Van Helsing : We ComiConverse With Paul Johansson

Elodie Cure Elodie Cure
Expert Contributor
December 7th, 2017

French aspiring writer and interviewer. TV shows and films connoisseur. Overpowered by curiosity.

Van Helsing : We ComiConverse With Paul Johansson
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Vampires have always been a cornerstone of the present pop culture. Many films and TV shows have particularly taken their inspirations from the 1897 novel Dracula, written by Bram Stoker. The series Van Helsing, broadcast on Netflix, is one of those many reimagined works. With only two seasons for the moment, the story focuses on Vanessa Helsing, daughter of famed vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, who tries to survive in a world dominated by vampires.

On the occasion of the Back to the Rivercourt convention organized by People Con, I had a quick chat with the Van Helsing actor, Paul Johansson. We talked about the series, his character Dimitri, the Dracula lore and vampires.

Van Helsing: We Chat Dracula with Paul Johansson

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Credit: Netflix

Elodie: Let's talk about Van Helsing if you don't mind. 

Paul: Of course! I am happy to. It is filmed in Vancouver, written by Neil LaBute, incredible cast. I think we are very fortunate to have the cast that we have, and I am not sure, but I think we are getting a third season.

Elodie: It's not official yet. 

Paul: Then it’s not official yet. Season 2 is airing right now.

Elodie: What had seduced you in the script? What were your reactions when you read it first?

Paul: I met with Neil LaBute and the executive producers, Michael Frislev and Chad Oakes in Vancouver to direct episodes. I wasn’t there for an acting meeting. I read the scripts, and I was intrigued. Mainly about the character of Dimitri cause they offered me a role to maybe do, a guest star or something like that. I was talking about, from a director point of view, what I thought was exciting and intriguing about the show. When I got to the character of Dimitri, I started talking about how he was a warrior but also a poet, a kind of a very artistic intellectual. But he also had to be scary and powerful. We started talking about Romanian poets like Enescu, others writers and how some of the great Romanian writers suffered so much under the tyranny of the Russian occupation and how their writing was so beautiful, how touching it was. I would be quoting these beautiful Romanian lines. “Speaking Romanian” and all these great Romanian songs. As I was walking out of the meeting, they called me back and said: "You should play the part." You seem to understand it. I was like:" Oh no, I just want to direct the show, I am so excited about the writing and vampires having like a tier, a system where there are powerful intellectual ones, and there are wild ones eating rodents out of garbage cans. Some are smart, some are dangerous. I love that world". But they were:" No no, you get Dimitri." They are talking me into it, and I felt incredibly flattered and fortunate. They saw that I would like to contribute. It just worked out well for me crazy story right?

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Elodie: Have you read the book Dracula from Bram Stoker?

Paul: Of course but many many years before this I’d read it, I was married to a girl for nine years. We were married for more than half that time. She was from an area called Târgu Mureș which is in a Transylvania part of Romania. I’ve been there many times with my wife. We went skiing in Poiana Brașov, and we went to Sibiu and all the areas in there. We were curious of all the lore and story about Vlad Dracul, his life and how he was a savior to those people, taking them from the conquerors, protecting them from the Hungarians that were coming. So they had a high affinity for him, he wasn’t a monster to them, he was a prince. A mighty and respected man. I had all these different ideas. Bram Stocker’s version is so dark, so sinister and so compelling. I appreciate the lore of this character. But I mean again, in Van Helsing, I can’t give away any teasers, but I am the highest that we’ve seen so far. But there is more to come.

Elodie: That brings me to my next question. Can we expect to see Dracula, or to get some references to him in the show?

Paul: I think that you are not going to be disappointed to where the show is going. I can’t give away particulars, but I will say that if you are a fan of the Dracula lore and the vampire lore, you will genuinely find it to be new unique and exciting journey in helping you understand how we came to be vampires. It will all be revealed to you.

Elodie: How will your character evolve in season 2. Will we learn more about his past?

Paul: His past is murky, yes, but it gets cleaned up at the end. In the last three or four episodes, you will get a stronger understanding of everything. Mainly about the lead characters and what their journey is. For Dimitri notably, it’s all about winning this war against the humans and getting control over my fiefdom of vampires. We are all being drawn to the same thing. As you will see, the story over here, the story over here and even my story will all go to the same direction. We all end up there. It is exhilarating.

Elodie: Did you have to undergo specialized training to play Dimitri?

Paul: Well, I did have to work on his movements, his accent, and his processing. He is three hundred years old, so his command of languages, people and manipulations are kinds of individual. Mostly, it was a conversation with the creators, the writers, the showrunners on how she should film him. It was also taking the time to slow him down because a character like that can just go go go, but I notably made my speech pattern slower and my processing slower so I would have that sense of power because people who have the ability don’t have to hurry. They can take their bloody time. I liked things like that that were worked into a character that I thought was helpful.

E: According to you, where does the real hype for vampire comes from? 

Paul: I don’t know. For me, first, it’s the human ego. We are having this desire for immortality. Vampires have it, and we don’t. That’s part of my attraction to it. To me, it is the human ego. Secondly, not different from Marvel superheroes or other superheroes, that’s the power that has been given to them even though you sell something which is you can never have children, something you can never do like enjoying the food. But as a vampire, what you get is an incredible strength. To rebuild, you can’t be in the daylight, but you can do things that other humans can’t do. So there is the power but mostly the immortality I think.

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Elodie: Vampires has evolved a lot over time. They have been depicted in different ways. In Coppola’s film, they had a pale complexion and were sensitive to garlic. In Twilight, they were shining on a sunny day. What about you? How would you imagine these creatures?

Paul: Well, it would probably be some trouble decease or something like that. I do think that a lot of people have problems with the sun and there is real particular skin deceases. But there are a lot of nutrients and a lot of taste in blood. I mean, I don’t know, could it be the worst diet to have in the world? It sounds like an excellent diet for losing weight, just drink blood. What I will hope is that there will be a deeper understanding of everything. I hope it is a cerebral thing with them because any consciousness is what’s interesting to me.

Elodie: In One Tree Hill you played an awful dad, in Van Helsing you play a big evil vampire. Aren’t you fed up with playing bad guys? 

Paul: In Mad Men, I was a misogynist pig. When I was younger, I was more of the leading man. The roles weren’t as impressive, but they were the leading. I got the girl, and I was the right guy. There is something sweet about that, but something is fascinating about playing the bad guy. I think that wrong people don’t know they are wrong. They are operating with different intentions. Those intentions usually go against the lead character which makes them appear ill. In truth, I think that the more interesting roles are the bad guys. I am just a dad in real life, and I only take care of my kid. I go to work where I can try to get a great experience, come home and learn from what I am doing to bring joy in my son’s life. I am a kind of a dull dude, to be honest with you.

Elodie: Thank you very much for all these answers! 

Paul: Thank you, I appreciate.

You can watch the video of the interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sep9B0zZlBs&t=4s

Thanks again to People Con and Paul Johansson!

Elodie Cure is an Expert Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter @Elodie_Cure.

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