Taking on the role as one of the most famous villains in the world couldn’t be an easy task for anybody, and so when Jonathan Rhys Meyers decided to step into the cape of Dracula, nobody knew what to expect.
Here, Jonathan discusses his role on the show, the differences that people may spot when comparing Dracula to the original 1974 story and the central plot of the Sky Atlantic series.
What is this re-imagined version of Dracula and how does it differ from the Bram Stoker’s original in 1974?
We took the blueprints that Bram Stoker made for it, set it at the same time – Victorian England – but we changed some of the characters around, and changed the nature of their position in the world around. Dracula in this, he wants revenge, revenge against the Ordo Draco, which is this secret society that did him wrong several hundred years ago. His anger and his fury has been building up ever since.
Who are Vlad Tepes, Alexander Grayson and Dracula?
Vlad ?epe?, the Romanian warlord, is the core character. For his cover in our story, in the world of commerce, he plays Alexander Grayson, a young European-American businessmen. They are the same person. Alexander Grayson is the façade that he’s using for the world of commerce. Dracula does not exist; Dracula is the monster. Vlad ?epe? and Alexander Grayson exist.
How are the themes of this story and the characters relatable to a global audience?
I think revenge, pain, love and loss are universal themes. It is extraordinary how setting something in a historical basis can make people turn on their imaginations, allow them to branch out their ideas and to accept worlds that they would not normally accept. I think using beautiful sets and putting people out of their contemporary comfort zone is a way of allowing them to embrace the fantasticness of what is happening; the brutality but also the beauty. It is easier to digest in a historical setting.
Each character changes when Alexander Grayson comes into their lives. How does Grayson change when the other characters enter into his life?
He meets Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) and this is not something that pleases him. She reminds him of his wife, Ilona Szilágyi. But he sees her almost in a protective, paternal way, not lustful. The image of her distracts him from his main purpose which is revenge, to kill a lot of people who need to be killed. Rich, powerful men who have manipulated the world for their own gains. In one way he is slightly vigilante but he is no hero. He is the bad guy. He does great things but terrible, terrible things too. Hopefully the audience will be amused and intrigued but what he does is pretty diabolical. Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is the hero of the piece. Not Vlad ?epe?.
What is the overall look, feel and tone of the series?
It is very, very lush and very, very beautiful. It is using rich colours and certain types of camera lenses that Chris Segear (Cinematographer) has developed to give it a tonal base which is almost Victorian graphic novel but at the same time contains the beauty and majesty of Downton Abbey or Boardwalk Empire. It has these beautiful tonal images depending on what emotional strain that the scene is reading at the time.
What is Dracula?
He is a manifestation of pain and loss. He is a tempest. It is what happens when you break somebody to that extent, when you completely demolish their spirit, when you completely demolish their environment and take away those things that they love. Not only taking away his wife and taking away his kingdom, taking away his power, taking away his life but not allowing him the peace of death. It is the ultimate cruelty. It is torture on an epic level – which is why he waits so long for revenge. It is a dish best served cold. and why he waits so long is revenge is a dish best served cold.
How does Alexander Grayson entrap Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and bring him into his world.
Jonathan Harker’s an ambitious man who needs money. He is impetuous, he is young, he is inexperienced. His immaturity makes him gullible and therefore he can be manipulated – for now. His character has to change as the season goes on because he is going to come up against probably the most difficult thing he’s ever come up against in his life. Vlad ?epe? does not hate him. He pities him in a way and he is envious. Not of Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw); but of Jonathan Harker’s ability to feel love at all. His ability to have that thing.
What is the relationship between Alexander Grayson and Renfield (Nonso Anozie)?
In the original, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1974), Renfield is the lawyer that goes to Transylvania, and he ends up going mad because Dracula gets into his head. For our Renfield, he’s also a lawyer but he’s a lawyer who Vlad meets while he is travelling America and making his fortune. He helps him out of a situation so Renfield in a way feels indebted to him. They have a very, very strong bond and connection. There is only one person in the entire cast that is closest to equal with Dracula and that’s Renfield. He does not work for Vlad ?epe?, he is his right hand man and he’s the only one who Vlad listens to.
Could you tell us a bit about Van Helsing’s (Thomas Kretschmann) role in this version?
Van Helsing is a bitter doctor and professor, whose family were murdered by the Ordo Draco. He brings Vlad ?epe? back to life, back to the world. They make a deal – he makes a deal with the devil, essentially. That deal is to destroy the Ordo Draco but in so doing Van Helsing knows that he will be destroyed himself.
The first season of hit series Dracula is to be released on DVD on February 10.