He’s a mean one, Mr. Snow. He’s so scary that even Hal (Damien Molony) shakes in his presence. And he’s finally arrived in Barry—with plans to takeover (and eat) the entire world. So what better man to play him than actor-writer-producer (and Being Human creator Toby Whithouse’s friend) Mark Gatiss, who besides penning Doctor Who episodes and co-creating Sherlock (in which he also plays Mycroft), spawned the BBC series A History of Horror? Below, Gatiss tell us where Being Human fits into the timeline of scary flicks, why he might be on Team Twilight, and what we need to know about Mr. Snow and Hal before tonight’s explosive finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How’d Mr. Snow come about?
MARK GATISS: I had a very particular idea of what I wanted to do. Essentially, I’ve been waiting all my life to play this part. I knew what I wanted it not to be. I’ve never been a fan of goth-y vampires. I find that sort of thing in the Underworld films, where they’re always dressed in black velvet and velour and look like they’re in a 1980s music video, a bit off-putting.
Did you model him on a more traditional vampire?
No, Toby gave me this fantastic description. He just sent me a text that said, “Would you come and play the King Vampire?” I said yes immediately. Then, he sent me the script for episode 7, which is where we arrive right at the end, and I have that wonderful line, “Well, who’s hungry?” It said in the description that I am dark as the night and older than dirt. I loved that. Also, brilliantly, Toby said, “Let’s call him Mr. Snow,” as if he’s so impossibly old he doesn’t really have a name anymore. He forgot it a thousand years ago.
Toby told me you deserve the credit for his look.
I thought what I’d like to do is have red hair. You never see redheaded vampires. I’d like to have really bad teeth and really dirty fingernails, because I think he claws his way out of his grave every night and I wanted to see that. I like the idea that vampires always look very well dressed, and why shouldn’t they? But inside, they’re absolutely rotten and probably smell really bad.
Is that why he looks like a decaying body?
Exactly. They offered me various suits and I found this brilliant 70s suit. It’s very sharp and it’s got a very nipped waist. I said, “I should look like a good suit on a corpse,” and that’s what we went for.
Can you say anything about the part he plays in the final episode?
All I have is that the Old Ones, who have been talked about for a long time, finally come back from Bolivia. Essentially, Hal, Damien’s new character, thinks that he’s broken away from Mr. Snow and become a good vampire. But in their terms, the 55 years that he’s been away has been like the blink of an eye. He’s never really had any freedom at all. Mr. Snow just thinks, “I’ve come to bring him back into the fold.”
Why does he care?
The thing about vampires is, if you live forever, you’ve got nothing else to do. They obviously have to substitute something. Otherwise, they’d just walk out into the sunlight and end it all. Mr. Snow’s substitute is the idea of having total dominion over humanity. That’s what he’s going to do. There’s going to be a war and they’re going to win it so that humanity will just become their food supply.
NEXT: How the Old Ones came to be
Can you explain why he’s rubbing Cutler’s face in the preview?
Because I wanted to. I said to Andrew [Gower], “I just got an idea. I should run my hand down your face and stick my finger into your mouth. Is that alright?” And he said, “Yeah, whatever you like.” So I did it. What I like about it is it’s so invasive. First of all, he has those filthy fingernails. I thought, he regards this man as less than the dirt on his shoes and he should just show it. It’s also slightly pervy. I enjoyed that.
I loved that the Old Ones turned out to be a motley crew of ages, races, sizes and shapes. I didn’t expect that.
Again, that’s what is very good and very novel. There is a version in which they would all be 19-years-old and beautiful. They’d wear black lipstick and have black fingernails. But here, there’s this very curious man with glasses and a big mustache. There’s this very pale man in a linen suit. They’re very odd. As you said, they’re a motley crew.
The Old Ones’ prequel, which shows their journey to England by boat, still reflects a bit of the old school Dracula myth, though. It made me think of Nosferatu.
The prequel is very Dracula, isn’t it? There’s a famous sequence with Demeter—that’s the name of the ship that Dracula comes out of—in Nosferatu. All of the crew are dead and the captain is strapped to the wheel. I loved that. I think that’s what Toby was drawing upon. It’s fantastic. We filmed it on a ship in Swansea Harbour that had its engines removed because of insurance reasons. It’s just lying there like a ghost ship with two caretakers on board. It’s like a story in itself.
Do you have any opinion on the renewed interest in vampires?
It’s a really fascinating thing that vampires are so prevalent at the moment. Future historians will look back at this time and think, “I wonder what was going on there?” It’s like the prominence of vampires around the late 19th century when Dracula came out. There was a massive vogue for them. We’re having one now. It must be something about some kind of instinctive fear of having our blood sucked, possibly by bankers.
And you’re okay with Twilight being some people’s first and only experience of the genre?
Of course. Whatever floats your boat. If they lead to watching Hammer or Universal horror films, where you get a totally different type of vampire, then that’s fantastic. Why not? It’s very interesting how they all fit in. The Twilight films have a sort of chastity element to them is that so far removed from the idea of a sexy, ironic vampire. The [typical] vampire in the dark suit at the window is a sexual threat as opposed to being a boyfriend you shouldn’t sleep with. It’s a totally different interpretation.
What’s Being Human’s place in the current horror boom then?
Being Human is a very funny series. Its heart is that idea of a flat share between a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf. It’s like the premise of a very strange sitcom. It’s also scary and dramatic, but very much based on the real lives of young student-y type people. It’s vampires who go to the shops. It’s werewolves who have to hold down a job. Stuff like that is what stops it from being very precious. They don’t just drift around looking bored all day. They actually get on with things. It’ll be interesting when the dust is all settled as to where it fits in. But for me, it’s very distinctive.