To clear up any confusion, Rhona Mitra is NOT a recast of Kate Beckinsale’s popular vampire heroine, Selene. She’s a new character. Or rather, an old, old character since she’s the star of the franchise’s newest entry, the prequel “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”. We spoke with Mitra at Comic-Con about the challenges of being the new face of a franchise and how this role compares to her other action flicks.
You’re no stranger to action, you did “Doomsday”. Is it different, a movie like this where you’re playing a weird character like the werewolf?
Rhona Mitra: A weird character. It’s entirely different, yeah, and I actually found it to be a lot more playful and you have a much freer reign really even though obviously I had to keep them as well the vampire and all of those things. It was a lot freer having to sort of take on all these incredibly strange, unusual things which are like viruses and the world ending which I did in “Doomsday” but actually play it as a 30-year old woman who was going to deal with this. It just seemed like an entirely impossible task to make that authentic. Whereas you’re given a world where you don’t really have to worry about authenticity necessarily because your poetic license is endless, you know, you really don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re getting it right or not or whether people are believing you or not. It’s not that it’s not plausible it’s just that everybody’s already on the trip with you. Whereas in the other one, it’s like you’re really making people believe that you’re actually a human being who’s taking care of this stuff. So it was a lot more playful to be involved in this one.
Now you get a script for a movie that’s the 3rd movie of a franchise. Are you leery at all about that because of sequels or do you just jump into it?
Mitra: No, I was completely wary and full-square against it. I wouldn’t even have the conversation because I thought it was a bad idea for me.
Mitra: Yeah, because I didn’t know it was a prequel, and so I was in the mindset that I think a lot of the fans or people who don’t know about the fact that it’s a prequel would have been like, really? Another one? How are they going to….and wait. Somebody’s going to be playing the role of Kate Beckinsale, that’s just suicide which is what I thought, which is why I was like it’s not happening. I don’t want to have the conversation because I wouldn’t do that. It doesn’t make sense. So, when they told me it was a prequel, it was a completely new character, it was a period piece. It’s a completely new scenario really pretty much, except you have the two, I mean most phenomenal actors being Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen at the helm it’s just the best environment because you also have Patrick as well. So you don’t have somebody who’s going to come in and that’s the other thing, is there going to be a director who’s going to come in and try to put his own flavor on it which you can’t do to a movie like “Underworld” because the hue of it has to be the same. The temperature has to be the same and I think you have a fan base that you have to adhere to because they know that. It’s familiarity and yet you do have to set it apart. So all of the things that were necessary for it to be the home it needs for me to walk into were there. So the minute I understood that it was an absolute blessing because it’s the most awesome part for a female to play.
The most awesome part? How so?
Mitra: Oh my gosh. I get to be this wonderful warrior who rides horses, who is a swordswoman and is the daughter of this fantastic man who’s played by Bill Nighy and so I have to take on some of his character traits, but in the same breath she’s this wonderful woman but was supposed to be maybe like a first born son. So she has this incredible tenascity and has this wonderful love story with Michael Sheen’s character who’s a Lycan. And it’s a true, true love story with real heart so I get to play out all of these amazing things in one character. I get to put armor on and ride horses and rear and chop wolves heads off and be in love and have this issue with my father which everybody may not have but they’re like yeah, that’s cathartic. You know I wore these amazing costumes—amazing costumes. And I played all day in a fantasy world, yeah, to me that’s an amazing character, an awesome character.
How does shooting action on this compare to “Doomsday” where “Doomsday” is a futuristic apocalypse and this is set in the past. How does it compare?
Mitra: Well, “Doomsday” felt like an apocalypse. I think there was a lot of…I mean they’re just night and day. Night and day. I couldn’t even begin to start figuring out how to compare the two. Mainly in that I’ve told you that this world is a fantastical one. It’s an environment that’s already been created, so I’m not responsible for that. They’ve already done that. “Underworld 1 and 2” have created this home and this environment and all of these things and all I have to do is figure out a way of melding myself and walking into it and fitting into it. And “Doomsday” was about creating. For me, I had one responsibility which was a character—making her authentic. The rest of it was up to the vision of a director who chose to use lots of other movies to create his environment, which I had no control over, you know? I could only be responsible for what I brought to the table. So it’s a very different approach and a very different project. But there was a lot of butt kicking in both.
With Eden from “Doomsday” and Sonya from “Underworld” both being such strong kick ass characters, who would you say would win in a fight between the both of them?
Mitra: Even though they’re both me?
Mitra: Oh, Sonya would. Yeah.
That probably won’t be the last time you’re asked that question with the Comic Con people.
Mitra: It is the first time. It would be interesting, yeah, Sonya would. She’s got supernatural powers. She’s kind of a super hero. So, yeah I think if you sent Sonya 30 years into the future, she’s probably manage to kick her around, but then actually again I don’t know because I don’t think she can do a reverse 180 handbrake turn, or head butt for that matter.
Has this film got you more interested in werewolves or vampires or were you interested in them before?
Mitra: No it definitely got me more interested. I mean, I think I had a general, genuine interest in them before—nothing fanatical by any mean—but always loved very good vampire films—the good ones. I don’t think I can think of any werewolf films that I was particularly…never been particularly drawn to a werewolf but now I’ve had a love scene with one. I definitely think of them differently.
How are the outfits because I’ve heard usually going with a sexy dress or something?
Mitra: Dress? Well, I think given that we had Selene’s phenomenal outfit from the first one—the first two which was so iconic, we needed to keep something in the same vein as that. But we also couldn’t use the same materials so we were without the latex and the PVC so we had to use organic material but keep it as sort of corsety and sexy and tight but also plausible that you could fight and you know go out and be a warrior in it too, so with the poetic license and creative license that you have in the “Underworld” world we didn’t worry about floaty dresses and sort of long flowing hair with sort of widow’s peaks or any of that stuff. No.
Do we see you physically transform?
Mitra: No. Oh well, you can see my teeth. I think you see my teeth grow and you see my eyes.
So you didn’t have any of the makeup process everybody else has to go through?
Mitra: No. But I did have to deal with the costume which was something that no one else had to deal with which is…I mean it’s a work of art really. It’s really like nothing else anyone’s ever seen a woman wear. It’s just shocking. It’s like Selene’s melded with Joan of Arc, if you can imagine. It’s like chain male and corsets.
We talked about how you had some preconceptions about the film but you got over them after having read the script and seen what they were trying to do. Have you come to terms with fans maybe having the same preconceptions that you originally had?
Mitra: Have I come to terms? Like would I have gone to therapy for it?
Well no, but I mean are you prepared for like what other people might think?
Mitra: Honestly not that I don’t care but it really hasn’t crossed my mind at all. You know, everybody was always going to have…I think once I personally had got over the fact that what I wasn’t doing was filling anybody’s shoes, it’s just a new movie. And I think the minute anybody understands that and then the thing that I think that as soon as anybody understands it’s a prequel there’s no further questions. I think that that’s pretty clear and anybody’s understanding of what a prequel is than any of that comparison seems to be eradicated. It seems to be eradicated. I haven’t come up against any….I personally haven’t come up against any.