Together at the 2013 WonderCon in Anaheim, Janssen and Scott proved to be an entertaining team to interview as they chatted up the new Netflix series.
Famke Janssen and Dougray Scott Interview
What was the appeal of Hemlock Grove?
Famke Janssen: “Different reasons, really. You always have to start with the character because ultimately how a project turns out as an actor you just don’t have any control over that, so at the end of the day you have to live with that character. You have to, especially when it comes to 13 episodes or potentially years of your life, you want to think through that decision and think, ‘Is this somebody I can live and grow with?’
When I read that pilot episode that they had written and the book based on it, I thought this is somebody who I could see growing into or growing with. Of course, you never know until it becomes something. That’s the scary thing and I haven’t done much television or whatever this is called, Netflix or something else, but something where you don’t know beforehand what you signed up for. I have really barely any experience in that. I come from, like Dougray, we’ve mostly done films and you read a script, a 110…120 pages, whatever, that are there. and your character has an arc. You know where it’s going. This is a little scary. You never know.”
How collaborative was it? Were you able to change things around to make your character more of what you thought the character should be?
Dougray Scott: “I’m not someone who, as an actor anyway, traditionally, I come originally from theater and I love writers and I revere writers. That’s not to say that things can’t change and evolve and get better, but I always try and go towards the character rather make the character fit me, if you see what I mean. I try and work that way.
I improvise all the whole time and that’s the great fun of it – that’s when you understand the character. But in terms of collaboration, it was kind of a tricky one because the script came quite late so there wasn’t really much time to suggest [changes]. Although I think when we did suggest changes, I think it was for everyone’s benefit.”
Famke Janssen: “We did in the beginning and it really worked out very well.”
Dougray Scott: “That worked really, really well, but I think the problem then became that they were coming hard and fast, the scripts, and so there wasn’t really enough time and so perhaps that’s something in the future that … It’s not an egotistical acting saying, ‘This is what I think,’ because I’m not a writer. I’m an actor, but I’m pretty good at looking at a script and seeing what works and what doesn’t work and why something doesn’t work. There’s no point in complaining unless you do have a solution because then you’re somewhat of a f**khead – [laughing] sorry – and I’m not.”
Can you describe the relationship between your characters? It seems very complicated.
Famke Janssen: “It’s a very complicated relationship. His brother in the show who I was married to committed suicide, and probably not entirely without some input or influence on the part of this character that I play. And if I were married to her, I might do the same thing. They have this wonderful tempestuous, exciting, difficult, passionate relationship full of a lot of love.”
Dougray Scott: “I think originally when he saw Olivia he just fell just completely in love with her because she has this beauty, which Famke does, but also the character does. But she has this enigmatic quality, which comes from something that’s otherworldly as well which he of course didn’t really understand at the beginning. But part of it was to get out of his incredibly mundane and boring f**king life where he was existing at that particular time, but also that’s not to dilute or diminish the strength of Famke’s character at all. It’s just me describing his life as it was when he met Olivia. It is ultimately based on love, but within that love there is distrust and there’s deep dislike as well for her behavior at times.”
Famke Janssen: [Laughing] “I have no idea why.”
Dougray Scott: “He doesn’t believe that she’s a good mother. He thinks the way she treats motherhood is entirely different from the way he treats it. But you look at it objectively. I’m not saying he’s right.”
Famke Janssen: “Believe me, there are things happening in the 13 episodes that I’m not going to give away.”
Dougray Scott: “There are some things that he does as well as a father that I’m a father and I don’t think it’s very healthy the way that he treats his own daughter. So, people in glass houses…”
Can you talk a little bit about playing a villainous character in this show, sort of playing that manipulator?
Famke Janssen: “Yes, I tend to look at the characters and I don’t want to box them in because the moment I do any audience member is going to do the same thing. So I try to look at them objectively, try to find all the good, interesting, different parts of the personality that are there so I won’t put a caricature on the screen, however big or small that screen is.
That’s sort of the way I looked at her is that it’s clearly a very complex kind of character. Her manipulation doesn’t come just purely out of enjoyment of screwing other people over. It’s a much more deep-rooted, complex problem of past and present and future, who she is and what she wants to be, and the people around her, relationships with other people, that kind of stuff. That to me just becomes a different way of looking at somebody. I didn’t look at her purely as a villain and throughout the show we will see different colors of her. I would have been really not pleased to play her if this was a one-note villainous type of role.”
Have they talked to you about a second season?
Famke Janssen: “No, I know nothing about it. I think it’s a little bit up in the air.”
Dougray Scott: “Yeah, I have no idea.”
Would you want to come back and play her again?
Famke Janssen: [Laughing] “I don’t know that we have a choice, but to come back.”
Dougray Scott: [Laughing] “The thing is we’re both very European, obviously, and that is…”
Famke Janssen: “I’m so European, right. I was born and raised in Holland and he’s from Scotland. I just say it as it is. I have trouble doing the America whatever. I’ve got to learn.”
But you don’t have to like your character, you just have to find them interesting, right?
Famke Janssen: “Interesting, yes, but maybe like certain aspects of them. I think the moment you judge a character you have a certain distance to that character that is you have to get people inside you in some way watching it. Otherwise, it’s not that interesting.”
You were so outstanding Nip/Tuck. That was a fascinating character.
Famke Janssen: “Oh, thank you. Yes, it was a fascinating role. And actually my fear was, because it was my only real TV experience I ever had, is when I first read this I said to the guys involved that I did not want to repeat anything I’d done on Nip/Tuck and if that’s where they wanted to take it in any kind of direction similar to that I wasn’t interested.
It’s never fun to repeat yourself. We all get typecast, for crying out loud. Every single time we get asked, I look at a script and like, ‘Right, of course I’m asked to play that person.’ You just have to try really hard to make that character different from what people expect because they cast you from whatever they’ve seen you in before generally. It’s really hard to be cast as something else, don’t you find?”
Dougray Scott: “Yes, it is. Occasionally you do get an opportunity to be someone completely different.”
What new sides of both of you are we going to see in Hemlock Grove?
Dougray Scott: “Wouldn’t you say I’ve never played an incredibly intelligent, almost unbearably beautiful psychiatrist before, so that’s a first.”
Famke Janssen: “I never made love with a beautifully exciting, handsome, intelligent psychiatrist before, so there you go.”
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All 13 episodes of Hemlock Grove will be released on Netflix on April 19, 2013.
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