From executive producer Eli Roth the Netflix original series Hemlock Grove returns July 11th for a second season that promises more blood, guts and betrayal. The supernatural thriller centers on the mysterious happenings of a small Pennsylvania town where vampires, werewolves, and genetically engineered Frankenstein monsters roam the streets side by side. Season two looks to get darker, sexier and scarier as Peter (Landon Liboiron) and Roman (Bill Skarsgard) face the responsibilities of adulthood and deal with the fallout from the first season’s brutal climactic massacre.
Earlier this year I joined a small group of journalists on set in Toronto where we had a chance to talk with Demore Barnes. He talked about what we can expect from Michael in season 2, his new position of power in Hemlock Grove, how his sister’s death affects him, the unexpected turns he takes on his path to vengeance, and more. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DEMORE BARNES: Well he is … do any of you have siblings?
BARNES: You know the relationship you have with your siblings, you have a really loving relationship. His sister was killed, so he’s definitely on a path to figure out who was at the bottom of it. Yeah, I guess you could say vengeance is probably in there.
How much is he aware of his sister’s real activities as opposed to the stuff she was pretending to do?
BARNES: I think as the season unfolds it will become much more clear. It’s going to be interesting for the audience to see just how much Michael is aware of and just how oblivious he actually is and to actually watch that unfold, so I’m going to hold that a little more closely.
Obviously avoiding spoilers, but you could say Michael is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
BARNES: Oh, he’s badass from the beginning. Yeah, absolutely.
How badass? Are we talking weaponry here?
BARNES: We’re talking intellect. I think we’re talking weaponry, we’re talking strategically. I think people might be surprised as well, or they might be interested to see from the emotional standpoint just how deep and wide he runs.
Lets play some word association, so if I say one word you say one word back.
BARNES: Oh, it’s dangerous though.
BARNES: Godfrey. [Laughs]
Playing it safe. Peter.
What have you noticed about the second season that you would contrast and say is different than the first?
BARNES: That’s a good question. I think the sense of cohesiveness of the relationships within the show. Perhaps it goes without saying that in season two there’s a way in which the characters are developing and moving forward, and I think you’ll really see that in a really significant way, but then also their lives are also become more entwined. Everyone has their objectives, some of them overlap, and then it’s kind of interesting to see when two different characters want completely opposite things. I think there was something that was really cinematic in the first season and I think we’re probably going to see even a little bit more of that. We’re probably going to see in great part the influences of Mr. [Eli] Roth, but then also Chic Eglee and some of their touch. You know the little flair of Dexter and Walking Dead, and the audience will be able to see some of those echoes.
BARNES: Yeah, definitely. I think that central antagonist, or that sense of antagonism the first season, is just going to be ratcheted up. I think across the board what the audience is really going to see and enjoy is that everything is just going to be ratcheted up. I think there will be a lot that will be unexpected. I think there will be some carrots that will be dangled out there that have the audience on the edge of their seats wondering, “How does this resolve?”
I assume at this point since you’re still here that you’re going to make it through towards the end of the season with his arc. Is he going to regret this journey that he’s undertaken?
BARNES: The journey thus far?
Yeah, the search for his sister’s killer and what happened to her, because I think at some point during the first season she had regrets on the journey she’d undertaken, she regretted that path. Is he going to have the same kind of regrets?
BARNES: I don’t sense any regret. I think the anchor on that I’d say is because he loves his sister dearly. I think it was interesting how Michael appeared toward the end of the third act last season and there was some grey, if not ambiguity, around the nature of their relationship, but the fact of the matter is that each of them is all that the other had. That was taken away from him, so no regrets in pursuit of any sort of vindication or vengeance about her.
At the end of the season we saw Michael interact with the priest and the priest notifies him about what was going on, and you could definitely tell carrying over to this season that there was going to be a bit of a relationship there. What I saw from your character, he didn’t really like the priest or his methods for that matter. Would you say that the priest is going to be a heavy part of the story along with your part?
BARNES: There will be a bit of a tango. There will be a bit of a tango and a do-si-do, and I think it will be interesting for the audience to see who’s leading dance and who’s following. How’s that? [Laughs] You’re like, ‘He didn’t say anything.”
You’re tangoing and do-si-do-ing around the question.
What are you most impressed by when you watch a show like this come together, in terms of what the crew is up to, what your fellow castmates are up to, what blows you away as an actor?
BARNES: Just from looking at the show?
Yeah, you see behind the scenes and you see how hard these people work, and making a ten episode season is probably one of the most difficult things to do, so you must see something new or exciting or revealing every day.
BARNES: Yeah, no word of lie, the cast is exceptional, an extraordinary cast. I feel like every time I jump into a scene or I watch a scene behind the monitors, just the caliber of talent is extraordinary. I think it’s fun. I think you kind of pointed to it as well, doing ten episodes. At a glance it’s easy to assume that the season is going to be less than, but I find it remarkable to know just how rich and robust the season still is even as ten [episodes]. It just feels like the right proportion, the right size. Talent all around- our producers, our writers, it’s always interesting to see what they’re going to come up with.
Have you been a fan of the horror genre?
BARNES: I wouldn’t say necessarily a fan of the horror genre. I think interestingly enough that’s kind of where I’ve been dancing and kind of where I’ve been playing, even more so recently, in terms of Supernatural and Fringe and some pilot work that I’ve done on other shows. I’m a fan of great stories, so whatever genre that is, sign me up. So I think in some ways I think it’s less of a focus for me what genre it is and more just the stories. What’s happening with the characters? What do they want? What are their objectives? What are their challenges, their obstacles? Just to watch and see that unfold and how it’s woven together.
Give me your first reaction when you found out what direction Michael’s story was going to go this season.
BARNES: What’s he wearing? [Laughs]
Can you tell us what he’s wearing?
BARNES: I am wearing a sheriff’s outfit.
Michael and Tom should be sharing some stories then.
BARNES: You think so? Yeah, I’m wearing a sheriff’s outfit and it’s not as hip as season one.
So this is not a covert investigation?
BARNES: Still very much covert, yeah.
NETFLIX REP: It allows him to have a position of power where he can investigate in a larger way.
That’s definitely more open.
BARNES: Interesting enough, I think that’s what’s clever about the design of it, is that while in one way it seems as thought it’s kind of on the sleeve and it’s out in the open, there is a way in which that affords Michael and affords the writers a much more broad scope and a lot more latitude in terms of choices and decisions they make because of his role and position as sheriff of the town. There are powers and abilities that he has available to him that he otherwise wouldn’t have. So he doesn’t always have to be under the cover of darkness, but then there’s a darkness within and within the characters in the world that he still gets to deal with. It enables the writers to surprise, I think, in a way that they wouldn’t where it becomes much more obvious if it’s Michael in the dark and what’s going to happen? It’s kind of like, well, you know. It broadens it quite a bit.
Did we know that previously from his backstory that he might have previous law enforcement background?
BARNES: That wasn’t overtly expressed. I think there was a place in which- in the land of the unknown or ambiguity, that’s where the writers kind of open things up. I think even just in terms of my own personal background and some of my other characters I’ve done, that bore some influence as well.
What’s the bloodiest thing you’ve seen on the set?
BARNES: The bloodiest?
The most disgusting thing.
NETFLIX REP: They spoke to [Patrick] Baxter earlier so they got some good info on that.
But if there’s something else.
BARNES: Interestingly enough, yeah, I’d say probably I observed someone being impaled by many arrows, which was pretty grotesque.
Is this a dummy or did they actually have a stunt person for that?
BARNES: I think the audience will have to tune in and watch.
I mean just for the practical aspect.
It’s Canada, you can kill real people.
It sounds really dangerous.
BARNES: [Laughs] You mean generally speaking? I think it depends. If it’s CG then in some ways there’s a lot more latitude that you can have.
NETFLIX REP: I think it’s a mixture of both, like when Bill was talking abut the bites, how there’s the bite mark on the outside, but then there’s also- it’s a mix of FX, but also CGI. I think you need both for that scene.
They described that scene with the prongs coming in, the medical machine, they actually had to use a dummy because if you use a real person it was going to kill them.
As the sheriff can we expect to see Michael interacting with a large number of the cast members or is it specific to a few?
BARNES: Yeah. Interestingly enough if you look at that board [Michael's investigation board] over there it has just about almost everyone on it in some form or another. Everyone in the town is up for grabs as far as Michael is concerned. He arrives in town and all of [those] guys are sort of the key residents, everyone is a suspect and everyone is potentially going to be at the end of his wrath and his investigation.
Let’s get back to the idea of regrets, because his sister really wasn’t prepared to deal with somebody like Olivia, who ultimately killed her. He himself is probably not as aware of what his sister knew about these supernatural elements. He’s not going to be ready for all this.
BARNES: You don’t think so?
I’m assuming he’s not.
BARNES: Let’s see what happens. I hope everyone feels the way that you do. Yes, Michael is quite adept, quite talented, quite skilled, quite adept.
So he stands a stronger chance of surviving?
NETFLIX REP: You’ll have to tune in and see.
BARNES: Great intervention
NETFLIX REP: I think once you know your sister is murdered like that you’re already more prepared because you already know what people are capable of, so that is already one step up.
I was just thinking supernatural versus human, human doesn’t really stand a chance.
BARNES: In terms of regret I think it’s probably not unlike any of us in terms of close familial relationships where, perhaps we haven’t all had this experience, but where you have a loved one and somehow they’re no longer in your life, whether they’ve passed, or been killed, or they’ve moved away, or they’re alienated, there’s a way that regret has of rearing its head in anyone who’s at all sensible or in touch with their feelings. You regret things that weren’t said or things that were said. I don’t think Michael’s any different from that. It will be interesting for the audience to see and determine just how much of his tough exterior, how much softness or tenderness or gentleness lies beneath, if at all.
It sounds like this pursuit of his sister seems all encompassing and a lot of the other cast members have said that their characters, because of the events of the first season, have felt like they’re isolated, they’re torn apart essentially. Since Michael has lost his sister, do you feel like his struggle is more internal or is his struggle more external in the pursuit of finding his sisters killer and also as being the sheriff of this town?
BARNES: I think it emanates from an internal place. Not to overly generalize, but I would venture to say that’s probably almost the case for any of the actors on the show. There’s sort of an internal basis that then manifests outwards and then that’s where the conflict arises as each character tries to feed, or fulfill, or finance, or do whatever that is that’s happening inside. I think that’s what makes really interesting television and really interesting writing. So to answer your question, I think it’s both. I think it’s a journey of self discovery for the character. I think Michael will surprise himself, and I think an actor or a character that surprises themselves is really enjoyable for the audience to watch as well.