Legacies boss breaks down its most memorable monsters, previews a few to come
Just like every story needs a hero — or heroes — every Super Squad needs a good villain. On Legacies, that's something the series delivers on a weekly basis.
When Legacies first premiered, it faced a difficult task: As the third show in the Vampire Diaries universe, how would is both seamlessly fit into the world fans knew and loved while also creating its own identity outside of both The Vampire Diaries and The Originals? And one of the key ways it was able to do just that was through its monsters. While the series that came before it were much more serialized — and generally less adventurous when it came to their Big Bads — Legacies came out swinging with a creative monster-of-the-week format, along with a more serialized arc of course, that has given fans everything from a dragon to Krampus (and soon ... a leprechaun).
"We have an incredibly talented monster department between [Creative FX Department Head] Mark Villalobos and [Creative FX Assistant Department Head] Heather Mages," says executive producer Brett Matthews. "As writers we'll pull references to let them know what we're thinking — is this a scary monster is it a funny monster? — and we have a lot of conversations about that at the beginning, and then Mark and Heather go away and work with their team and produce a sketch that we give notes on. And a lot of times we see that sketch and go, 'You guys really think you can achieve this?' And almost every time they do and a lot of times they exceed expectations. But generally it ends up looking pretty close to that."
In the beginning, much of the monster talk focused around what was possible. Could they pull off a practical monster, a.k.a. a man in a suit, just as well as something that involves more visual effects? And that's where the gargoyle came in.
"That was one of our very early monsters so it was a stress test for the mythology of the show and what we could achieve practically. Because that monster's almost 100 percent practical," says Matthews. "That's a guy in a suit and could we do that in a way that didn't look cheesy, could we achieve the show more practically than going the visual effects route for everything? I think that's the great success of that episode is that creature design."
In terms of story, the gargoyle was also the series' first monster with a specific backstory. "They're historically protectors and we liked that about it, we liked that turn about him choosing not to murder at the end," Matthews says, teasing that fans might see the gargoyle again in season 3.
Seeing as how most monsters aren't brand new creations, Matthews says, "We start with history because that's the public perception of what something looks like and then we always put it through the Legacies filter." For something like the dryad, it was about finding that balance between her being "at once monstrous and incredibly beautiful."
The dryad wasn't what Matthews calls a "name-brand monster," but rather something lesser-known. "We try to play the hits, we try to play dragon and give you the merman and the mummies and the name-brand monsters but it's also fun to really poke into monsters that people just haven't heard of that have their own rich mythology, and that's something you'll see us continue to do in season 3. There are some very specific monsters from some very specific regions that people may never have heard of, but that's part of the fun of it."
One example of the show using a better-known monster, Krampus has been seen across pop culture many times. So then the question became: How will the Legacies version of a well known creature vary? "Our version of the Krampus was probably a little less horrific than public perception because he's stealing your children and taking bad children away and eating them, so we avoided that element of it," says Matthews. "But he was pretty gross. A lot of the Krampus stuff was too gross to use, so some of that didn't make the show."
Matthews is also quick to point out that for all of their practical monsters, the final piece of the puzzle is the performer in the suit. (And yes, sometimes it's the same person playing multiple monsters. ) "No matter how good the suit is, the person who goes in it is ultimately what gives it that personality, that life," Matthews says.
And often times for these monsters, the devil really is in the details, because nobody's going to forget the qareen's chin anytime soon. "Jason Voorhees is this scary guy who runs through the woods but the hockey mask is the thing that makes that character iconic, it is that detail," says Matthews. "Even the Krampus, his eyes are red and green, so they all have these hyper-specific things that hopefully stick with you because those are the things that make monsters memorable. We try to treat the monsters like a character and so it's always, 'What would make sense in this design and also on a technical level, what do we need this monster to do in this episode and how can we free the performer in the suit up to do their thing?' The qareen is a very extensive application of a suit. The chin and the details stay with you."
Some monsters have the look ... and just a little something extra. The Necromancer began as the show's version of Death. "We wanted to do a character in that sphere, somebody who had a hand in the living and the dead," Matthews says. Cut to season 3 and the Necromancer is still playing a large part in the show's story.
"When we got into the voice of the character, he became this pompous asshole of a guy and then he became a real character that we knew would have a live within the show rather than just an episodic threat," says Matthews. "He's got his own story. He's just really petty. He has a very small drive that he's willing to go to grandiose lengths to preserve, and the notion that his legacy is lost is enough to drive him to the heights of villainy. He's clearly a monster without equal in terms of screen time and the journey he's been on and it's a journey that will continue in season 3. Ben Geurens is just a brilliant actor. It's kind of like how Crowley became a major player on Supernatural. Sometimes you get an actor and a part that just fit."
Along with the Necromancer, Legacies' third season will also feature a few new monsters, including the Lady of the Lake, who escapes from Malivore in the season 3 premiere. "That one's kind of ripped from the headlines," says Matthews.
The episode is titled "We're Not Worthy," and will bring a very old legend to the show. "It was a fun way to do something very medieval that also fit very much into our world and gave the Super Squad, who are hopeless, literally and figuratively int hat episode, a very stiff challenge to overcome," says Matthews. "That one's a little more straight ahead and a little more classic than we often do, but as with all things, it devolves into the technicalities and has a fun wrinkle that makes it modern hopefully that people will enjoy."
EW has a look at some concept art of another upcoming monster: A leprechaun. "At a time where the Salvatore School requires funding, this leprechaun comes into the world and gives you a window into greed and what is right and wrong and what is the responsibility of people when it comes to using their supernatural abilities for good or for ill," says Matthews. "And in typical Legacies fashion he's like a grubby little monster and a more monstrous version of the creature we all know. This one has murder on his mind."
Legacies airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.