There’s something funny about the retirees of Sunset Estates. They only seem to go out at night, they wear a creepy perfume called “Sanguine Secrets,” and when they pinch your cheek, it’s like they’re testing you for ripeness.
That’s right: Sunset Estates is overrun with elderly vampires, making it the perfect spooky/goofy subject for an episode of R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series. And the block’s leading ghoul is played by an actor who knows his way around a creepy role: Christopher Lloyd, who has thrilled and chilled audiences as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and countless other characters.
The two-parter — called “Grampires,” after Lloyd’s grandpa vamp — will air on The Hub at 6 p.m. ET. Before its premiere, Lloyd called EW to chat about the project, his favorite scary movies, and his most spine-chilling Halloween memory. Caution: You’ll want to read this with the lights on.
What drew you to this part?
It seemed like a lot of fun to do — being a grampire, and at the same time being very human. He has his grandkids, and he has to resist being tempted by them as victims. So he’s got a conflict there. He really cares about them even though he’s a vampire. And he has to protect them from the other vampires in the village, which presents a challenge. Other roles I’ve done — Judge Doom and others — they’re blatantly evil. This guy is more complicated.
You’ve appeared in a lot of entertainments aimed at kids and families. Is there a reason why you gravitate toward those sorts of projects?
I’m not really sure, because I haven’t gone out to seek them — but they seem to come my way. And I seem to have some kind of quality that fits those sort of roles. Whether it’s a very dramatic part or a comical role, I feel I need to create the same thing: a full-fledged, three-dimensional character that the audience can identify with. But it just happens that [these] roles have come my way –- I guess somebody knows me more than I do, that I have a knack for them.
What was your favorite scene to film in ‘Grampire’?
Well, I love the scene where I come to the grocery store and my grandson is being cornered by a lot of old vampires—you know, a nice juicy victim for them. And I come, kind of full-fledged animal: “Don’t you dare.” I also love the scene at the beginning where my granddaughter catches me devouring a rat. And I don’t know what to do — I don’t like her seeing me eating a rat, I’m trying to explain to her what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and hoping that she will not reject me. And she doesn’t, and we form a very good bond of understanding about it.
Vampires have been having a big pop cultural moment for the past several years. Why do you think that is?
I guess it’s just sort of fascinating — other than growing fangs, they appear very human. They look like ordinary people until you get to know them. There’s that sort of savage aspect to them, when they come out and bite your neck. And psychologically, maybe people like that because they wish they could do the same thing. Yeah, I don’t know how to answer that better than that.
What’s your favorite scary movie?
My favorite scary movie that I’ve been in?
That you’ve been in, or that you’ve seen.
Well, I loved doing Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I’m constantly running into people who saw that movie when they were kids, and it absolutely horrified them. More than I imagined when I was doing it. In the movie Star Trek 3: The Return of Spock, I’m a really bad Klingon, and I really enjoyed playing that — somebody who’s totally unscrupulous. It’s like he was not genetically equipped to feel compassion or sensitivity. Just outright evil without apology.
I remember when I was a kid watching Walt Disney’s Bambi, or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I remember being terrified of. And Bambi, there’s the wolves, and I think there’s a moose who is really mean.
This episode will air close to Halloween. What was your best Halloween costume as a kid?
You know, I was pretty shy, and I kind of avoided those situations. I don’t remember that I ever really went all out to come up with a costume or a persona that could compete with everyone around me. I didn’t know what to do. I found Halloween scary for just that fact — it meant that I had pressure to get up and be scary, makeup and all that. That was pretty horrifying for me.
Well, I guess you got to dress up in costumes for a living as an adult.
Yeah — then I could act it rather than be it.
Which of your characters do you think would make the best costume?
Oh, let’s see… Well, Judge Doom, perhaps, or the Klingon I played. There’s [also] a character I played in Dennis the Menace. A scurvy, menacing, dangerous sort of guy who went about thieving and doing a lot of nasty things. I had a scene in that when I’m walking along an alley and I see a boy eating an apple. I reach over the fence with a big knife and snare the apple, and I eat the apple. And the boy playing that role must have been about six or seven years old — he was horrified of me. Even when I was out of makeup. He’d hide behind his mother when he saw me just walking as myself. Just absolutely terrified.
Did you scare your “Grampire” costars??
I don’t think so. I think they knew me well enough that they knew underneath it all, I was a nice guy.