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. Hemlock Grove Season 2 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 Famke Janssen during a break in filming. She talked about why she loves playing Olivia, what’s new for Olivia in season two, what she likes about working on a longform series, why she works in genre so often, treating every role with respect, and more. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
So you’re definitely wearing different colors it seems…
Can you elaborate on that?
JANSSEN: You know, there’ve been many changes in wardrobe. Colors more than anything, not so much the style. Last year we went through different eras in clothing, this year it’s a little more unified but we decided to go with not white, not just one color and there’s sort of more jewel tones I suppose, a little brighter than what I usually wear. But I have to upstage the blood… it’s taking a first role.
You’re living separately from Roman at this point. Are you living in isolation?
JANSSEN: We don’t get along. I’m sure that’s no surprise but we’re not getting along. And that’s really all him, I’m perfectly happy to make this a wonderful, functioning relationship but he’s stubborn. I don’t know where he got it from, and so I don’t know. I mean, we [may] have to wait until season three for us to have a lovely, wonderful mother/son relationship or something. Fuzzy, I’m ready for fuzzy.
This season do you think there will be more delving into the story behind Olivia or is there still going to be a shroud of mystery?
JANSSEN: There’s a lot of mystery but that’s Olivia, you need to shroud her in mystery I think that’s the fun about her character but there are moments, glimpses, some very few where we may see something and know something, find out something.
We know she’s not living in the mansion anymore, she’s living in a cottage.
JANSSEN: What else do you know?
That’s about it… Why the change of venue? Was that her decision?
JANSSEN: Well you know what happened to me at the end of last season. It didn’t end very well, I wasn’t in the best of shape so I needed to do some rehabilitation to come back to a more vibrant version of myself. So that took moving to another place for a temporary – a temporary move to another environment.
So she’s not hiding from Roman?
Is she upset that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with her?
JANSSEN: Yes! Very! I mean, she’s been a terrible mother but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be a better one in the future.
You mentioned you had to compete with the blood and from everything we’ve heard there’s a lot more of that this year, maybe a little more gore. Can you talk a little bit about the more stunt training things you’ve seen on set?
JANSSEN: I haven’t experienced them but I think I’m about to… I’m not good with the blood and the gore, so, I don’t know how I’m going to get through the last episodes. But for that you’ll just have to tune in and watch it, I’m not going to tell you about it!
How would you describe Olivia and Roman’s relationship in the second season?
JANSSEN: It’s more loaded because there are more secrets unraveled and things are kind of a little more complicated because the season goes and progresses. When you have somebody like Olivia with that many secrets and mysteries around her something eventually is going to come out and you know it so that element is definitely played in this season.
What do you think is driving her?
JANSSEN: She’s hungry for a lot of things. Obviously she needs to sustain this whatever, this Upir-ism thing, so that’s one of the things and you know I think whatever gets her going in the beginning of season two is very different from what gets her going at the end of season two. There is a big switch in there somewhere with a realization that she never had before so that’s something fun to play with that I had to do this time around.
When you and Landon are on screen together there’s a weird energy… Do you think that this season there’s going to be more interaction?
JANSSEN: No, not at all. Different storylines, different interactions with different people. Three, season three. They start an affair. They have vampire-werewolf kids.
Difference in storytelling between film and television. Do you appreciate the long form more?
JANSSEN: I do, I do because I come from a film background. For the last twenty years I’ve been in film. TV is not, other than a tough experience I had for one season, is not something I’m familiar with but I like this very much because it functions a lot more in the way that film functions. You know you don’t have to use the cliffhanger every week to have people waiting, “Ah! What’s going to happen?” and lets wait for one week before we reveal the next thing. Yeah, we don’t have any of that so it’s a much more interesting way of story telling and a way that I’m more familiar with it too so I’m happy.
Is there something about genre that you like as an actress?
JANSSEN: No, I think it likes me. It’s not my genre, I never watched it. I’m being totally serious, I don’t like horror, I don’t like sci-fi. I watch you anything from documentaries to foreign films to independent films, the film I directed was an independent film, it likes me and I’m assuming it’s because I look like a freaky alien. It’s all I can think of.
Do you think the genre likes you because you bring something grounded to it?
JANSSEN: I don’t know, I cant imagine, I think there’s a lot of actors who are “grounded,” I think maybe the fact that I’m 5’11 1/2., dark hair and I’m a foreigner, I think it’s the only thing they know what to do with me. “Lets put her X-Men or an Upir” or whatever. I can’t play the girl next door part so much, so there is a certain limitation and I’m very aware of that with casting. As I was casting my own movie I realized 99% of it is type. When somebody walks into a room they give off a certain kind of vibe or whatever and at that point that’s how you’re going to cast them and with me comes a very specific kind of thing and I think in that genre that somehow it finds its space or room or whatever.
Is there a type that you wish you could play instead?
JANSSEN: The girl next door. I can’t wait. It’d be so foreign for me in every department that it’d be kinda fun! No, I mean, I guess you know the period movies where they take me out of the modern environment that I’ve been in or the futuristic environment that would seem really fun. I’ve really always loved everything but contemporary today world so something like that, but you know I’m grateful for any bit of work that comes my way. It’s an amazing business and I feel really lucky to have been part of it for so long.
You’re still treating the genre with respect. You’ve clearly put a lot of thought into your character…
JANSSEN: I think work is work. I’m very grateful for work especially in a business like the one that we’re all in in its highly competitive and there are a lot of people standing behind me jumping at the opportunity to only do one thing, like one movie or one TV show or one episode or one line of what I’m doing so to be ungracious or to be ungrateful for that would be awful and not right so I’m honestly so incredibly grateful for every opportunity I get in this business. Don’t forget! I was born in a tiny little country in a small town and here I am working in Canada and America and it’s incredible.
Talk about the relationship between Dr. Pryce and Olivia.
JANSSEN: She has a direct need to be more involved. Pryce really holds the key to a lot of things that are happening in the second season. He’s becoming more powerful and it’s not something that most people like but it’s a reality and he’s a very fun character anyway so we have a lot of interaction this season, price and Olivia.
Was she backed into it or does she make an overture?
JANSSEN: She’s backed into it. It comes from a direct need. He holds the key to something.
It sounds like an inversion from the first season where your character held a lot of the keys and knew all the mysteries, it sounds like she’s a little more hard up this season.
JANSSEN: She is. She starts off, because her almost demise at the end of — well it was her demise but it was a – some resurgence coming out of the second season but clearly not back to 100%, it starts from a much more venerable place and different things are now on her agenda: recuperation and rehabilitation and all of those things and there are people who hold the key to what she needs at this point.
So will we be seeing – because Olivia is a very specific woman, will she be behaving differently?
JANSSEN: Yes. It’s different. She’s not a different person ultimately but there are many changes that make her act differently this time around compared to last time.
Meaning she’s not going to be as interested in what’s going on with Shelley? For a protective mother type…
JANSSEN: You think she’s a protective mother type? It’s great that you got that impression. She’s a terrible mother. I don’t judge the characters that I play so I think we’ll see a different side of her this season.
What’s the most fun thing about playing Olivia?
JANSSEN: She always surprises. I think everyone else around her, including me, you never know what’s coming up with her … and because we went a very different direction with her this season its almost like playing a different character all together so that’s fun. And it’s hard to know of course when you sign up to – when you sign up to a film you read the entire script. Beginning to end, you know what’s coming, you know the arc you know whatever. In the format like this where you sign on to one script a pilot script kind of thing and then you don’t know what’s happening in the first thirteen let alone the second or more seasons after that, it’s a very scary thing to sign on to not knowing. I just felt compelled to playing her because there was something about here where we could explore different sides and so far we have.