Canadian native Laura Vandervoort is no stranger to the world of acting. Her career began as a preteen when she eagerly accepted small roles in commercials. She then began landing roles in shows that—if you were a kid in the 90’s—used to be absolutely terrifying, like Are You Afraid Of The Dark? and Goosebumps. After countless more television appearances, she struck gold in the form of a regular role as Supergirl on Smallville,propelling her career and popularity to even greater heights. Her following knows her as the bombshell that pretty much kicks supernatural butt! While most of us would shy away from all things creepy, Vandervoort seems to think the weirder, the better.
Her most recent role as Elena Michaels on the well-received Bitten only confirms that the talented actress is in her element when it comes to sci-fi and the darker side of adventure. The show originated from a very successful book series by Kelley Armstrong, meaning that fans would already have high expectations. Vandervoort met those prospects with ease. As the only living female werewolf in existence, Elena Michaels’s life is a constant struggle to keep the supernatural world at bay—very unlike the thrill-seeking actress who plays her. Vandervoort is a total knockout, literally and figuratively. The blonde beauty has a black belt in mixed martial arts and a love for yoga and the gym. Growing up as a tomboy certainly toughened her up, but a life in the spotlight definitely ensured that her femininity was brought to the forefront. Throughout it all, Laura Vandervoort remains refreshingly humble, surprisingly humorous, and incredibly real.
Cliché: We know that, like many other actresses, your early career began with small appearances in commercials and television. Now, you’re the lead in a series that had a huge following before it even aired! At what point in your career did you feel like you finally “made it” so to speak?
Laura Vandervoort: I started working at around 13 years old. It was something that transpired in my own head at that age. I asked my parents to let me try acting. I had done martial arts since I was 7 and I think they really liked the idea of me trying something new and artistic. After working on commercials and children’s TV series, I slowly kept working, training, and taking acting classes. It’s hard to say that there was ever a point where I felt like “I’ve made it.” Every job to me was an opportunity in my mind to prove myself worthy or good enough to be there. Smallville was a huge grab for me because it was a well-known series and an iconic female superhero. That was the first opportunity I had to have the American market and the world watch. It was definitely a learning ground for me. I took it very seriously. Working in the feature film world was also a new experience. The Lookout with Jeff Daniels and Joseph Gordon Levitt was a dream come true. Years later, after feature films, indie and TV guest stars, I started to enjoy the work and not focusing so much on “proving my worth.” That was an epiphany for me—that it wasn’t all about work, that the work actually got better when I let myself go and enjoyed the experience, that I had put the work in over the years and truly earned the right to be there.
On Bitten, you play Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf that exists. Your character tries to live a normal, “mainstream” lifestyle, but the supernatural stuff sort of gets in the way. If you were a werewolf, do you think you’d embrace it and run with the pack or keep it a secret?
[Laughs.] If I myself were a werewolf, I think I would definitely be going through the same experiences as Elena on Bitten. I think we all feel the need to belong somewhere in this life. Sadly, society often views “different” as not belonging or odd. The werewolf lifestyle is not a norm and like Elena, I’m sure I would struggle with that. Obviously there are perks to being able to let the inner animal out—a sense of release—but that comes with a cost.
How difficult are the scenes where you’re transforming from human to werewolf? Is the wolf CGI’d in, or is the process as painful as it seems?
At the beginning of the season, Elena is transforming a lot. We wanted the audiences to see her struggle and pain during this process, her hate for the animal inside of her. It’s all CGI. No prosthetics were needed, which is fantastic! The cast did all get together at the beginning of the series with producers, writers, and directors to discuss how the transformation would look, sound, and feel. We didn’t want it to be a copy of other werewolf series or features. Elena has more issues with the process because it is still new to her and she’s always fighting it, thus her change is excruciating—whereas the rest of the pack can simply change with a small moan.
If there’s a Canadian queen of science-fiction TV, it’s probably Laura Vandervoort. From her beginnings on “Smallville” to her current role as Elena on the werewolf hit show “Bitten,” Vandervoort has dominated the genre for over a decade. (Fellow Canucks Tatiana Maslany and Anna Silk are well on their way, too.) The line-ups for her appearances at Comic-Con and Fan Expo are testament to this rising star.
With the “Bitten” Season 1 finale airing tomorrow night on Space, HuffPost Canada TV chatted with Vandervoort about what’s to come, how she feels about the “Bitten” fans, and whether or not we get some closure about that love triangle.
HuffPost Canada TV: So “Bitten” is Space’s No. 1 show … ever.
Laura Vandervoort: I know! I saw that! I was very happy to see that! We’re — the entire team and I — really proud of “Bitten.”
When you were first approached about this show, did you balk at all based on the subject matter?
I’m not going to lie, I was a little concerned about doing another sci-fi project, and playing another non-human character after “V” and everything. But I spoke to our executive producer, I read the books and the first two scripts, and ended up falling in love with the idea of Elena and her history. I fell in love with the fact that she’s a layered, complex character, and it wasn’t just like, “I’m a werewolf.” Being a werewolf is just a sidebar to everything I love about her.
Do you try to stay 100 percent true to the book character of Elena, or do you bring a little ‘something else’ to the role?
Well, we’re pretty loyal to the book because the fan base would want that, and we want that for them. But like every role, I try to bring in a little piece of myself and make it unique, not just play what’s on the page. I grew up with martial arts as a tomboy, and I was trying to be one of the guys for so long, so I could relate to Elena. Also being torn between two lives: being Canadian and living in LA, and trying to keep my own personal life private.
What do you like best about playing Elena?
Probably her need to be loved and love … I love that she was trying to create normalcy, but always knew that she’d never be able to have it. I get that. She was trying to suppress a side of herself that she didn’t want anyone to know about. In every episode, she’s hiding who she truly is, suppressing the wolf, the inner animal.
Elena’s transformations into the werewolf are painful and intense. Do you think there’s anything addictive about it for her?
There’s a sense of erotic relief — I know, strange choice of words — to changing for Elena. It is exactly that. There’s an addictive part of it, sure. She’s not holding in the pressure anymore once she turns into a wolf. Towards the end of the season, you’ll see which way she goes and what she chooses to be.
I’ve read some of the stuff you’ve said about the upcoming Season 1 finale. It’s a crazy episode?
[Laughs] Oh, yeah. Oh my goodness. I have the DVD and I watched it two weeks ago … we had an incredible director and visually, it’s just stunning. All of us put everything we had left after six months into this finale. Emotionally and physically. There’s a fight scene that took us three days — at least my portion of it — and I did 95 percent of it, the stuff that couldn’t kill me. [Laughs] I’m giving everything I have to this role and this character.
I’ve also read several reviews of the show that say it’s too gratuitous with its sex and violence. What do you think of that opinion?
I think that’s sort of what we expected. Of course people are going to focus on that, but there are those people and then there are other people who focus on the show itself. Look past the sex and nudity … I mean, it’s a necessary part of these characters and their stories. Elena is torn between two loves, and they are animals, so their animal nature is to not wear clothes. If we hadn’t had that, it would just be a love story, and it’s so much more than that. On TV right now, there’s so much nudity and blood and gore. I knew going into this that the show was going to be a more adult role for me, more like “True Blood,” and it was dark. That’s what I’ve been wanting to do anyway, so if these critics have a problem with it, that’s unfortunate, but we’re not doing anything unnecessarily.
The fanbase for this show is insane. What do you have to say to the “Bitten” fans out there?
Thank you, for one. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to adapt the book they love so much. Thank you for letting us play these characters in our own way and for sticking with us for this entire season. And thanks for all the tweets! The appreciation doesn’t go unnoticed – I see everything! [Laughs] We’ll do what we can to come back for a second season.
Is there a resolution to the love triangle before the end? Can you tell me that?
I can’t tell you, but watch the finale. When you think it’s going one way, it’s going another.
Toronto-born bombshell Laura Vandervoort was bitten by the acting bug at a young age, graduating from children’s shows like Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark to features with the likes of Jeff Daniels and Mark Wahlberg and, finally, the starring role in the Space series Bitten.
With the season one finale of the supernatural series fast approaching (Apr. 5 on Space), the newly engaged Maxim cover girl shares her thoughts – in her own words – about the city she’s made her new home: Los Angeles.
Nearly three years ago, I moved my life to Los Angeles, California: Palm trees, sun, surfing and that enigmatic Hollywood sign. But I quickly discovered there were many more important aspects to Tinsel Town. Here are the five majorly important things I have learned from living in LA:
THE “IN” CROWD AND CAFFEINE: Hipsters endorse only one place for a proper caffeine jolt: Intelligentsia Coffee. All else apparently does not compare. (Oh… I also discovered what a “hipster” is, and that they dwell in packs in Silverlake.)
HIP TO BE FIT: Living in L.A. has given me more options when it comes to staying fit. Hiking at Runyon or Fryman canyon, exploring Malibu (I’ve recently tried surfing) and taking the spin classes and hot yoga classes offered everywhere has been amazing!
STAYING CONNECTED: I am so thankful for FaceTime and Skype. As I’ve travelled growing up, I’ve always stayed in touch with my family and friends. It is so crucial and important to me. Family has always been and will always be a priority. My sister had a baby four months ago and seeing him grow up is one of the greatest things I’ve experienced thus far. Even if he doesn’t understand that the woman in the little screen is his aunt yet, I think hearing my voice is important. My mom and I WhatsApp every day – it makes us feel close. We discuss our day and I catch up on all the family.
ON THE ROAD: You do need a car… but you never have to park. Insanely, valet is everywhere and usually the only option (street cleaning is a daily battle). Most people are very skilled at multitasking while driving in L.A. They’re on the phone, doing makeup, learning lines and talking to themselves in the rearview mirror. I’ve even seen one playing a ukulele. Dangerous entertainment everywhere… not to mention all the partially nude clothing advertisement billboards on Sunset to distract the male drivers around you.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW: …Take Fountain. It’s generally a great option as it’s a vein here in L.A. to the major streets and rarely busy. But Bette Davis was quoted saying the same thing when asked what advice she would give to young actors. I thought it was hilarious when someone passed it along to me. You expect some serious deep advice and you get: “Honey, take Fountain.”
I was very happy to have the opportunity to participate in a conference call today with the stars of Bitten. Laura Vandervoort (Elena), Greyston Holt (Clay), and Greg Bryk (Jeremy) were lovely to chat with and very willing to chat about what makes Bitten such a great show. It sounds like it’s a very close knit cast. What follows is just a brief excerpt from the interview – a full transcript will be posted in a day or two. As this is just a brief re-cap of some of the questions, these are not precise quotes. Fun fact: as the interview began, the noise on Greg Bryk’s line was rather extensive. He explained that the building he was in was on fire and that he was being evacuated! He actually answered the first question as he ran down a stairwell and outside to safety!
Q = Question. LV = Laura Vandervoort. GH = Greyston Holt. GB = Greg Bryk.
Q: What was your favorite moment on camera so far on the show?
GB: It’s too hard to answer as I have a favorite moment with each character. For Greyston, it’s the scene when I’m sick in bed and my son is there looking after me. That thought that the younger will look after you in a moment of weakness.
With Laura, it was telling her the truth.
He praised the other actors and how gracious they are as fellow performers.
LV: I can’t pick a scene. I had moments with everyone. It’s wonderful when you actually get into the scene and it feels genuine. With Greyston there was that wonderful scene by the fireplace.
In episode 4 or 5, when she changes for the first time with Greg. That father/daughter dynamic and him helping to get me through.
GH: I would say the same scene with Greg. The tender moments are nice to play to balance the violence.
In episode 13 there is the bathtub scene. I’m weak and Elena is helping me.
Q: What have you learned from the show?
LV: I’ve become more comfortable with my emotions. This is the first time I’ve really tapped into my emotions for a role. The guys were all there for me. I learned to be more open and vulnerable and have more fun on set. It really opened my eyes to enjoying the process.
GB: I’m at a different place in my life at 40. What does it mean to be a man, what do you want your legacy to be? So getting to explore such moments of intimacy with a great cast and get to ask the bigger questions, it’s made me a better person, a better man. The camera want your truth, you can’t fake it. If you’re being honest, people see that.
GH: The show really allows you to use the full spectrum of your skills. There’s a strong dynamic between each character, that’s different between each character. I bow down to Jeremy because he’s my leader, for instance.
Q: You do a great job with body language – how did that evolve?
LV: Our stunt coordinator, John. I asked how are we going to do the fight scenes as humans with the wolf in us shining through? So I’ll grab someone’s neck like a mother with a pup. But also use that in a fight, and the circling.
GH: John is an avid hunter, so he brings that in.
GB: There an animal nature in all of us and we give expression to that. It’s accessing something primal within us that is both protective and nurturing.
Q: What’s the craziest thing you were asked to do, or just did, when auditioning?
LV: Get naked! Acutally, Greyson has no problem with that! There was actually one scene where we’re eating breakfast and he said, I could take my shirt off here, and they said fine! Do it!
There are always crazy things to do in the scripts. Every episode, the writers give us stuff to do. Laying naked in an ally, eating rats!
There’s an amazing fight scene in the finale. Not crazy but a lot of hard work.
Q: Who is your favorite character (other than yourself)?
GH: Kane. Noah Danby was really great and brought something interesting to the show.
GB: The mutts as a unit created such unique villains, and they created a real threat. They aren’t just archetypal villains. They’re displaced and want a sense of belonging.
GH: They also brought a sense of comedy without becoming kitchy.
LV: All the guest stars. Everyone was perfectly cast. But for me Santos. He had this eerie quality and I found him disturbing to work with which was perfect because I was supposed to feel that way about him.
Q: Any specific hopes for your characters?
GH: More touching on the domestication of Clay as a boy.
LV: I’d like to see that.
GB: Great role for any kid…
LV: We’ll just shave Greyston’s beard and put big props around him and let him play himself…
GB: At this point we’re almost being born again. So much of Jeremy is determined by what the pack needs, I’d like to explore a little more of what Jeremy needs.
GH: Jeremy should hook up with the Sheriff.
GB: I’m dangerously charming!
I think I should be broadsided if it happens because I’m always so in control.
Q: What type of training, if any, did you do to prepare?
LV: I grew up doing martial arts, but no special training for this. A challenge to fight on camera. Lots of rehearsals.
GH: A lot of rehearsals and great stunt doubles. I’ve never been in a fight and had never really thrown a punch. The fights offer a lot of release, and are like a dance.
GB: The characters fight very much in character so their styles are a reflection of who they are. The fights aren’t just slapped on – they’re an essential part of the story telling.
LV: I learned the quick and precise parts of my fighting from being trained by Jeremy, but I was also trained by Clay and that’s reflected in my being able to get dirty and use aggression.
Q: What’s the toughest part of filming: angles, ADR, CGI?
They all agreed it was ADR!
GH: ADR is always so hard. It’s never going to have the same energy as the original take.
GB: The whole reason is the grace notes you create within the performance itself. It’s an intimate dance between actors, being human and exposing themselves, and it’s so fake to recreate that.
LV: I don’t enjoy ADR for the same reason. It can really hurt a scene. It’s a different day and maybe even a different city than the original performance.
The best part of the show is the cast and this character. The worst is the long hours and late night shoots – but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
GH: Trying to stay in shape! Get home late and you’re tired, but you have to work out…
Others: So that you can get naked!
GH: My very first scene to shoot was the nude scene!
Q: How do you prepare for the emotional scenes?
GH: The bond between the actors was pretty instantaneous. It’s the being in the moment and if you can look the other actor in the eye and see the emotion there, if they are in the moment with you, then it’s easy.
GB: I also draw on things I’m going through. My oldest son is leaving for college. Our relationship is going to change. It was very similar to Elena going to Toronto. It’s layers. One feeds the other and it’s a wonderful feeling that you would chase to the end of the world.
Some of the teases:
1. There is a huge shocker coming in the finale! No one will see it coming. It’s pretty brutal.
2. People are going to be switching sides.
3. There is tremendous closure, but also lots of stories opening up.
Finally – why I think we have a great shot at a second season. Firstly, this call. SyFy is really promoting the finale. If they were just going to let it die, they wouldn’t. Secondly, they really talked like the second season was pretty inevitable. Third, Space, in Canada, is getting huge numbers for the show. But don’t sit back and wait for it to happen! Be sure to keep tweeting your support and tune in for the finale!
Bitten’s finale airs Monday, April 7 at 8pm on SyFy. In Canada, you can catch in on Space Saturday, April 5 at 9pm. Space is running a marathon of the entire season on Saturday for anyone who missed an episode or anyone just thinking about watching! Remember to keep an eye out for the full transcript!