Based on the best-selling book series from author Richelle Mead, Vampire Academy tells the story of half-vampire/half-human guardian Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and her royal Moroi vampire best friend Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). As two 17-year-old girls trying to survive the perils of Moroi society and high school, Rose will sacrifice everything to protect Lissa from those who are putting her life in jeopardy. From director Mark Waters (Mean Girls) and writer Dan Waters (Heathers), the film also stars Danila Kozlovsky, Dominic Sherwood, Sarah Hyland, Cameron Monaghan and Sami Gayle.
At the film’s press day, actor Dominic Sherwood (who plays Lissa’s love interest, Christian Ozera) talked about his audition process, focusing on the humanity of the characters, that they talked about really lighting his hands on fire before they decided to do it with CGI, what makes this vampire story different, when he realized just how popular these books are, working with this cast, and the type of roles he’d like to pursue next. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DOMINIC SHERWOOD: I got sent the casting by my agent, who said they were looking for someone who looks like this to play this character in a movie based on a series of best-selling novels. So, I turned up at the first audition and I actually auditioned for two different characters. And then, when I got recalled, they dropped the other one and it was just Christian.
Which was the other character you auditioned for?
SHERWOOD: Ray, who’s played by Chris Mason. And weirdly, Chris Mason auditioned for Christian, as well. I guess they flipped us over. And then, I went through my audition process and, as I did, I fell more in love with the production, with Mark and Dan [Waters], and with the girls. It was really great. And then, by the time I was offered the part, I was like, “Wow, this is really amazing. I can’t wait to get started on it.”
When you do a supernatural story like this, do you try to focus more on the human aspects of it?
SHERWOOD: Well, that was very easy for us because the humanity in our vampires is very present and very evident. But some of the stuff that’s very surreal, like the fire magic, I love doing it. It’s my favorite thing to do. That’s when you can really let your imagination run away with you. When you’re told, “Christian raises his hands and fire bursts out of them,” the rest of it, you do in your mind. That’s great. I love doing that sort of stuff.
Were you excited to see what the finished product looked like?
SHERWOOD: Yeah, I was really excited. I was like, “Please don’t let me look stupid. Does my fire face look ridiculous? Oh, it is! Dammit!” No, it was great. I was really, really happy with it. When we went back to do re-shoots, Dan and Mark said they were working on the scene at the end and they said it looked great. And then, I saw it and thought it looked really cool. I was only disappointed that we didn’t do more actual fire. The stunt guys were talking about actually setting my hands on fire for the last scene, with this special gel that they use. You can be aflame for 20 or 30 seconds, before you put it out. And then, they said no. I think it’s ‘cause I’m too clumsy. I genuinely think they were like, “No, Dom will kill himself or someone else. We can’t risk it. We’ll just do it with CGI.”
SHERWOOD: Yeah. We have a normal teenage element to it, too. What’s interesting about this, that doesn’t happen very often in vampire movies, is that there is no outsider coming to join our world. It’s the audience who are being brought in and welcomed to a world that’s already in progress. We know we’re vampires. We were brought up with it. We were born vampires. This has been our lives, and we’re very, very used to it. The Academy is very normal, from that point of view. That’s where the naturalism of high school comes into it. Why would we have the same problems as normal kids, going to a normal high school? They would develop naturally.
When and how did you realize just how popular these books are?
SHERWOOD: Very recently. It was on the press tour that it started hitting me because we started meeting fans. They’ve been coming to get things signed, and we’re actually seeing how passionate these people are. Whilst I was filming, that was all stuff I tried very hard not to focus on. That can be so much pressure, so I tried to ignore that. And then, I actually started meeting these people. You can say “best-selling novel” until you’re blue in the face, but when you actually meet people you’re like, “This is actually real.” There are these thousands of people who really care about this movie and the books. We’ve all said it, but we’re so appreciative of all these people that are behind us. It goes hand-in-hand with the fame thing. I’ve never been interested in being famous. I enjoy acting. That’s what’s important to me. But at the same time, having these people coming up to you and asking for autographs or photos, or whatever, they’re basically saying that they appreciate what you do, and they think that you’re doing a good job at what you do. It’s a huge compliment for me. That’s how I’m going to try to take it.
Was it important to you, that if you were going to play a character like Christian, that he’s the unexpected bad boy?
SHERWOOD: He’s also passionate and loyal and very brave. But no, not so much. If I had been offered one of the other characters, I would have done that, as well. It was a great project that I wanted to be a part of. Honestly, I was more suited to Christian, and hopefully I did a good job. But, the actual character wasn’t necessarily as important. I think it would be really interesting to do the most surreal characters that I possibly can, and then go back to normal. I want a really diverse range of different people under my belt. That’s what I’m hoping to do with my career.
SHERWOOD: Yeah, it was really inspirational, having people like that on set. The vast majority of the cast was very young, so we look up to people like Gabriel, Joely and Olga, who are making their way, very successfully, through their career. I very much was in awe, watching Gabriel and Olga do their thing. I nearly ruined a couple of takes by watching them and not doing my own thing. I forgot I was making a movie. They are all so nice, as well. Joely was lovely. She was only there for a day, and she took the time to take me aside and make sure she introduced herself, which was really, really nice. I met Gabriel a couple of times, and he was an absolute gem. He was such a nice man. And same with Olga, too. But, I got a little shy around Olga. She’s really good looking, so I got a little bashful. She has this presence. It’s crazy. It was really amazing, having people like that on set.
What was it like to work with Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry?
SHERWOOD: It was great. Especially when you’re working so closely with people and you have to develop intense relationships, it’s great when you have a relationship and a rapport with them. And I have that with both Zoey and Lucy. It’s really great to work with people that you’re just so comfortable with that you can say or do anything around them.
Do you know what you’re going to do next?
SHERWOOD: I’ve just had a movie offer come in, but I’m not allowed to say too much about it because we haven’t gone through the contracts. And there’s something else, as well, but I can’t talk about that either. I’m not actively looking for anything, in particular. My team around me are avoiding me playing a vampire again, straight away. And that’s not because I didn’t enjoy it, but that could potentially pigeonhole me for the rest of my career. So, it’s important to me that I get as far away from being a vampire as I can. I also don’t want to go from playing a vampire to playing a werewolf. It would be great to maybe do a period piece, or something in one of the world wars, or something naturalistic and surreal in a very different way. I just want to do something very different. I’m never opposed to anything. My agents and my managers are very good at whittling things down to the things they think I would be good at and that I’d respond well to, and that includes theater, TV and film. Whatever it is, if the material is right for me, then I’ll go for it.
Vampire Academy is now playing in theaters.