Van Helsing Showrunner Q&A: Season 1, Episode 12
Betrayal and deceit at every turn! Will Vanessa be able to pull through?
We spoke with Neil LaBute about the home stretch of Van Helsing.
We love that Mohamad was a Boy Scout. Did this revelation inspire any off-camera shenanigans wit the cast and crew, like putting him in a Boy Scout uniform via Photoshop?
Ha! No, there are no pictures (or at least surviving pictures) of Mohamad in his Boy Scout uniform. I did think it was a really nice touch — both the idea of it and his response to Vanessa about the cliche of Scouts being only for white kids — and it helped ease us through some exposition that made complete sense when it was connected to this nice character detail. Exposition is always tricky and it's great when you can help it along or make it at least feasible by connecting it to the actions and motivations and histories of the characters.
We're really digging the relationship between Dmitri and Julius. What can we expect from this rivalry in Season 2?
We were lucky to get two really gifted actors in these roles and Paul Johnson and Aleks Paunovic both really embraced the world and mythology of their characters and went for it. They're both physically imposing and I've been waiting to pit them against one another. We get a taste of it in Episode 12 but you can expect more encounters and some human fireworks when they clash again in Season 2. As mentioned previously, I was very nervous about the world of the vampires and how it would work and so many of our actors have stepped up and done such good work in this area, creating a believable and interesting milieu for these creatures. A big Thank You to all those actors and technicians who helped create our vampire world.
Mama getting comfortable in Sam's lap was awesome. Did anything in particular inspire the sexual overtones of their scenes together?
Just brave actors and a director, Amanda Tapping (again), who comes from the world of acting — her ease and comfort with actors helps create little wonderful moments like this. We all thought this was creepy and amazing and of course Chris Heyerdahl (as Sam) embraced it, because if there's a stranger or more dangerous way to approach a scene, that's where he wants to go. I really admire Chris and his work — incredibly smart, always prepared and no bottom to his courage. It runs deep. Christina Jastrzembska (as Mama) matched Chris pound-for-pound in the weirdness sweepstakes during their scene, however; the two of them created a very suggestive and uncomfortable scene with the material they had and it's one of my favorites in the episode.
The vampire camp was the stuff of nightmares, particularly the human blood bags hanging from the ceiling. What inspired the design?
We had some ideas in the writers room about that, especially that Blood Butcher section, but the whole place was really the masterwork of James Hazell and his production design team. Once again they stepped up and gave us some terrific spaces to play with. We got lucky with the major part of the set, which was a disused power plant — we had seen it on an earlier scout but had basically ruled it out as a location but late in the game we went back to it and I think it was great choice. Gave us a lot of height and scope and was just vast enough to believably be what we said it was: a blood farm.
Vanessa leaping toward Dmitri and him catching her by the throat in mid-air was a stunning image. How did the actors (and, we're assuming, the stunt team) pull that off?
Yes, we wanted to have one of those big moments and yet not call too much attention to it — this seemed like the right opportunity for that. It was a combination of actors and stunt doubles and stunts and VFX. But no wire work! The height that Vanessa achieved in her leap was all done by Kelly Overton and her wonderful stunt double, Holly Raczynski (and with a little bit of trampoline help along the way). I like that we've kept everything that Vanessa has done in battle is possible for a human body — we aren't flying her through the air or having her run up walls before she throws a punch (a la The Matrix and Salt and Troy). That became very popular for a while in films and television and I always thought to myself. "That's weird ... why is he or she running up that wall before they punch someone …?" It definitely looks cool but the actual physics of it escape me ...
What was your favorite scene in this episode, and why?
There's a little scene when Sam tries to feed himself as a vampire and he attacks the den of some little woodland creature. Even the way Chris played this moment was wonderful; the way he tore into the animal after he caught it, the animal-like movements when he would look around at his surroundings and then go back to feeding, etc. This is an actor who is both a joy to work with and an absolute treat to watch on screen.