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Oh, man. Axel's not really dead, is he?
We speak with Neil Labute about Van Helsing Season 1, Episode 9: "Help Out."
Axel having to deal with disposing of John's body while hungover was an amusing macabre touch. Off-camera, who would you say is the funniest person in the Van Helsing cast?
Off-camera I would say without question that I was the funniest person on set (since I'm writing this it's very easy for me to say this) but you asked about the cast and that makes me have to choose someone over the others, which is not an easy thing — not because I don't want to play favorites (I'm happy to) but because the entire group was very funny and fun and open and always ready to laugh at themselves or others. For the kind of work that we were doing (often dark and dirty and covered in blood and during a rainy winter in Vancouver), this was a very friendly and happy cast and crew. We tried not to take any part of the process too seriously and I think that allowed us to get through the long days and the weather and the moments where it feels like you're just too tired to go on.
Susan's just kind of lovable hot mess, isn't she? We're rooting for her, but it seems like she's got one foot in the abyss. Anything you can tell us about where she's headed?
Susan is a really fun character — I've loved watching her grow along the way. Hilary Jardine did a killer job with this role and she just got better and better with every episode. She and Vanessa turn out to be very close in the next few episodes (even physically) and Hilary and Kelly [Overton] played all of this very gently and realistically. There are a few genuine twists and turns ahead for Susan (and all of the survivors) and I think the audience is going to enjoy the ride, even when it gets dark or unexpected.
Oof. At this point is it okay to not like Sheema very much? So much treachery!
Yes, Sheema is starting to play the power game very well — it's hard to know which side she's on and I think that's an interesting contrast to her brother Mohamad, who appears to be an open book and wear his heart on his sleeve (that might not be completely true, by the way, but I'm not saying anything else). Sheema has been very useful in keeping us connected with Rebecca and Dmitri and the other vampires at the Citadel, and Naika Toussaint has a wonderful quality as an actress; very open and warm in appearance but able to play the shifts in her character with utter believability.
We loved the fight scene between Axel and Gorrman. Brutal, angry, and raw — it didn't seem 'choreographed' in the least, and Axel's frustration more than anything else really shone through. Did anything in particular inspire this sequence?
I don't recall a particular inspiration for the scene, I just remember that we all wanted it to be this long march down the hallway with an increasingly battered Axel struggling to get back to safely and a vampire who kept coming after him. Again, our entire stunt team worked overtime to make this section flow between actors and stunt actors, and stunt coordinator Kimani Ray Smith put together a really impressive set piece overall. I think by this point in the series, people have grown to care about characters like Axel and they're really invested in him surviving, so a fight like this one brought a lot of jeopardy to the table.
Oh, man. Axel!!! He's not dead, is he? He's got to survive so Michael Biehn can play his older brother in a future episode! (Right?)
I can't say any more about Axel other than what you've seen — the fact that Doc was placed in this position and failed the courage test again was a stroke of genius by the writers; I really loved that moment and we worked hard to make a bit of a meal out of it. It would've been nothing with Jonathan [Scarfe] and Rukiya [Bernard] acting the hell out of it, but as writers we did our best to make it something special. A lot of credit should also go to Jason Priestley, the director of Episodes 8 and 9, who was fantastic behind the camera and had a wonderful ability to work with actors (since that was and continues to be a huge part of his professional life as well).
What was your favorite scene in this episode, and why?
I don't really have a favorite scene this time around — there were so many scenes that I liked in this episode — but I do love the moment when Sam notices the air flowing past the tassels on the tablecloth and discovers another way in or out of The Farm. That said, there were a number of big scenes and emotional moments in this episode and I have to give real credit to our amazing editor, Bridget Durnford, who edited every one of our episodes (a feat that is extremely rare if not unheard of in series television these days). She is fast and clever and tireless and she helped make so many of these episodes go beyond being simply good to the level of great and special.