Van Helsing Showrunner Q&A: Season 1, Episode 11
Susan's dead! Sam's the killer! And Sam's now a frickin' vampire!
We go down on the farm with Neil LaBute to discuss "Last Time," the most terrifying episode of Van Helsing yet.
We absolutely loved the location of Susan's family farm. Homey and rustic, and just isolated enough to be a little scary. Where did you shoot those scenes?
Yes, that was a really nice location to escape to after the hospital and the military base and The Farm and then Eden. A quiet little farm out in the woods seemed like a very sweet and welcoming place, especially for an episode that had so much going on for it dramatically. The location we used is located on a much larger piece of real estate just outside of Vancouver and it was ideal for us — even our interiors were shot there inside the house and/or the outbuildings. I think it inspired Simon Barry, the director (and writer) of the episode, and the cast to really pound home all the emotional beats, which I think they did amazingly well.
We loved meeting Gordo, at least as a voice on the radio. Will we be hearing from him again, and/or perhaps meeting him in person sometime in the future?
Gordo was voiced by none other than Simon Barry himself — at the time it made sense for Simon to do it since he was sitting there on set with the actors and it really could've just ended up a guide track that was then re-voiced later by an actor but once I heard it, it felt completely wrong to have anybody else re-do it. Simon had just the right twang in his voice and a perfect, simple honesty that made me love the character and wish to hear more from him. I don’t know that we'll ever meet Gordo face-to-face on the show, but I love how Simon brought him to life during that brief radio call.
It's an intriguing parallel between Susan and Vanessa when it comes to their ability to handle firearms: Vanessa from her ex-husband, Susan from her hunter father - both repugnant men that were at least good for one thing. Was this intentional from the start or did it organically present itself during production?
I’d love to say it was by design and that our room of writers are just that clever, but the truth is those two moments grew individually out of their respective episodes. That said, I love the parallel you created there and I’m glad it exists in Season 1. Susan and Vanessa come off as strong and capable throughout the series and I love that about them — Kelly Overton and Hilary Jardine really committed to the physical work on the show and not just the emotional journeys; it's great to watch them be confident and strong and soft and sad and so many other things during the episodes that they share — the writers worked hard to create complex people and with the help of an extremely talented cast, I think the kind of work that these two women (and their co-stars) are doing stands out and speaks for itself.
We loved the majestic image of Strider the horse followed by the nightmarish moment of the noble beast being felled by Susan's feral father. Did anything in particular inspire this dark fairy tale moment? And what inspired Strider's name?
Strider definitely got his name as a nod to J.R. R. Tolkien and the idea was another one that was born and then developed by the writer's room. It seemed like a wonderful way to have a beat where the gang could marvel over the beauty of the world and then have it ravaged a moment later. I know there is a similar beat in an episode of The Walking Dead but ours is done in a very different way and I believe has a much deeper emotional impact in the end because of the characters who are involved —if anything, I'd call ours a tribute to a really terrific sister series rather than any kind of rip-off.
Wow. What a roller coaster ride, from Sam killing Susan, to Sam being left to die in the woods, to Sam becoming a vampire (and one that can hear!). This episode was definitely the most 'horror movie' of the season so far. Do you have a favorite memory from the production side of this episode?
You're right about that and rightly so — we tried not to forget that our roots are always dripping with blood and that's the way it should be. We're a vampire show and, therefore, we need to spill blood and try to be scary every now and then. I think we all (cast and crew) pride ourselves on the fact that we're trying to tell emotionally grounded stories that are dramatically satisfying whenever possible, but in the end we're hunting vampires and we need to go there as often as we can. I love how pure these actors can be and how much they can move me in their more serious scenes but we still need to go for the jugular as much as we can — that's part of this job and one that I wholeheartedly embrace; you can sum it up with "It's okay to cry but never forget that we need to kill …"
What was your favorite scene in this episode, and why?
Well, as I mentioned I loved the moments we spent with Gordo but the moments surrounding the death of Susan were stand-out for me this time around — the beauty and pain of the scene with Susan and Sam sitting on the log together, the honest anguish that Kelly [Overton] produced when she first discovers the body of Susan in the woods, the palpable fear that we get from Mohamad as he slowly realizes what Sam has done and the tour-de-force transformation of Sam during the whole episode (including the startling physical transformation, which was entirely Mr. Christopher Heyerdahl's idea and worked out brilliantly).