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'The Originals': Sebastian Roche on Mikael's softer side

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There is only one name that strikes genuine fear into the heart of Klaus Mikaelson: Mikael.

When Mikael first entered the third season of The Vampire Diaries, he was known as the vampire who hunted vampires. It was then pieced together that he was much more than that. He was the father of the Original family.

And with that discovery came baggage. Years before, when Mikael discovered that his wife had cheated on him with a werewolf and that Klaus was not his biological son, Mikael had cast Klaus aside, labeling him “an abomination.” And when Mikael helped Esther turn their family into vampires, the parents tried to keep Klaus’ wolf side at bay. But more than a thousand years later, Klaus is a hybrid, and Mikael is still determined to kill him.

And despite being killed on The Vampire Diaries, the Original father has found his way back to the land of the living on The Originals, and with season 2, Mikael has his biggest role yet. We spoke with the man behind Mikael, Sebastian Roché, about the character, what comes next, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When Mikael first died on The Vampire Diaries, did you know that you were far from finished with the character?

SEBASTIAN ROCHÉ: When I first died, I didn’t know. I really felt that there was so much unfinished business between Mikael and Klaus. It felt like a bit of an early exit. But then, towards the end of the year, [Julie Plec] told me that she was going do a show, a spinoff with the Originals, so I had a feeling that, if she does, that that my character might in some way or form come back. I thought I would come back in flashbacks, but I very happily discovered that I would be coming back to life. That was wonderful. It’s fabulous because season 2, from what we’ve done already, promises to be quite extraordinary. In terms of relationship between the family and the extraordinary dysfunction and epic confrontations, so I’m really, really glad about that. They’ve written it so well.

I know there’s a four-month time jump at the start of season 2, so what has Mikael been up to this whole time? Has he just been stuck in the attic?

At the beginning of the season, he’s still stuck in the attic with Davina, but he’s trying to find ways, of course, to basically force her to free him, but you know of course she won’t do that. He really is trying to free himself from these chains because Mikael wants to roam the world and get to his revenge as soon as possible. It does start there and you’ll see what happens. It’s going to be quite wonderful what happens in the rest of the series. I have a feeling that the way the season 2 is going, it’s going to be a mixture of the sort of Gothic tale and Shakespearean tragedy, which I love, personally.

I know we’re getting to see more flashbacks with the family. Is there a softer side to Mikael that you would love to explore?

Yes, that’s actually something I would very much like to explore. There was a scene that I did with another character where you do see the pain and emotion, you see where the rage and this thirst for revenge comes from, and I think it comes from a place of pain. That’s something I would really look forward to because I think there’s nothing more interesting than seeing the vulnerability of such a cruel character. It’s always wonderful to see the other side of what you think a character is. Like when we saw Joseph [Morgan] with his baby at the end of season 1, that was a wonderful glimpse into his heart and that’s what’s so wonderful about these characters, they’ve lived for so long, they’ve been through so much that it’s true that they might get desensitized over the years, but at their core, they are creatures of flesh and blood and of raw emotion. So yeah, I would welcome that so much. What I would welcome is actually a great meeting of the whole family and a talking down. It would be really interesting.

They have an intervention to try to talk Mikael down.

It would be great! That would be so wonderful. Something of the kind would be really interesting. I think it would be very, very emotionally charged and quite epic.

We also know that there’s another Original brother in town. We know how Mikael feels about Klaus, but I love watching Mikael interact with his other children, so will we get to explore his other relationships?

Yes, I think so. I don’t know how the rest of the season is going to unfold but I have a feeling that yes, the whole family dynamic is going to unravel through this season. There are some secret things that are going to be coming out within the family that are going to be quite interesting, and I really welcome confrontation or just a dialogue between some of the sons and daughter that have been strewn along the way, because there’s so much dysfunction in the family and they thought he was responsible of the crime of killing their mother and now they know he didn’t. Who knows, there might be rapprochement between the father and his brood, which would be interesting. I can’t tell too much, but there are going to be some interesting developments, especially one surprising development that I can’t talk about! [Laughs]

More generally, every time Mikael is on screen, he’s giving some sort of epic speech. What’s your favorite Mikael moment or speech?

There’s a scene that I did in episode 5 [of season 2] with another cast member that I particularly like because I wasn’t too sure on how to do the scene and something magical came out of it, this whole raw emotion and anger came out of it. It was truly one of the most interesting moments I’ve had as Mikael in terms of bridging the gap between anger and emotion, and it’s a really kind of a heartbreaking scene. For me, something came out and I truly felt extremely emotional after doing it and it was a great moment. I truly love that moment.

There are many scenes that I loved. Of course in Vampire Diaries when I’m at the door, the scene when Klaus was crying was such an intense moment. There’s also scenes from the episode “The Grand Guignol,” which were quite epic, especially, there was this one monologue with Charles Michael Davis where it was like, “I’m the destroyer, I burnt villages.” There was this truly historically Shakespearean dimension to the speech. It reminded me a bit of the speech in Blade Runner—I’ve seen things.” There is that quality to Mikael. He’s seen so much, and I was saying earlier to someone else how much energy I need to play the character because he’s truly someone, when he walks into a room who comes with 1,000 years of baggage and he’s like this volcano about to erupt. He’s like a sort of nuclear core about to explode, I feel, so I always feel like I drag this history behind me and I need so much energy and I’m usually spent at the end of a day but it’s fabulous. It’s such a fabulous character to play; it’s such a rich character. He’s not only sort of hate and anger. That’s of course what you see, but I think there are many, many layers to Mikael. Many other layers. People seem to like him even though he’s evil.

I thoroughly enjoy the way that Mikael can turn the word “boy” into the biggest insult.

You know what? It’s funny because I came up with that. I’ll take the credit for that one. I added that. I asked them, “Can I add something that’s really demeaning, you know, boy.” So I think I added that. Maybe I’m taking credit for something I didn’t but I think if I remember way back in The Vampire Diaries, I just wanted to add something that would be really demeaning to him, that would bring him back to his childhood, when a parent says something that brings you back to when you were 10 years old and you feel that vulnerability. Yeah, I love that word. He hates it. [Laughs] 

Now Mikael uses it all the time.

Oh yeah. That’s his trump card. It’s Klaus’ Achilles’ heel, so he just revels into it.

I just love it.

Yeah, me too.

Do you have a preference between playing the good guy or the bad guy?

No, I mean I’ve been playing the bad guy, and I enjoy it. I did this small movie called Phantom Halo in which I played a character that was extremely complex. He could be labeled as a bad guy but he’s not, he’s a father who’s struggling with alcoholism and he’s abusing his children mentally but he loves them as much as he abuses them and it was a beautiful character to play. When you see the characters that are in Shakespeare, you know, Richard III is a bad guy but what a complex character; Coriolanus could be seen as a bad guy; Hamlet could be seen as a bad guy by his hesitancy, who knows? He’s not, but there are so many interesting factors in playing someone who’s flawed. It’s basically, they are flawed characters and what’s more interesting than doing that? I’d love to do a rom-com. I’d love to be a lover. I’m sure I could be a great lover. [Laughs] I never get to kiss the girl, that’s for sure. I just bite them.

The Originals returns Monday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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