Netflix will be unveiling all 13 episodes of season one (there’s no official word yet on whether there will be a season two) on April 19, 2013, and in support of the show’s debut I had the opportunity to speak with Landon Liboiron who plays a free-spirited gypsy named Peter Rumancek and Freya Tingley, who co-stars as a wannabe novelist.
Landon Liboiron and Freya Tingley Interview:
What grabbed you about Hemlock Grove?
Freya Tingley: “For me, it was just another thing that I was auditioning for in pilot season and after I got it, I realized how great it was. It wasn’t just another one of those stereotypical characters that I was going out a lot on in pilot season. It was something that had three-dimensional characters and depth and intrigue as well.”
Landon Liboiron: “When it was first brought to me, it was kind of labeled as a new werewolf/vampire thing and immediately I was like, ‘Oh, come on. Come on.’ They’re like, ‘No, just read it. Just read it.’ I read it and I think Bill [Skarsgard] had the exact same experience after reading it. The writing was so solid and it was so mysterious and strange and unique. He took the theme of vampires and werewolves and made such a unique spin on it. It’s more about the people in the stories. Like she said, they’re such great, great, unique strong characters and then I wanted to know more about each and every one. Each one stands on its own as a strong character, so I mean it was really the story and the people, the characters in it, that was so interesting.”
Did you know you were going to be a werewolf, because from that first script you really don’t know what’s up with this guy?
Landon Liboiron: “Yeah, exactly. Reading the first script it’s like, ‘Is he really this thing or what’s going on?’ So like, yeah, you weren’t too sure and that’s what was so appealing about it is that it wasn’t just like, ‘Yeah.’ It was like we didn’t really know what was going on or what these people were.”
When you first were approached with it, did you just get to read the first script or did you get to read a few and get to know more of the whole season’s story?
Freya Tingley: “I got to read just the first scripts.”
Landon Liboiron: “Yeah, same.”
Freya Tingley: “Then I think after I was cast, they released the book so then we were able to read the book.”
How did you approach it? Did you treat it like a TV show where it’s each episode or did you sort of look at is as one 13-hour movie?
Landon Liboiron: “I mean in terms of how you structurally set up and film a TV series, yes, we shot it like that. But in the way that we kind of approached the work, and I think the way they approached the writing, it was more like they were writing for a 13-hour film because they didn’t have to build up to any sort of commercial break. They didn’t have to worry about each episode being the same. Each episode is unique and different in its own right so it kind of flows. The whole arc flows very naturally through the entire thing.”
Freya Tingley: “Yes, they didn’t have to have a specific beginning, middle and end of each episode because it was just the whole entire 13 hours. They can keep things leading and moving to a nice path.”
How did that help when you approached your characters?
Freya Tingley: “For me, it didn’t change anything. I mean there is that nice journey that each character goes on throughout. But yeah, it didn’t change much for me.”
Landon Liboiron: “I think what was unique about the first season is that we kind of had the book as a backbone for the whole series. Even though the season sort of strays away sometimes from the book and it’s a little different in certain spots or it explores more characters a little more in-depth, the book was a really cool kind of backbone. It was kind of the first time I’ve ever been able to know the full arc of a series before we started shooting, because usually you know episode by episode. With the book, you could follow. We both knew where our characters were going to go and could compare accordingly to that.”
Like you were saying, people are going to look at it and go, “It’s another werewolf/vampire thing.” What is it that’s going to grab the audience by being so different from others of the same genre?
Freya Tingley: “I think it’s that with Hemlock Grove, it’s not just about the effects and transformations and everything and that whole supernatural thing that a lot of teenagers love. It’s that we’re following real characters and going with them on their journey and it just happens that there’s a werewolf in this town and vampires and the supernatural. It’s basically a more real-life telling of the supernatural.”
Landon Liboiron: “Brian [McGreevy, the writer] would use these old gothic folklore characters and use them to convey human struggles and human stories using these metaphorical creatures and everything. Sometimes he uses them to show how animal humans can actually be.”
You were on Terra Nova for the Fox network. How is it different working for Netflix?
Landon Liboiron: “Netflix perhaps was just a little more easygoing, I guess. I guess Netflix was just really willing to try new things and it kind of creatively was more on the creative side that we were able to just kind of try new things. I mean both experiences were relatively similar, but I think with Netflix it was an easier experience creatively, I guess. I guess that’s the biggest difference.”
Earlier you said, “Oh, and for season one …” Is there a season two?
Landon Liboiron: [Laughing] “I hope so. Why not? I would love to do a second season of this show.”
This one has such an interesting transformation from human to werewolf. We haven’t seen it done this way before. What do you think about the way it was done in the series?
Landon Liboiron: “I think what was cool about it is that they tried to approach it as naturally as possible. They tried to stray away from as many as effects as they could. A lot of it was based on performance and an old-school way of trying to approach the transformation like using props. We used actual pig skin to convey like sort of the loose flesh and that kind of stuff. You’ll just have to see it but there’s a couple of other ideas I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a werewolf transformation before. And I think that’s the biggest thing that they just kind of tried to approach it as natural as possible instead of just CGI, even though there is CGI. There were actual wolves. We actually brought on real live wolves to have as the actual transformation.”
Did you meet the wolf?
Landon Liboiron: “Well, they were very stingy about it. They were like, ‘No one’s on set when the wolves are there! They’re dangerous!’ We weren’t allowed to get too close.”
When you hear Eli Roth is involved with this project, you sort of jump to this mental image of his brand of horro and gore. Do you think that this show is going to meet those expectations or do you think it’s going to be different than what people expect?
Freya Tingley: “I think it definitely brings that element of gore very specific to Eli, but at the same time it’s the story … I don’t know how to explain it.”
Landon Liboiron: “You were on the right track there. There is the elements of the gore and everything, but I think the actual story itself sort of takes on its own character. I think it stands alone. I believe that Eli set the tone for the rest of it to kind of take its own path. I think the story is so interesting that it kind of holds its own as its own sort of unique thing.”
Is there anything in particular that you really grabbed on to when you read your first script as to how you were going to play the character? Was there one characteristic that you knew you had to nail?
Landon Liboiron: “The gypsy aspect of it, really. It’s so easy to just kind of be like, ‘Okay, gypsy. He’s a gypsy.’ It was a lot of fun doing a lot of research on the gypsy culture and I kind of fell in love with the gypsy culture in a way. I really wanted to convey how they are kind of the outsiders of all outsiders. They virtually live their own society and I wanted to get that across with Peter. They live such a poetic sort of free life so I wanted Peter to be as free as possible. I worked as hard as I could on getting that. What about Christina?”
Freya Tingley: “For me, Christina’s a novelist, an aspiring novelist, and for me it was getting into that writing. I actually don’t really like writing. I was reading a lot and writing in a journal every single day, and after I’d do a specific scene I’d write about that as the character as if it had actually happened. For me, that really helped with the writing aspect of it.”
Has it made you want to actually write more?
Freya Tingley: [Laughing] “I wish I could write. I still don’t think I can.”
How deep do you guys dig into the methodology of the show this season?
Landon Liboiron: “We dig into the Godfrey past a lot because there’s a lot of explaining to do with that family. It’s a very mysterious family. You don’t really know what their deal is or what Olivia’s past is or the history between all the family members. The mythology kind of the Shelley character is really interesting as well, kind of being the Frankenstein character. That’s kind of her myth and as the series goes out, I think that’s what’s so interesting about Hemlock Grove is that nothing’s really explained to you. You’re constantly trying to figure out what certain things mean and what this character represents. There’s a lot of mythology in it, but it still focuses around human nature and the human story of it all.”
This is one of Netflix’s flagship shows in this format. We already saw it succeed with House of Cards and there’s like so much hype surrounding Hemlock Grove and Arrested Development. Why do you think this format of viewing appeals to people?
Freya Tingley: “I think because people love to watch series – they binge watch. They go to the DVD store and get the DVD set and just watch and watch and watch instead of having to hang out every single week. It sort of appeals to those people who want to binge watch it instead of having to wait every single week.”
Landon Liboiron: “I think also why it works, I mean especially with House of Cards too, is that apparently Kevin Spacey films are really popular on Netflix and so Kevin Spacey was kind of a big draw for a lot of these audiences. And then not only that it’s like all the other characters in the show will now be able to promote their films because it will all connect together. This is like it’s this massive library of films and it’s almost like the IMDB of iTunes or whatever, all tunes in one thing. I don’t know. It’s just really cool to be able to watch at your leisure and to watch your favorite artists and have them all cataloged and organized. It’s like organizing your DVDs.”