Actor Edward Bluemel currently has quite an interesting double feature (on AMC and BBC America on Sunday nights) going on in the States, as Marcus Whitmore, a vampire doctor who’s concerned about his species’ failure to procreate in A Discovery of Witches, and as Hugo, one of Eve’s colleagues in the new MI6 taskforce in Season 2 of Killing Eve. And both series have achieved huge fan success, with A Discovery of Witches already having been picked up for Seasons 2 and 3, and Killing Eve already ordered for Season 3.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Edward Bluemel talked about the surprise coincidence of the two series running back-to-back on the same night and channels, what attracted him to the story and role in A Discovery of Witches, the complexity of the storytelling, that the dynamic he has with co-stars Matthew Goode and Aiysha Hart mirrors that of their characters, how excited he is for what’s still to come, whether any of the Time’s Convert material could be included in future seasons, the experience of joining a TV series from the beginning vs. in the second season, playing a troublemaker like Hugo on Killing Eve, and the experience of working with Sandra Oh.
Collider: How does it feel to know that you’re a double feature in the States on Sunday nights, with these two shows? When you did these two TV series, could you ever have imagined that they would be airing as a double feature?
EDWARD BLUEMEL: It’s great, but it is a bit of a surprise. I never expected this to happen. A Discovery of Witches came out in the UK, last year, and it’s really nice that it’s had a life after that, and that we’ve gone over to America. Now, by pure coincidence, it’s on the same channel and night as Killing Eve, back to back, which is very odd, but quite fun, really. It’s nice, people getting a double dose of my face. Lucky or unlucky them, depending on who they are.
A Discovery of Witches has become wildly popular, and you even got a pick-up for Seasons 2 and 3. When you signed on for the show, had you been familiar with the books? Did you have any idea that it had this kind of fan base?
BLUEMEL: When I signed on, I actually had never heard of the books or read them, but that was really nice and useful. I found that it was really fun to approach it from a blind point of view, not having any preconceptions about it, but it’s not surprising that it’s done so well. Vampire and witch based fantasy has always done really well. It’s clearly something that really captures people’s imaginations. I think it’s also just a great show, as well. It handles the fantasy element in a way that’s perhaps a little different than things before it. It’s got some great characters, and people seem to enjoy it, which is really nice. But no, I wasn’t too surprised. I think we were all quite confident, when we were making it, that the people it was aimed at would really, really enjoy it.
It’s a really cool story with really interesting characters, and it’s told in a way that we haven’t seen before. It’s really complex and interesting, as far as the politics of these different types of creatures goes. Did you know that it would be so complex and dig so deep into all of that, when you started doing it?
BLUEMEL: Yeah, that was a big selling point of it, for me, when I joined. I researched the books and I read the scripts, and I had a meeting with the writer and the producer to talk through the characters, what the whole thing was about, and why it was different from other fantasy dramas. That’s when it was really explained to me that there would be a lot of the politics and history behind it, that would absolutely run parallel with the world we live in now. That’s why I thought it was great. It’s a fantasy drama that really reflects real life.
Did the content of the books change or influence anything for you, at all, as far as your performance, or did it just help you understand it more deeply and get you excited about what’s still to come?
BLUEMEL: It definitely has me excited about things that are still to come. It’s really nice being able to see a rough projection of your character, which definitely helps form how I play it, on set. Who knows, in later seasons, it might defer from the books a little bit, or it might stick bang on. I don’t know that. But it’s really nice to know what direction, vaguely, the characters are going in. I tried not to rely too much on the books, in terms of the actual description of the character, because I’m very different, physically, to how the character is described in the book. They cast someone who doesn’t look like how he’s described, so that was freeing for me to be able to go, “Okay, I can put my own spin on this character, in how he acts.” I took elements of his personality from the books, but I was also given lots of leeway and opportunity to experiment and portray him how I felt he was, just from the script, alone.
Have you gotten to read any scripts yet for Season 2, or have you had any conversations about what’s next for him?
BLUEMEL: No, we haven’t, actually. At the moment, I’ve still only got what happens in the books, and I’m really excited to see how they interpret that onto the screen. I can’t wait to meet some of the new characters and to see where they decide to take Marcus.
Do you know whether they’ll be including any of Marcus’ story from Time’s Convert, as well, over the next two seasons, or has there been any talk of whether that could possibly be explored beyond Season 3?
BLUEMEL: I’d love that to be explored, and there was definitely talk of, perhaps, incorporating it into Seasons 2 and 3 via flashbacks or extra storylines, and combining the books together, so that we get a little bit more information on Marcus. I’m not sure if that’s definitely gonna happen, or whether they might look for that later, if the show continues beyond Season 3, but it’s definitely really exciting. Time’s Convert is a really rich and detailed book that is mainly about Marcus, and a couple of other characters, so even if it’s not used, it’s a really useful resource to have, as an actor, when playing Marcus.
As an actor, does it feel like there’s a big difference between joining a show from the beginning, like you did with A Discovery of Witches, or coming in for the second season once it’s already established, like you did in the second season of Killing Eve, or is it always just about figuring out what your place is?
BLUEMEL: The only slight difference, when you go in on a second season, is that everyone already knows each other. But beyond the first day, I find that barely really registers. Once you’re on set, everyone is there to work, and everyone is really inclusive and really welcoming, so you feel like you’re in very capable hands. What was nice with Killing Eve, coming into the second season, was that there was a real confidence about it that was really exciting. Everybody knew that what they had made, the first time around, was great. It was about channeling that energy into creating a second season that was just as good. I was just there for the ride, which was really fun. With A Discovery of Witches it was exciting to see the complete genesis of a project that you start on and nobody knows each other, and you all stumble through it together. It’s really fun to discover your characters, and then gain relationships with each other, as filming goes on.
How have you found the experience of working with Sandra Oh and exploring the dynamic between your characters?
BLUEMEL: It’s been so fun. I learned so much. The way she conducts herself on set and how brilliant she is, as soon as the camera is on, I found inspirational to work alongside. At the same time, she makes you feel really relaxed, doing a scene with her. There was none of that, “Oh, my god, I’m doing a scene with Sandra Oh, “panic. She just really made me feel comfortable, as a young actor, acting with someone who has so much clout, and that was really, really fun. There were times when I was pinching myself a bit. It’s amazing how quick it becomes normal, in the best possible way, and you’re suddenly like, “Okay, this is my job, and this is what I do now,” and having to accept that and get over any notion of being starstruck. She’s just lovely, on set.
What did you most enjoy about playing a character like Hugo, who seems to be a little bit of a troublemaker?
BLUEMEL: I love those sorts of characters. I like characters that have a bit of an agenda. I love characters that make the audience wince a bit. He’s not an evil guy, but he’s absolutely not perfect and he’s definitely a bit of a reptilian figure, in the series. There are also murderers in the series, so in the grand scheme of things, he’s definitely not a villain, but he’s a really useful character because it just gives constant friction against Eve and the office. It was really nice to play that.
In A Discovery of Witches, there’s a really fun dynamic between Matthew and Marcus and Miriam, who are an interesting little trio. What have you most enjoyed about getting to explore that relationship, and doing so with Matthew Goode and Aiysha Hart?
BLUEMEL: It was a really great experience. Both Matthew and Aiysha are super experienced. They’ve done this, a hundred million times, so it was so nice to be welcomed into that little vampire family. The dynamic is quite similar to how it is in the show. I’m the young one, who is still learning, Matthew is the dad, as it were, and Aiysha is absolutely the voice of reason and the only one who’s, in any way, sensible, which is really nice. The characters in the show definitely replicated the relationships that we had on set. It was so much fun, getting to know them, as the characters and themselves. They’re both phenomenal, and really brilliant.
What’s the fun in playing a character that’s over 250 years old? Do you always try to think about how the span of his lifetime would affect or change the way he acts, reacts and responds, in different situations?
BLUEMEL: That was something that I found quite hard, and a bit of a challenge, with the character, with the fact that the script continuously says that he’s pissing about and making mistakes, and basically acting like the age that he looks, which is 22 or 23, while at the same time, he’s 261. At one point, I chatted with Deborah Harkness, who wrote the books, about how she thinks the characters in this world deal with immortality. It’s all relative. If you have infinite lives, you can choose to stay young forever, as Marcus clearly does. He’s older and wiser than any human, but because, in the terms of vampires, he’s young, he naturally fits that role. He’s the equivalent of about 18 or something, in vampire terms. I find that, in my normal life, I’ll act the age of the people that I hang around with. If I hang out with a bunch of 35-year-olds, I’ll be much more mature than if I’m hanging out with a bunch of 11-year-olds. Maturity is relative when you’re a vampire. It’s very complicated. It was something that I found really hard to get my head around. Despite being really old, it was important that Marcus still retained his youth, in comparison to the other vampires.
He also seems like the most human-like of them, which must help make him easier to relate to.
BLUEMEL: Yeah. He’s not a traditional vampire, which is why I was really attracted to the character. He doesn’t take himself so seriously. He’s up for laughs and, where possible, he has a good time being a vampire, which is quite refreshing because a lot of vampires, and some of the vampires on the show, are very serious. They don’t like to laugh at themselves. So, it’s nice to have him balancing out Matthew, who hadn’t cracked a gag, in like the last 500 years.
When you do such quality projects, like A Discovery of Witches, Killing Eve and Sex Education, does it affect what you want to do next and the types of projects that you want to do? Does that set a new bar, as far as the kind of work you want to do?
BLUEMEL: Kind of. I made a decision not look too far into the future when it comes to acting. It’s really important to me to not look too far into the future because it’s such a volatile job. Anything can happen, and any job can be my last job. I try not to pigeonhole myself or think, “This is what I really want to do,” or “This is the next part that I want to play,” because that’s just pointless since you never know what you’re gonna be offered. You never know when you’re gonna be turned down for something, even when it’s something that you would be brilliant at. So, I just try to put the blinders on, and whatever happens, happens. I just wait to see if anything captures my imagination, and if anyone will let me do a job.
Is there a current TV series that you watch, that you would really love to do a guest spot or guest arc on?
BLUEMEL: Yeah, I just finished the second season of Fleabag, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I think that’s just some of the best TV that’s ever been made. Unfortunately, this is the last season, ever. It’s not happening again. So, this is very hypothetical and I couldn’t actually be in it, but that’s something I would have loved to have done. Her writing, in the first season, was so revolutionary and different than anything that people had seen before. And then, in the second season, she’s really switched it up. That definitely lit a fire in me to be like, “I would have loved to have done this. I would have loved to have had a character that was so complicated and so different than characters that we’ve ever seen on TV before.” Her character, in the first season, was a character that no one had ever seen. And then, in the second season, she wrote this priest, played by Andrew Scott, that is like no character that I’ve ever seen on TV. He’s just so human. He’s one of those characters that’s almost too surreal to believe that someone has written it because it’s just so clever. That’s the sort of thing that I adore. I completely love it.
Even though Fleabag is done, hopefully Phoebe Waller-Bridge will do something else, in the future, that you could be a part of.
BLUEMEL: Yeah, let’s hope so.
Killing Eve Season 2 and A Discovery of Witches air back-to-back on Sunday nights on BBC America and AMC.