clever people in there — but I remember loving it when it came up. Even in a world like the one we've created, there would be traitors and collaborators and turncoats and cowards and all kinds of bad people. The idea that when someone has been turned back from being a vampire they will become human again and make better choices is absurd; look at all the lousy choices people make every day. I love that Balthazar goes right back to working and living with the vampires he was recently with and now his being human helps them in a way that no vampire can help them.
Okay, that sweet tricked-out Mad Max ambulance. Where can we get one?
That rig was courtesy of our art department and transportation department, so I'd start by writing to Mr. James Hazell (who drew up the plans and oversaw the transformation of a local ambulance into Axel’s badass machine called 'Wanda'). I hope this is one piece of equipment that makes a reappearance in seasons to come — when it bursts out of the hospital and takes to the streets of Seattle is a great moment from Episode 7.
What was your favorite scene in this episode, and why?
This episode was packed with great moments and wonderful scenes — terrific action sequences and some nice bits of drama. I love when many of the characters are up on the rooftop and in the midst of a conversation when Dmitri's death squad appears on the streets and I love the final escape by ambulance (and the terrific song that accompanies the scene). That said, there’s a little scene between Axel and Vanessa when she asks what's going to happen to her if the vampires get inside the hospital; Axel implies that he'll kill her if he has to and the look on Kelly Overton's face is so perfect — filled with surprise and hurt and despair — that it has become my favorite few seconds in Episode 7. The human face always wins out over pyrotechnics in my world.