Having first premiered on television in 1996, the vampire saga Kindred: The Embraced is now available on DVD in a collectible box set that includes an exclusive edition of The Book of Nod, a letter to fans from series creator John Leekley, the extended pilot episode, audio commentary, deleted scenes and cast interviews. The show follows San Francisco police detective Frank Kohanek (C. Thomas Howell), who discovers that his alleged mobster suspect is actually Julian Luna (Mark Frankel), the undead “Prince of the City” and the leader of the vampire clans that are collectively called The Kindred.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with actress Brigid Brannagh, who played Sasha, the sassy teenaged descendent of Julian Luna, talked about how surreal it is to be talking about the TV series again, 17 years later, why she thinks this show has maintained its popularity over the years, what originally attracted her to this role, what her audition process was like, the impression that her time working with Mark Frankel made on her, and what she thinks the show might be like, if it existed today. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
BRIGID BRANNAGH: Quite. When I went in for the DVD interviews, I thought, “Good lord, it’s 17 years later!” I thought that maybe I should do my make-up differently and put extra effort in, or I’d look like a different human being. It’s very strange.
Out of all the projects you’ve done in your career, are you surprised that, after only eight episodes, that this has maintained a cult status since it aired?
BRANNAGH: I don’t know if I’m surprised because it happened from the very beginning. I’ve done different conventions and had smaller roles in different sci-fi things, and Kindred has always lasted and always come up. It’s strange because it’s not like people could watch it again and remember things, and yet they remembered so much detail about it. I pretty much knew, at the time they canceled the show, that we had a loyal and big following. That was evident pretty quickly after the show was canceled.
What do you think it is about the show that has allowed it to sustain, all these years later?
BRANNAGH: Aaron Spelling was a huge fan of vampires, and everything in that genre, and this was the second time he really pushed the network to get his own little baby made. He had done Blood Ties, some years back. He just really loved the entire subject of vampires and he was really passionate about it. If you really like the idea of this other world and the intricacies of it, because there were a lot of them, and once you’re hooked, it’s always something that’s a fascination to you. I like everything that has to do with ghosts. If I see it, I’m all over it. We all have our thing. Aaron Spelling kept trying to bring vampires about, and I feel badly that it happened so much later. He was ahead of his time, in that regard.
How do you think Aaron Spelling would feel about how vampires are represented now?
This show was on at a time long before vampires were at the level of popularity that they are now. What was it that originally attracted you to the project, at the time?
BRANNAGH: Quite honestly, the role of Sasha attracted me. The role always attracts me. Sometimes I can read something and I can barely see the rest of the script. When I get excited about a character, I’ll start doing things as the character and thinking about what the character would do. While I’m reading it, I start to get really caught up in whatever the character is, and Sasha is one of my favorite characters, ever. Who wouldn’t want to play that role? I grew up Irish Catholic with a bunch of kids at Catholic school, so for me it was a dream. I got to tell everybody where to go and how fast to get there. It was very exciting. It was still an Aaron Spelling show, with the hair and make-up and everything, but there were also motorcycles. For my life, at that time, it was such a perfect thing. I had all this inner anger to get out, and it was so exciting to get paid to do it. She had anger and sexuality and rebellion, but there was still that very sweet core. I didn’t have to be something entirely unrecognizable or un-relatable. I just loved her to death.
Do you remember what the process was for getting this role, at the time?
BRANNAGH: I don’t remember all of it, from the very beginning, but I remember that I auditioned with the scene where I pull the grandfather out of the coffin. I just loved it so much. Usually, what happens when I really, really love something is that there is no competition. I just connect so much that there is no thought of other people. I just think, “I can’t wait to do this!,” or “This is mine!” I do remember that, for the final test, I went and met Aaron Spelling and (show creator) John Leekley. Usually, it’s a room full of a bunch of people whose faces I can barely see because I’m performing and I’m not necessarily looking at the details of them, at all. I knew it was a big group in the room, and there were a few girls outside. There were two or three girls that were against me, and I remember thinking, very quickly, that this was mine.
There was no way that this wasn’t happening. I didn’t even consider not getting it. And I remember one of the girls being very sweet and meek, and one of them being really pretty in a glamorous way, but I didn’t have any concern. It was not in a bitchy way, I just was sure the part was mine. I’d worked for Aaron Spelling before and I always felt like we had a nice connection. I pretty much walked in and looked at him like, “This is mine!” And by the time I was done with the audition, he was already speaking to me as if I had the role. I felt, very quickly, like this was done. Who was going to be more outrageous than me? No one! And those are the kind of roles I like. When they need something really aggressive, outrageous and not done half-way, I feel like I’m your girl.
When you think back to the experience of doing the show, what are the moments that stand out for you?
BRANNAGH: I worked a lot with Mark Frankel, and he was really just an incredibly tender soul. He liked his hair just so and his suit. He was a good-looking man, and he cared about looking together. But he would ask me, after he would do a take, “Was that better, that way?” He very sincerely wanted to know, and he always wanted to get it perfectly, so much so that he would look to me, who was many years his junior. He would look to me and ask, “What that good? Could the end be stronger?” He was just a very tender, thoughtful person, and that was really nice. At that point in life, I hadn’t met a lot of people my senior who were that tender, and still doing well and making a real go of it. That was a treat, for sure. And I just adored Peter Medak, the director. He’s such a character, but he was so much fun. Some directors come in and they truly get angry about things. A lot of people have a dissatisfaction or an anger in them, so as soon as something goes awry, they flip out. Even when things were going crazy, and hair would get really messy, Peter was still in a fantastic mood. He’s a delightful person. He threw a big party at the end of the pilot, which was so sweet. And his wife is an opera singer. He’s just a very warm, crazy beautiful individual.
When you look back at the show, do you wish that it had gotten more of a life, at the time, or are you satisfied, at this point, with the project, as a whole?
BRANNAGH: Of course, at the time, I was very disappointed. I was very excited about it. I loved playing Sasha. You don’t have this on every job, or every show or movie, but every day was really an adventure, character wise, for what I got to do at that age. The roles could be really unexciting, so it was definitely really disappointing. But now, I’m 17 years older and, many times, things I’ve really loved haven’t gone further. It’s always really confusing, but at the same time, you wouldn’t do the next thing, if not for the job or the character before. I guess I just take things as they come now, as far as that goes. I get really excited to do the project, but I don’t think too much beyond that. Some things just have a short, beautiful life, and some things have a longer one. One hopes that the things that go a long time are things that you love. It’s like a relationship. The longer things go, you have to really work on that relationship with your character, with your castmates, the crew your working for, the producers, and the writers. It’s the difference between having a couple of dates, dating for a few months, or having a marriage and living together for eight years or so. It’s easy to look back fondly on the ones that were somewhat short.
Do you ever think about what this show would be, if it existed now, in today’s TV landscape?
BRANNAGH: I really do think it was ahead of its time. I think now is the time for it, really. The hairdos would have to go. I can see some dated ‘90s qualities to some of our look, although the costume designer was amazing. I could see some updates. The world has changed a bit, in the last 17 years, so it would have to be updated, but I think it would do well in today’s climate with the excitement that there is about vampires, for sure.
Kindred: The Embraced – The Complete Series, including the Book of Nod, is now available on DVD.