TV’s latest bite at the vampire genre dispenses with the sparkliness and modern settings we’ve seen in recent years and goes back to the granddaddy of all bloodsuckers. Set in Victorian-era London, the series takes familiar elements of Bram Stoker’s novel and gives them a novel twist: Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) stars as the undead Dracula, who’s posing as an American entrepreneur and who is in an unlikely alliance with fabled vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) as they both plot to bring down an organization called the Order of the Dragon. ”We didn’t want this to be the missionary-position version of Dracula,” says exec producer Tony Krantz (24). ”I wanted to give this a slightly David Lynchian vibe…. It’s all with the spirit of making something that feels unique in the landscape of broadcast TV. Otherwise, I’d argue, why bring back Dracula in the first place?” Here, Meyers talks about taking on the iconic role.
Henry VIII on The Tudors and Dracula are both charismatic but deeply sinister characters. Why do you think these roles come to you?
Well, you know, I play bad guys because I look like one. [Laughs] There’s something in my physicality that lends me to being feral. I mean, I’d love to be this lovely, relaxed guy doing rom-coms, but I just don’t get those type of offers.
Well, everyone says villains are more fun to play anyway.
Yeah. I find that people who play villains are usually quite sweet people in life. But yeah, I suppose I’m forever the antihero. I don’t feel I’m hero material.
Dracula has been portrayed so many times over the decades. Do you have any personal favorites?
There have been some that were good, and there have been some that were atrocious. I like Gary Oldman’s performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I wasn’t as enthralled with the movie, but I was certainly enthralled with what he did.
The vampire genre is loaded with melodrama and can get pretty campy. What tone were you going for?
I cut all the melodrama out of it as much as I could. There will be no Dracula walking around with frills on and stuff like that. I avoided all of that bulls—. I wanted him to be more like a Howard Hughes than some sort of romantic…it wasn’t Interview With the Vampire I was doing. There was no walking around with sort of like long hair and Regency coats with my hand dangling with long nails, because that’s already been done to death…. What makes Dracula so interesting is that he’s not all monster — there’s a tiny little part of him that’s human. That’s the rub. I wanted to avoid all the supernaturality of him f—ing turning into a bat and stuff like that.
How is it doing an American accent?
Because of the time period I’m playing, an American accent as we know it hadn’t been developed yet. I can’t roll on and sound like I’m from Santa Monica. I have to pitch it in a way that is reasonable for that time.
How do you handle all the neck biting and bloodsucking on the show? Is it gory or understated?
It’s quite graphic, to be honest. A vampire needs blood to survive. It’s the ultimate addiction that cannot be cured. So it’s very vicious. The one thing I wanted to avoid as much as possible was just a pretty-young-vampire kind of vibe. That gets very boring. So I wanted him to sometimes appear quite monstrous, quite unattractive.
So how much time did you spend wearing fangs?
I used the fangs as little as possible because you can’t speak with them. Everything thoundth like thith. And Dracula with a lisp? [Laughs] Well, that’s verging on all too camp.