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 Skarsgard. He talked about returning for Hemlock Grove Season 2 with new showrunner Chic Eglee at the helm, working with the practical effects, how Roman is coping with his newfound bloodlust, his strained relationships with Peter and Olivia (Famke Janssen), and a lot more. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Your character has a new pad now. Are you enjoying that?
SKARSGARD: My new pad, yeah. The pad is cool. I like where they’re going because my character is just going from that old house that was his family’s house and is doing everything that he can to become his own person. A grown up. Buying his own house. And it’s the complete opposite to the house you saw last year. It’s super modern. Yeah, it’s cool.
Can you talk about some of the other differences in your character this year?
SKARSGARD: He’s a junkie this year. He needs to drink blood, and it’s an addiction for him. Last year he was figuring out what he was. But now he’s an addict. He needs to drink blood. And the whole mythology of it I don’t know if it’s… he can eat. He can drink. It’s not the vampire thing, it’s more of an addiction. But he doesn’t want to. So it’s the moral dilemma of how can you drink blood without hurting people?
The only food item I noticed in his kitchen was a jar full of sprouted garlic. Did that come into play?
SKARSGARD: No. I just saw that the other day! I was like, “No way!”
So now that Roman is in this new position of power, does the town’s view of him shift towards more of a negative direction?
SKARSGARD: We’re not really going too much into that actually in terms of the townspeople themselves. I’m sure that they are. I don’t know if the average townsperson would know this, but he’s taking his new job very seriously. He wants to do well. I think in a way he looked up to his dad for creating this whole thing. He doesn’t want to pursue his mother’s legacy in terms of becoming this creature, he’s still fighting that. He wants to become a serious businessman and an entrepreneur in biotech. He’s trying hard to do as good as he can. Last year we saw more of that, how the town people reacted to him. We did have that scene at least with the drunken man wanting to beat him up. And Hemlock Grove is still that town. It’s like this steel town with a lot of unemployed people and Roman kind of represents the opposite of that.
How would you describe the Season 2 relationship between Peter and Roman. Are they interacting at all? Are they friendly?
SKARSGARD: It’s very complicated. Because of how the first Season left off they don’t really like each other at all. Roman feels that Peter betrayed him. He kind of blames him for being responsible for what he is now.
So he feels abandonment issues?
SKARSGARD: Yeah, yeah. He needed him. He needed Peter and Peter just left. Sort of “How can you leave me in this place?” Peter leaves Hemlock and certain events happen and he has to come back. The two meet again pretty early on and certain things are still unresolved.
What about the baby?
SKARSGARD: Yeah, what about it?
We didn’t see a lot of baby stuff in his place.
NETFLIX REP: You have to wait and see.
Well obviously Roman and his mom have some issues. Is the relationship in a tense place right now?
SKARSGARD: Yeah they’re not really talking. And, you know, I think Roman really despises his mother and also the part of himself that is like her. So he doesn’t want to be anything like her. And she still wants him to pursue the destiny of becoming this creature. Like I said, I think that’s a major difference from last year. Now he’s struggling with this physical addiction to blood and he’s coming up with all of these creative ideas to try to solve this.
We heard that he’s trying to replace his blood through a big device they created for you.
SKARSGARD: Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know how much I can say.
What do you enjoy most about playing him?
SKARSGARD: I don’t know. I think what I at least try to do, to justify the supernatural elements and to use that as an opportunity to portray something too extreme for being human? I think that’s what’s really cool about the blood addiction. I need to justify it as something I could sort of relate to, and I think it’s relatable to an addiction. That craving. So it’s fun to play a character that goes through all of these really extreme things. And I have some really cool feeding scenes too. They weren’t cool to shoot but I think they’ll look cool.
As I was watching the first season I kept wondering if you as actors knew what was going to come next? There’s so much mystery and so much unexplained. How do you play that? Are you privy to what’s going to be in the next episode when you’re shooting?
SKARSGARD: Um, it’s different. Last year we had the book. And Brian and Lee, they’re not part of the writing staff this year so it’s changed a lot. This year every episode has been completely brand new. Unless they tell us something, which they have done vaguely as we’re going along. But I think they’re still trying to figure the show out as it’s going. They get ideas from things they saw in the dailies. I have some vague ideas about what’s going on. But I just read the last episode now and I was completely surprised. It’s exciting too, not knowing anything. Last year we had the novel as an arc of where things were going and I like that too, but it’s kind of exciting not knowing what’s going to happen. And we get the scripts of the next episode a week or two before we start shooting it. So it’s really like, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do on Monday.”
A lot of people today have been saying that it’s a lot bigger and bloodier this season. And given what Roman has to do with blood, can you talk about some of your experiences working with the effects this Season?
SKARSGARD: Yeah. Looking back at last year there wasn’t that much blood in it. I didn’t have any really bloody scenes last year apart from me cutting myself, that kind of thing. But this year, especially with prosthetics, I do have some feeding scenes. They built this prosthetic bite mark. We’re talking just two fang holes, it’s as if a human would just bite someone’s neck off pretty much. And they put a tube with this gas pressure, filled with blood. So it’s like I’m feeding and as I let go, blood starts squirting out. We have crazy amounts of blood. It’s fun. With my first feeding scene I was adamant that we make it look, I don’t know about real, but as bloody as possible. Like someone biting someone’s neck and piercing the main artery.
How is the blood? I’m assuming you must have tasted it?
SKARSGARD: The blood I have in my mouth is kind of a minty flavor and it’s meant for drinking though it’s not good at all. That’s a small tube for my mouth. And then they have gallons of other blood where they’re like, “You shouldn’t drink this!”
Do you and your brother ever exchange stories?
SKARSGARD: No, we haven’t.
What is it about the Skarsgards that casting directors cast you as blood eaters?
SKARSGARD: I don’t know. I guess there’s something ancient about our Scandinavian past.
I’ve noticed that with what happened in the last Season with Letha and Shelley’s disappearance, that there’s going to be more character focus. With Roman, is there more isolation now that he’s lost Shelly, Letha and Peter? In his new position of power?
SKARSGARD: Completely. He’s completely isolated and super lonely. There’s no one in his life anymore, you know? Last year he did have Shelley, the most important person in his life. Losing her and then Peter was the first real friend that he ever had, someone that also saw him for what he was. They understood each other at that heightened level for what they are. And he’s gone and Letha’s gone and he’s just got his mother. And Olivia is reaching out to Roman, “You need me to explain what you’re going through.” Because he doesn’t really know, but he just despises her and doesn’t want anything to do with her. So he’s this very lonely young man. And Peter coming back to the town, he’s the only person left in Roman’s life that he cares about, but he despises him for what he did.
Norman’s still around.
SKARSGARD: Yeah, Norman’s around. I don’t think Roman… further into Season 2 they have more to do with each other. But I think Roman considers Norman pretty weak and Norman being, you know, in a relationship with his mother and cheating on his wife who is also Letha’s mother… Norman is obsessed with Olivia. So I don’t think Roman would consider Norman someone that he could talk to. Especially with what Roman is going through. Norman doesn’t know what Roman is. And I think that’s one of the most important parts, Roman being able to talk to someone that sees through him and knows what he is. And Norman doesn’t know that at all. Norman could never understand what Roman is actually going through.
Does that mean he’s bonding with Dr. Pryce more now?
SKARSGARD: I do have a lot of scenes with Dr. Pryce, but I wouldn’t call it bonding.
Aside from the increased amounts of blood in Season 2, there have been a lot of changes with the people on the show. With Chic on the show. How has it been as an actor directionally and moving forward with the project?
SKARSGARD: It was strange because I did have… Season 2 became something where they brought in all of these new people, and Chic became the showrunner. So there was an adjustment period when we started when you’re like, “Okay so these are your ideas and this is what we’re doing.” Because I already had my own ideas of where it was going. And they changed it and that was an adjustment period. We brought in new people with new ideas, which is weird. But after one or two episodes I was completely in with this new trajectory of the show. It’s been cool and we’ve had amazing directors this year too that come from feature films and music videos so it’s really visual. People that aren’t used to doing television, kind of in a good way because it’s experimental and challenging. And from what I’ve seen of the show this year, it looks really cool. At least visually. It’s quite a striking show this year and I can’t wait for it to come out.
Has the tone of the show changed? Just broadly, what’s different between Season 1 and Season 2?
SKARSGARD: Well I mean, obviously it will. Because if you change the main writers, the tone is going to be slightly changed. But I think they did a good job of trying to… it’s still very weird. And it’s still pretty messed up, which is what I liked about the first season. Just in terms of… I don’t think the audience is going to notice it as much as I did. They’ve done a really cool job with it. From what I’ve heard, people are really, really excited with the dailies that they’ve seen. I think that the tone won’t change from the audience point of view, it’s the same characters that Brian and Lee created last year. It’s just a different turn of events.