Creating a horror television show is a tricky feat. It requires balancing the right amount of shock-and-gore along with compelling characters to keep fans clamoring for more – and Netflix’s HEMLOCK GROVE delivers on both. Helmed by horror master Eli Roth and based on the terrifying world created in Brian McGreevly’s book, HEMLOCK GROVE weaves together characters that raise the hair on the back of your neck yet draw you in deeper and deeper into a supernatural mystery story.
When a young teenage girl is found mauled to death, fear and suspicions abound as a gypsy boy (Landon Liboiron) is rumored to be a werewolf. Peter and his mother (Lili Taylor) had recently moved to Hemlock Grove in hopes of settling there after his uncle’s death; but their heritage makes them unwelcome in a community that seeks to keep its deep, dark secrets buried. Reigning over the town is the ultra rich Godfrey family, who prey on the unsuspecting populace. Everyone feels a slight unease with the Godfrey family, who despite their glamor remain aloof; not to mention they own a medical facility that is thought to house untold scientific experiments.
Just who or what is stalking their youth, and how do the Godfreys and the gypsies figure into the lurking sense of unnaturalness surrounding them, those are the mysteries that slowly unfold throughout the 13-episode horror series.
During press interviews at WonderCon in Anaheim, stars Dougray Scott, Famke Janssen, Aaron Douglas, and Kandyse McClure provided some insight into murder, mystery and intrigue that layer HEMLOCK GROVE.
Dougray Scott & Famke Janssen
(Dougray portrays Norman Godfrey, the brother-in-law to Famke’s Olivia, and their children Roman and Letha have become as close as siblings after the death of Olivia’s husband years before.)
What drew you to HEMLOCK GROVE?
DOUGRAY: I’m a fan of Famke and have wanted to work with her for quite some time. Then the writing was very different and quite good. I had read the novel before I agreed to do the series and just the multi-layers and the fact that it was adapted from a novel, that drew me. It was complicated and the relationships were complicated. You were never quite sure what was going to happen next. I also liked the idea of doing something new, as well. Netflix and that whole new media world, I think a lot of things are going that way and we were at the beginning.
You both play fascinating characters that are very strong, yet very broken at the same time. You can see that right away. It’s like watching a fractured mirror on screen. That must be interesting as an actor to take that character and realize you need to show some inner-strength and at the same time realize you can be too strong and you have look like you’re falling apart a little bit emotionally.
FAMKE: (Laughs) It feels to me like normal life. But there is something to that. They are very real. The characters are all flawed. They are all full of problems and there’s a certain thing projected to the outside world and another inner world going on — and I do believe that most of us are like that. We’re all programmed to be that way. The world’s just a complicated place, so it’s nice to be part of something where you can bring those kinds of complexities to the people that you play.
It seems like HEMLOCK GROVE has also allowed for richer storylines for the parental figures as well as the teenagers in the story.
DOUGRAY: I noticed that right from the beginning that there were non-teenager characters. You can go for the “Twilight” audience, but I think you open up bigger, wider audience if you tie into an audience who enjoy grown up relationships.
Those relationships shape all the younger characters’ relationships as well, without that you would not see the strings tying them all together.
DOUGRAY: They all certainly have their arc and their history.
How did it feel working on the show?
FAMKE: It was draining because I feel like I had to so many different things at the same time. So it ultimately became very draining. Thirteen episodes and six months filming somewhere else, it is very intense. So it does leave you a little bit drained, to a certain extent. We had some really heavy scenes.
DOUGRAY: I’m drawn to anything that is fractured and fucked-up. So I’ll sign my name to this forever. I’m just drawn to that type of character. I love comedy as well, and I’ve done a few comic stuff which I love. But I haven’t had much chance to explore it. The black humor, I love. The darker stuff.
FAMKE: We went more into that for this show because it was very ripe for dark humor.
One of the interesting things about Olivia is that she raised her children in an atmosphere of innocence. She doesn’t seem to be aware that they are really different and that’s remarkable for a mother whose protective as she is, you would thinks she would want to educate them about who they are a lot earlier so that they can be protective of themselves. Yet she kept them in this shadow where they think they are normal, which is an interesting tact to take.
FAMKE: She is definitely somebody who has some quirky ways at looking at life and her children and the upbringing of them and her relationships with men and that kind of stuff. That makes these characters fun to start exploring. You have to look at that when you sign on for something that could potentially — well, we don’t know — go for years. You really want to make sure that you feel that you can grow along with the character.
There is obviously a rich backstory of the relationship between Olivia and Norman. How much of that did you work out on your own to prepare for your scenes together?
DOUGRAY: We talked about it at the beginning a lot and a lot of it is in the novel so it already exists and it wasn’t something we had to make up. But a lot of our discussions were about how we wanted the relationship to be portrayed on the screen. We were both very comfortable and adamant that whatever direction their relationship took that there always had to be an underlying sense of love between the two.
Aaron Douglas & Kandyse McClure
Do you see your characters Sheriff Sworn and Dr. Chausseur as the bad guys on the show? They are investigating a beast attack and yet they have fixated on Peter pretty fast. What’s up with that?
AARON: My character doesn’t think there’s anything supernatural to these attacks. But Kandyse’s character comes at it differently. That’s a different story.
KANDYSE: For as long as it is necessary, she certainly plays along with that reasoning. She’s also certainly obsessive. She has her own ideas about things. She struggles with her own intuition, whether to believe it or whether to follow the status-quo line of reasoning. She’s a scientist on one hand and tortured on the other. I think that constantly interweaves in how she approaches this case and how she interacts with Sheriff Sworn.
What motivates her to come at this case so hard?
KANDYSE: I think she is a deeply troubled soul. I think she was somehow wronged in her life and she wants justice for everyone else and she thinks it’s her duty to simultaneously atone for the hurt she’s caused or the hurt that’s been caused her — and to make someone pay.
AARON: But there is also a very specific reason, that I’m not sure we’re allowed to talk about.
KANDYSE: (Laughs) I think “atone” is a good word.
How did you hear about and get involved with HEMLOCK GROVE?
AARON: Netflix/Gaumont, they could not be more supportive and more excited to do things out of the box. To start things off in their own way. I was excited to do this show, first of all because it’s Mark Verheiden (he ran the writer’s room for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA for the last few seasons, and he and I are really great friends), and he read the book and when they called him to do the show, he said, “Aaron, I read the book and I thought of you for the sheriff. So will you come and do the show?” And I said, “Absolutely.” What I love about it is this is how I consume TV. I’m a Netflix subscriber. My family all subscribes to Netflix. I watch things when they are done and I just power all the way through them. As I saw BATTLESTAR as a ground-floor show of how TV is made and consumed, this is going to be the same thing. Netflix is changing how TV is made and how it is consumed. So the idea of going and being a part of that, as opposed to going and working for the traditional network and waiting week to week and you’ve got 42 minutes to tell a story, but you’re not really telling anybody’s story, other than the story of the week. It is so much more compelling to be a part of this. I mean, what would you rather do: LAW & ORDER or THE SOPRANOS? For me, it’s that. DEADWOOD is the greatest show in the history of TV and to be able to build something that is serialized as a 75-hour movie is genius, and working with incredible people. It’s going to be a difficult show to watch in the sense that it’s going to be very challenging, and that is so much better than HAWAII Five-O. (Sorry, Grace!)
Have you read the book which the series is based on?
AARON: It’s the first thing I did after Mark called me ’cause I read a lot. So as soon as I rewired my brain on how to read — ’cause it’s like reading if Yoda wrote a book. So the first thing I did was read the book and then I called Mark and said, “That’s unbelievable. It should be a show.” And he said, “You know, we’re making a show, why don’t you come and do it with us.”
KANDYSE: I read the book as well. It was Mark again. He thought of me — I learned that afterwards. It came as a regular audition and I immediately fell in love with it. I was obsessed with the sides. I got them 4-5 days before the audition and I could not put them down. I think I was driving my boyfriend crazy ’cause I kept saying the monologue as I was in the shower and I was walking around. He was like, “What are you doing?” and I was like, “I love this woman. There’s something about her.” It’s a different kind of role for me as well. I’m always excited when it’s a person. She could be a “he.” It could be so many things, but she happens to be this doctor, this personality, this role in the group of players. That’s always interesting to me. And it’s not an opportunity I get all the time. I felt like there was room for quirkiness. And that’s what they were looking for.
AARON: For me, it’s Mark Verheiden and Deran Sarafian, who is really the reason the show looks the way it does. In terms of directing it was Fernando Arguelles. Together they built this unbelievably beautiful world.
Will we be seeing Dr. Chausseur and Sheriff Sworn interact with Dr. Pryce at the Institute?
KANDYSE: My character interacts with everyone. She gets under everyone’s skin. There isn’t a rock she leaves unturned or no nook and cranny she doesn’t look into.
For those who dare to watch, HEMLOCK GROVE promises to take its viewers down a very dark and twisted rabbit-hole where monsters lurk in the shadows and someone is viciously killing the nubile inhabitants of Hemlock Grove, so be sure to check out the premiere of HEMLOCK GROVE on Friday, April 19th. As a special treat, Netflix will simultaneously release all 13 episodes at the same time so fans can enjoy a full feast of the entire first season — for once you get a taste of HEMLOCK GROVE, you may find yourself wanting to indulge in a bit of “binge” viewing to satiate your darker appetite.
Tiffany Vogt is the Senior West Coast Editor, contributing as a columnist and entertainment reporter to TheTVaddict.com. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).