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TV Goodness Q&A: Laura Vandervoort and Kelley Armstrong Discuss Syfy’s Bitten [INTERVIEW + VIDEO] 

Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy
Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy

Syfy rolls out its next scripted drama (yay!) this Monday night as part of a Kick Ass Girls trio, following the season premieres of Lost Girl and Being Human.

Here’s what to expect from Bitten, which is a Canadian import airing on Saturdays on SPACE Channel two days before its Syfy timeslot (i.e. stay the hell off Twitter over the weekend): Based on the Women of the Otherworld novels by Kelley Armstrong, Bitten is an emotionally charged supernatural thriller starring Laura Vandervoort (Smallville, Haven) as Elena Michaels, the lone female werewolf in existence. Desperate to escape both a world she never wanted to be part of and the man who turned her into a werewolf, Elena has abandoned her pack and taken refuge in a new city. There, she works as a photographer and hides her werewolf existence from her new boyfriend. When bodies start turning up in her pack’s backyard, Elena finds herself back at Stonehaven, the werewolves’ ancestral domain. Torn between two worlds and two loves, she quickly realizes that – when push comes to shove – she’ll stop at nothing to defend her pack.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy
Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy

Last week, we were invited to participate in a press call with Vandervoort and Armstrong. During the chat, the ladies talked about why their werewolves are different, how the the series came about, and perhaps, most interestingly, how neither has seen an episode of Teen Wolf, Bitten‘s timeslot competitor over on MTV.

Are you glad to be able to exercise your background in martial arts in this role? Was it part of your audition process?

Laura Vandervoort: Yes. I grew up doing martial arts. So Elena feels like…the other part of me. I relate to so much about her. Obviously, not the werewolf part, but the fact that she can take care of herself physically.

And I think it was great that the writers wrote in some extra hand-to-hand combat scenes. And especially in the finale—we have this epic fight that I just had a great time doing. And we had great stunt coordinators that help us…incorporate the animalistic side to the fighting. It wasn’t a part of the audition, but…I think it definitely benefits the character [plus] most of the actors on the show are physically able to do the fight scene[s].

How did you get involved in the show? What was the inspiration for the books?

Kelley Armstrong: For the books, Bitten actually came out of an X-Files episode. I was in a writing group. And as part of a writing group you’re expected to actually write new stuff. I was trying to come up with an idea, sat down and watched X-Files.

It was way back in their first season. Their one and only werewolf episode. It was your typical big guy who changes into some beast like thing and goes around slaughtering people under the full moon. And I said that’s not how I would do werewolves. And for a writer, that then sparks how would I do them? And I wrote a short story with this character named “Elena” and I loved that world so much that I wrote a book.

Laura Vandervoort: I had no idea it was the X-Files. That’s really cool for me to know as well. I actually received an offer for the role — which was amazing, first of all. And ended up speaking to J.B. [Sugar] on the phone just to get an idea of the premise of the show and how it would look and how the wolves would be done. [We] spoke for about an hour. And I heard how passionate he was about the project. And it just sounded like something I’d really been looking to do—such a layered thing—and the character who is both flawed and strong.

And so I read the books. I read Women of the Otherworld and Bitten and did a bit of research. And as soon as I realized the amazing quality of what was there I jumped on. And we did some auditions and chemistry reads with the guys and we just sort of hit the ground running—no pun intended.

[It] was the most challenging six months I’ve had thanks to Kelley and the writers. Every day was a challenge for me. And there were days where I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle the emotional side of it or the physical side of it or just being in every scene. And I did. And I’m so grateful for the experience.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy
Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy

How do your werewolves differ from those on Being Human?

Laura Vandervoort: Our werewolves are actually more down to earth. They’re life-sized to any other wolf. It’s not a fantasy show. It’s as realistic as we can be with the situation at hand. And the wolves have the actor’s eyes and the same coloring—their fur is the same coloring as the hair. [While] we are dealing with a mythical idea of werewolves, we’re [also] trying to make it as true to life as we can. And that’s making sure the werewolves aren’t any different to a typical wolf.

How are you different from Teen Wolf?

Kelley Armstrong: This book was written in the 90s…when I didn’t have to worry about what else was out there. My point of reference was, like, the wolf man and American Werewolf in London.

So I was really able [to create these characters without worrying about] what’s currently out there and how can I be different? If anything, the fact that I wrote about werewolves was a huge strike against me because nobody knew how to sell a book where the werewolves weren’t monsters.

So when I’m comparing it to other things, that’s a whole lot tougher for me because…I built mine from folklore. I’m a huge folklore geek and I went through everything I knew about werewolves. And cherry-picked what bits of folklore made the most sense if putting it into a contemporary context where I want people to believe that the werewolves could actually live next door.

So there are lots of things in the folklore—like the can only be killed by a silver bullet, but don’t realistically work if you’re trying to say they have existed for hundreds of years unknown. The only Teen Wolf I know is that old reel of Michael J. Fox movie. So totally different, different thing.

Laura Vandervoort: I’m sort of the same world. I love Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf—and that’s about it. I really didn’t watch a lot of werewolf movies there or TV shows. But I know there are some out there. They are for younger audiences and I think they’re more geared towards the teens.

And where I don’t know if Kelley agrees, but Bitten is very much adult in that it’s risky and it’s raw and it’s sexy. And like she said, it is to the point where you feel like you could live next to a werewolf and not really know because of the way they’ve lived.

They live in this beautiful home. They’re cultured. Our pack alpha—played by Greg Bryk—is just very intellectual and artistic. And they sit down to nice meals and they only kill what’s necessary for food or to protect. They’re very educated. And so they’re not monsters even though Elena has trouble at the beginning seeing herself as anything, you know, but a monster.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy
Photo Credit: Steve Wilikie/Syfy

What is the best and worst thing about working with supernatural genre?

Kelley Armstrong:  The best thing…is just the capacity for imagination. That is what I love. I have been asked many times. “why do you write this stuff?” And I say I have no idea. I grew up writing about the paranormal. And I blame too many Saturday mornings watching Scooby Doo.

I just saw such a capacity for imagination there where I could take anything and say what if and spin it. As for the worst…[it’s] also something that is a plus. I mean the genre has gotten much more popular. And when I started it was a struggle.

It is far more popular now—which is both good and bad because you are always…asked how does your stuff differ from what is currently out there—and worrying. If I do something…new…is that too similar to what somebody else has already done?

Laura Vandervoort:  [As] Kelley was saying, before this was such a popular drama and genre [she transcended] the time. And that’s why we’re still able to use it now. And you can’t compare. Yes, it’s a great time to be having this show premiere—especially because Syfy has been doing so well.

But there’s so much more to the show than the sci-fi—that that’s why that the characters and the stories have lasted. And hopefully [it] will last and people will enjoy them. And it’s because it’s about the characters and their flaws and Elena’s history. And the fact that she is such a broken down human being and then suddenly becomes a werewolf and has to deal with that.

Bitten premieres Monday night on Syfy at 10/9c. Here’s a sneak peek:

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