Six of the actors from the sprawling cast of Netflix’s Hemlock Grove descended on WonderCon Anaheim the upcoming horror series, and their excitement about being part of the project bubbled off them.
All of the stars, from Famke Janssen to Bill Skarsgard (yes, the younger brother of True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard) to Battlestar Galactica alumni Aaron Douglas and Kandyse McClure, said Netflix's new model of making a series was one of the show's big draws for them. The fact that Hemlock Grove is ultimately a 13-hour movie that premieres all at once had them on board from the get-go. It was the story's initial pitch -- that it's yet another project about vampires and werewolves -- that had every single one of them hesitant.
Fortunately they all quickly learned Hemlock Grove is not your average vampire-and-werewolf tale. It has producer Eli Roth involved, and also uses the horror genre to tell a deep story about humanity in the same way Game of Thrones does with fantasy.
Based on Brian McGreevy’s Novel, Hemlock Grove is set in a rusted Pennsylvania steel town, where the mangled body of a teenage girl is discovered. Realizing there’s a monster in the midst, the town’s residents grow suspicious of their eccentric neighbors. As rumors mount, two of the suspects in the murder – Peter Rumancek , a newly arrived Gypsy boy, and Roman, the son of the wealthy Godfrey family – decide to find the killer themselves.
"The characters are so beautifully developed, and I think the issues they're going through are so universal and so delicate and nuanced and something that really spoke to me," said Penelope Mitchell, who plays Letha Godfrey. "[At first] I was kind of like, 'Aw, man, the same kind of crap,' but what I love about it is it kind of takes that paradigm that we're so familiar with and subverts it completely in a way that you never expect. It's double as shocking. As soon as I read it, I was like, 'This is remarkable.'"
Landon Liboiron, who plays Peter Rumancek, added, "After reading [the novel], the writing was so solid and it was so mysterious and strange and unique. [McGreevy] took the theme of vampires and werewolves and made such a unique spin on it. It was more about the people in the stories. ... I want to know more about each and every one. It was more about the story and the characters in it that was so interesting."
Janssen's involvement is one of the big draws of the show, and she and Dougray Scott teased the relationship of their character Olivia Godfrey and Dr. Norman Gofrey. For a little context, know that Norman is the father of Mitchell's Letha and Olivia is the mother of Skarsgard's Roman, and that Olivia used to be married to Norman's brother before her husband committed suicide.
"It's a very complicated relationship. His brother in the show, who I was married to, commits suicide, probably not entirely without some input or influence on the part of this character that I play, and if I were married to her it might do the same thing," Janssen said. "These characters, they have this wonderfully complicated tempestuous exciting difficult passionate relationship full of a lot of love."
Scott added, "I think originally when [Norman] saw Olivia he fell just completely in love with her because she has this beauty -- Famke does also -- but the character does, she has this enigmatic quality, that comes from something that's otherworldly, which he of course didn't really understand at the beginning. Part of it was to get out his incredibly mundane and boring fucking life that he was existing in at that particular time. ... It is ultimately based on love, but in that love there's distrust and deep dislike as well for her behavior at times." For instance, Norman doesn't think Olivia is a very good mother, though Scott noted that Norman isn't a very good father either.
Although Olivia is in many ways the villain of Hemlock Grove, Janssen made it very clear that she didn't play the character that way. Olivia's motivations are fully fleshed out and will be touched on in Season 1, and Janssen promised that that "manipulation doesn't come purely out of enjoyment of screwing other people over. It's a much more deep-rooted complex problem of past and present and future and who she is and what she wants to be, the people around her, relationships with other people, that kind of stuff."
Liboiron had the difficult job of playing Hemlock Grove's werewolf, and the transformation his character undergoes is far different than anything else viewers have seen before. Without giving too much away, he explained the process that producers went through to make his werewolf be unique in a genre full of transformations.
"I think what was cool about it is they tried to approach it as naturally as possible," he said. "They tried to stray away from as many effects as they could. A lot of it was based on performance and an old school way of approaching transformation -- like using props. We used actual pig skin to convey loose flesh, that kind of stuff."
In terms of character development, Mitchell said viewers will get to know a lot more about Letha by the time Episode 13 rolls around. She teased that Letha will have a "more humanistic" transformation than Peter does, and cryptically said that her character will bloom into a woman during Season 1.
"Without elucidating too much, I think [dark] things definitely go on and take avenues that you wouldn't have necessarily fathomed immediately," she said. "It's like, how do these monsters reflect what's going on inside of us? And I think it's so reductive and so organic and so heartbreaking as well because we all kind of identify with it."
Skarsgard said he hopes his involvement in Hemlock Grove makes people think it's similar to True Blood, because in actuality it's anything but.
"This show is nothing like it. It's really funny as well, I hope that people expect True Blood when they start watching this show because they're going to get shocked. There's no Fangtasia. It's something else," he said. "The shocker in the ending of this show is like no one's going to every expect it. ... No one's going to expect where this show is going. It's so unpredictable."
Battlestar Galactica's McClure, who plays Dr. Clementine Chasseur, said she was intrigued by the way McGreevy, Hemlock Grove author, co-developer and executive producer, approached the series' horror and supernatural elements.
"I found there was sort of a sensuality with the way he dealt with the subject matter," she said. "Yes there was gore, yes there was intrigue, but it always had this very sensuous kind of toothy undertone."
Douglas, her former BSG co-star, joked, "You can tell he's writing naked. That's really what she's trying to say."
Hemlock Grove's 13 episodes premiere on Netflix on April 19.