Having come out strong for Syfy’s Van Helsing based on the first episodes, I was thrilled to get a chance to talk to the show’s lead, Kelly Overton. We discussed her character, the show itself, and what it’s like to play a badass lady in the making.
Geek Girl Diva: Let’s go back and talk about in the promo images when Van Helsing first started getting pitched. We see Vanessa as this gun toting ammo slinging badass. But when we first meet her she’s Vanessa Seahorn, regular person who’s woken up to a vampire epidemic, who’s supposed to be dead. Can you talk a bit about that and what you think about her introduction in the show?
Kelly Overton: You know, what I liked about the introduction in the pilot when I got the script was that it was a real journey from stage one. The audience got to go on it with her, her being born in a sense. From her reawakening, from the first bite, the first attack which triggers all her powers to begin with and puts her in a coma. She’s transforming slowly for three years. The bite wakes her up, it kind of is the finishing thing that completes it and sets her off. I love that from the moment she wakes up she begins a journey with the audience discovering who she is.
Aside from the primal instinct that takes over in the beginning when she becomes the killer machine that wakes up, aside from that moment, which I also really loved by the way, it was almost like, when we were shooting it, it almost felt like I was still fighting the first person who attacked me three years ago. I like that, how we mirrored that with the stabbing at the end, mirrored the scissors, that Dylan, was like I was still looking for her on her birthday. I liked how that all played together.
GGD: Right, that she still was sort of in stasis and then came back out in the same place.
KO: Yeah, and aside from going mental on the vampires she really has to discover who she is and she isn’t instantly this impenetrable character that has no vulnerability. I liked that she was vulnerable, I liked that she had to go on this journey.
GGD: You said something really interesting during one of your Comic-Con interviews, when you were talking about the whole cast…”put them in a room together and watch the dysfunction”. What’s your favorite part of dealing with so many different personalities and chaos at once?
KO: Yeah. I think you really have to be along for that ride of having a lot of questions and being okay with it. The audience, in a sense, is one of those characters in the room with these other characters. There’s a lot of suspicion, a lot of paranoia, a lot of distrust, and as an actor that’s really fun as an exercise to play. Just being that alert and trying to read between the lines in the subtext and body language and the tone behind how someone says something, it’s pretty cool.
GGD: Axel and Sam have different types of relationships with Vanessa, but they’re both absolutely committed to keeping her safe. In Axel’s case, she literally wakes up to be told that he’s been responsible for her for the last three years. What’s her take on both Axel and Sam –– and the rest of what I like to call the Seattle Hospital Survival Crew?
KO: Well, Axel’s so interesting because he positions himself, from Vanessa’s perspective, as her protector. Yet there seems to be, in the way he talks to her about…the first scene when he first meets her… he’s not delicate with his words…like, oh, your daughter’s dead. He puts himself in the position of being my protector and caring, but he’s also very dismissive of, I feel like, of the fragility of her situation.
Being the only one that’s like, hey, you can’t trust those guys but you can trust me. Already raises a lot of suspicion. He is a bit of an enigma. He’s definitely the one who’s coming saying hey, I’m here for you, I’ve got your back. Yet in her face. There’s that relationship.
GGD: Do you think she’s intrigued by him as well?
KO: Oh, a hundred percent. And she needs him to a certain degree and I think she realizes that. She wants to be smart about that.
Sam, he’s kind of in the background, he’s very quiet. He does seem to, he has a very strong presence, Christopher Heyerdahl – and Jonathan Scarfe – both such great people and actors. So, Sam, I don’t think Vanessa’s too concerned with Sam. She sees that he’s a presence, and isn’t necessarily a threat, and that’s something solid for her. She has so many other dynamics and threats going on that he’s just kind of there.
That changes as the season goes on.
GGD: His character’s really interesting. I think when we were talking about Axel what kind of popped into my head was that he’s concerned with keeping her alive. Whether or not he’s concerned with protecting her, may not be the word I should have used. I’m here to keep you alive, whether or not he’s worrying about her feelings.
KO: Yeah. He’s here to finish the mission. It’s about him and completing the mission.
Three years, damn it.
GGD: What would you say are Vanessa’s greatest strengths? And weakness, or flaws?
KO: Gosh, that’s a great one. Her greatest strength I think, one of them at least that comes to my mind, is, her ability to hope and her determination. Her strength of will, I think is one of her strengths.
One of her biggest weaknesses?
That is a tough one. I think it’s the same thing. I think one of her biggest flaws, too, is like that flip of the coin. Greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. I think one of her greatest flaws too is her ability to hope. Maybe when she should let go.
Also, to trust when maybe she shouldn’t.
Her desire to want to assume the best in people. Does that make sense?
GGD: It makes total sense.
What do you like best about playing her?
KO: I like how physical she is. That’s really fun. Getting to play a person who discovers they have supernatural abilities and who gets to do all these awesome fight scenes is, you know, pretty much like a dream. A kid having a great time. That’s probably the most fun on one level.
On another level, I love exploring who she is and how she’s heroic. Like, what qualities in her core are heroic and make her a hero and when do we see that, who is she. She can still lose every fight, how does she go down fighting? How does she handle that? Who is she? I think that, to me, was the most interesting thing in her becoming a hero rather than her being able to win every fight.
GGD: At the same time she’s not willing to just lay down and die. She’s fighting the whole way.
KO: She reminded me of Rhonda Rousey in that fight. She went down swinging. Which I happened to watch too, while I was filming. She’s passed out and she was still swinging her fists. I was like, that’s Vanessa.
GGD: I really appreciate you talking to me. I’m having a really good time, …watching her because …I already know that you’re capable, you’ve done your work and you’ve gotta be this kick ass gal, as a fan of True Blood I know you’re capable. So watching her try to hold this ax…like, what the hell am I doing? It’s so much fun to watch. It’s like having to not be able to do something when you can is a challenge and a half.
KO: Yeah. I want to play the long game, I want her to have somewhere to go. I don’t want to rob the audience some wonderful journey of watching her step into her power and become that Van Helsing she is.
Van Helsing airs Fridays at 10/9c on Syfy.