By Chaz Lipp
|(Photo: Darryl Humphrey, TORO Magazine)
Kandyse McClure plays Dr. Clementine Chasseur in the upcoming Netflix Original Series, Hemlock Grove. The actress is best known for her memorable performance as Anastasia Dualla on four seasons of TV’s Battlestar Galactica, but she has a host of other credits to her name, including an acclaimed lead role in the 2009 feature film Cole.
The horror thriller Hemlock Grove will be available exclusively via Netflix beginning April 19. Among the executive producers of the show are Eli Roth and Brian McGreevy (who wrote the 2012 novel of the same name upon which the series is based). I had the opportunity to discuss the series with McClure. She enthusiastically shared stories of working with series co-stars, including Famke Janssen (Jean Grey in the X-Men series, Lenore in both Taken films).
CINEMA LOWDOWN: Tell me a little about the premise of Hemlock Grove. It sounds like an intriguing, twisted horror series.
KANDYSE MCCLURE: It’s a supernatural thriller set in a quiet town in “Anywhere, USA.” The town experiences a series of maulings including of a young girl, by what they believe to be a crazed, wild animal. And my character, Dr. Clementine Chasseur—which translates into “Merciful Hunter”—is a doctor of predator behavior. She’s a fancy dog catcher really, an animal behaviorist. She’s brought in as a resident expert to try and explain what kind of animal this could be and to track it down. But as she explores and follows the leads that she finds, she uncovers a few more monsters in the town than she expected. Not ones that she was sent there to look for. I’m trying not to give any spoilers, which is really difficult! [laughs]
CL: So does this series hold some appeal for, say, Twilight fans, would you say?
KM: It’s a little Twilight, but it’s more adult. I find that Brian McGreevy, who wrote the novel that it’s based on, has a very sensual approach to violence and gore. There’s something erotic about aspects of the show and the way they depict the more deviant behaviors of some of the characters.
CL: Eli Roth was an executive producer on the series. Does it bear his imprint?
KM: It definitely has Eli Roth’s influence. We’re on Netflix, so we don’t have the censorship burden. Our boundaries are a bit more blurred. We can definitely do the adult version of things. Psychologically, think of something like Twin Peaks; twisted characters with so many levels, so many layers. I know that with Dr. Chasseur, she has her own conflicted past, her own chaos in her life. She’s trying to get away from that, so she throws herself into her work. She wants to do this one good thing. She wants to save these girls and find this animal. It’s not as easy as it appears to be at first.
CL: The series has a great cast, including Famke Janssen.
KM: Yes, absolutely! She plays Olivia Godfrey. I think Famke was born to play Olivia Godfrey. She completely embodies the personality of that character. I mean, on the set, as a person, she’s so funny and kind of goofy and playful. But then the camera turns on and she embodies this powerful woman. Kind of a cold mother, but she loves her son Roman and she’ll do anything for him. She’s helping to make him stronger and be the person she needs him to be, but sometimes it comes across as being quite cold and cruel. She’s phenomenal. Whenever I have scenes with her, I have to remember I’m in the scene too! [laughs]
CL: Bill Skarsgård plays her son, is that right?
Yes, Roman Godfrey. Typical rich kid; entitled and carefree. He does have a heart though. He finds an unlikely relationship with Peter Rumancek, Landon Liboiron’s character. They’re sort of star-crossed lovers, in a way—not inthat
way. But they come from the two warring families. They’re not supposed to be friends. But they find understanding in each other. Roman’s so used to not caring for anyone or about anything. But he cares for Pete. And he extends himself for him and defends him, even in the face of his mother’s disapproval.
CL: Lili Taylor is also part of the cast. Do you share any scenes with her?
KM: Yes, my very first scene! The very first day that I shot, Lili was in the scene with me, Landon and Lili. She’s such a natural. There’s just such ease about what she does and she brings so much of herself. I’ve been a fan of hers over the years. I loved her in Six Feet Under.
CL: Dougray Scott plays Dr. Norman Godfrey. Since they’re both doctors, are he and your character colleagues?
KM: We did have a brief scene together. And we do share some things, character-wise. Besides being doctors, we both deal with our stress levels by staring at the bottom of a bottle. He has a lot more responsibilities, with a wife and a daughter, and this family name that he has to live up to and exist inside of. He carries such conflict about the Godfrey name and his relationship with Olivia. There was a moment when he looks at me as having so much freedom, being able to come and go as I please and look out for myself. Quite different characters, but we do share those two points.
CL: And your former Battlestar Galactica co-star, Aaron Douglas, plays Sheriff Sworn. Did you get any screen time together?
KM: Yes, surprisingly Aaron and I have a lot of scenes together. In Battlestar, I don’t think we ever said a word to each other. We were never in the same place. One time, I think we were in the same place at the same time once in five years. And here I saw him all the time. It was great. Aaron and I have been friends for many, many years. It was fun to be with him again in a professional setting. We keep up with each other socially. There’s no stress. He’s there with me—he’s very generous. It’s just a lot of fun to be working with your friend.
CL: Was it strange shooting the series, knowing that it would be fully complete and in the can before the public gets to see even one episode?
KM: Absolutely. During production, I wished I could watch it and get a sense of it, but you’re sort of flying blind. Having read the book, I knew what was going to happen. But even then, I’m used to being able to sort of track it. To watch what’s gone before, what other people are doing, and go, “Okay this is the direction we’re going, maybe I can add to it, or generate ideas from seeing it evolve.” But we were all just kind of filling out our own world, and then leaving it to the powers that be to have it coalesce into something. Which I’m sure is going to blow away any expectations. I have found this was a very thoughtful production; very thorough, very creative.
CL: How did you land the role?
KM: It was absolutely a regular audition. I’d worked with [one of the executive producers] Mark Verheiden on Battlestar. So when I walked in, I saw a friendly face. Mark actually wrote my exit script for Battlestar, which was a difficult, heartbreaking thing. But he did such a beautiful job—so sensitive, human, and shocking—I felt immediately comfortable being there.
CL: Obviously, the audition must’ve gone quite well.
KM: Some auditions are less fun than others. You don’t always connect with the character. But when I read this, I thought that even if I just get to do this in the audition, it’s good. I had so much fun in that room. And it came across. I really just went in there and thought, “I’m going to do whatever I want to do.” [laughs heartily] “Do you like it? If you don’t like it, oh well, I had a good time.” But I feel like the feeling in that audition has definitely translated to the feeling on set.
CL: I’m looking forward to seeing it! Hemlock Grove, only on Netflix—April 19 is the big day?
KM: Yes, all 13 episodes will be uploaded simultaneously. You can watch all 13 hours of it that weekend. And I love that. It’s the way I love to watch TV a series, kind of a like an extended movie.
We have much more with Kandyse McClure in part two of our interview, where we discuss some of her previous roles—including her time on Battlestar Galactica!