[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Syfy is on a roll with female-driven kickassery this summer, and the nextÂ series coming up to the plate is Van Helsing. a variation on the vampire story that puts Vanessa Helsing front and center in a near-future vampire apocalypse where she’s the only serious shot at humanity hanging on. The show’s first 13-episode seasonÂ arrives properly on Friday, September 23rd, but Syfy is taking advantage of the eyeballs on Sharknado 4‘s premiereÂ this Sunday by slotting a 45-minute, commercial-free preview of Van Helsing immediately afterward at 10:01 pm/9:01 c.
True Blood‘s Kelly Overton headlines, starring opposite a seriously ridiculous cast I could have hand-picked, and if y’all read me, you know why. Hell on Wheels alumni include Christopher Heyerdahl, Jonathan Scarfe, and Tim Guinee, along with David Cubitt (who people may have rediscovered as sadistic Papa Bates on Bates Motel but who I will dibs going back at least 15 years),Â Haven‘s Laura Mennell, Continuum‘s Terry Chen and Aleks Paunovic, One Tree Hill‘s Paul Johansson,Â The Magicians‘ Trezzo Mahoro,Â and familiar Canadian faces like Alison Wandzura, Rukiya Bernard, Hilary Jardine,Â and Vincent Gale.
The show is the brainchild of Neil LaBute, who takes on a showrunner credit for the first time–and does not f-ck around onÂ landing emotional and verbal blows–and produced by Continuum‘sÂ Simon Barry. Come on. I am so ready. I jumped on the phone with Overton Friday, fresh off San Diego Comic-Con, to chat about what we can expect this first season.
Overton received the script from her agent and was immediately hooked. “He felt there were certain components that were tailored for me. I read it and it was a no-brainer. It was a genre I was familiar with. You also have a woman who’s a mother, which I really resonated with,” she says. “I have a five-year old daughter and that clicked me in. The journey she goes on and her relationship with her daughter meant a lot to me.”
She also felt a kinship to the project through her shared New York theater background with LaBute. “I was on Broadway in The Graduate in 2002 and we were all talking about his play, The Shape of Things, at that time,” she recalls. “He has always had a place in my roots in theater. That combination sparked me.”
“I thought thatÂ it was really interesting to have him doing a TV show. He’s still him. You’re not losing the depth. He’s really brilliant and not afraid to delve into the darkness of humanity and human relationships…and the genre, and its goriness, even. He carries with him all that wonderful complexity and characters and relationships that he’s so great at writing.”
“He’s not doing something different. It’s all there. The characters and the performances and stories are just as rich. It’s going to appeal to [genre fans and his theater fans]. There areÂ also some real moments of levity and humor. It’s really special and has all three going for it.”
Overton had to keep pretty close to the vest on specific plot points, but she could share a few things about who Vanessa is and where the first season will take her. “[It’s] set in 2019 Seattle. [Vanessa] is a single mom. Her daughter is her everything and their relationship is very special. I play a woman who wakes up after being in a coma for three years to find that the world has fallen apart and been taken over by vampires,” she explains.
“She slept through it all. She wakes up and realizes the world is different. She has to discover who she is. She holds on to some core things–her daughter being one of them–but she is also realizing she’s not who she thought she was. There’s this new identity she has to discover, and the great thing is that the audience gets to go on that journey with her.”
“She wakes up realizing she has special abilities. She is wanted by the vampires and equally wanted and desired by humans, both for their own reasons and to use her as a tool for their destruction or salvation. Season 1 in large part is her journey of wrestling with this new identity and these abilities, and maybe she has a higher calling in her life that she steps up to and into, and her acceptance and rejection of that. We really go on this journey with her of learning who she is and why she is the way she is.”
Overton hasÂ aÂ deep well of film, TV, and stage work, but this the first time she’s been the “face” of a series. She says she welcomed it, and for her, the work is always most important. “There are no small roles. Every role I get, I give it my all. It’s the same amount of passion. I’m going to do my best job. It doesn’t change my work ethic,” she points out. “The more that I can try to just be excellent at my job, I know the better I’m going to do.”
“[Headlining] felt like a transition that made sense. I wasn’t going from zero to 100. I love the fact that I carry that responsibility and that I’m playing a character that the audience is going to be invested in. I enjoyed working more, and artistically that aspect of it. It’s exciting. I’m at a point in my life where I feel more than ready for that. It was thrilling.”
This month also marked another first as Overton and the cast and crew made their San Diego Comic-Con debut. “It was the first time [for all of us]. We knew about and had done shows that were appropriate for it, but it was the first time all of us had done it,” she says. “We had a blast. It was so much fun. We all had such a great time.”
Van Helsing previews commercial-free Sunday nightÂ at 10:01 pm/9:01 c after Sharknado 4, and premieres Friday, September 23rd.Â Several of the cast and crew are already active on Twitter if you want to follow #VanHelsing.
Here’s a sneak peek.
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