The most recent episode of the american version of Being Human saw Dichen Lachman take on the role of the Vampire queen and scifipulse were recently lucky enough to take part in a conference call with the actress.
Lachman will apparently reprise the role in at least one other episode of the series and when asked to talk about the role the actress revealed that playing a vampire was something that was pretty much on her check list of roles to play.
Below are some highlights from the call.
SciFiPulse: What can you tell us about Suren and her journey on Being Human?
Dichen Lachman: Lots of things. Obviously I can’t tell you all of them, but she’s a very interesting character and I had a lot of fun having the opportunity to play her. I mean, as an actor obviously, playing a vampire is one of the things sort of on the list.
And she’s incredibly complex, very damaged and reckless in many ways. But at the same time, she’s sort of striving to grow up and mature and be the woman that her mother would like her to be.
She’s really interesting and I think you guys will enjoy watching her journey through the show because she really – Aidan’s character, it’s – she’s one of those things that just keeps sort of pulling him back into the world of vampires which she’s constantly trying to escape.
So she really throws this (banter) in the works, but he’s planned.
SciFiPulse: Can you talk a little bit more about how Suren connects to Aidan’s past? I know you can’t talk a lot about it, but can you just give us an idea of, what we can expect from that?
Dichen Lachman: Well, it’s one of those I guess love-hate relationships. I mean, this had a very long history together and she’s obviously been in the ground for 80 years. So minus that. I mean, there’s sort of (bid) in Boston together and going further back, he knows. I mean, they’ve just had a very complicated past and I don’t think their relationship has ever been consummated.
I think it’s just this very strong attraction they’ve had. And it’s going to be interesting them being together I think you guys will see in this modern world because she’s been away for so long underground and he’s had the opportunity to go through all these changes and change his ways.
And so there’s that – her trying to understand or how far he’s come. It’s I guess when you catch up with an old friend who you haven’t seen in a really long time and you sort of end of change. Because real change as time goes. So it’s going to be – I think you’ll enjoy watching their relationship play out in the present day as well as the past because there’s these opportunities in the show to flash back which is why the show’s so great.
SciFiPulse: The part of Suren seems tailor made for you. Were you aware of any changes made to the character once you were cast.
Dichen Lachman: I don’t know. I know that there’s a few people working in the writing staff that worked on Dollhouse or maybe no, one. Maybe it’s just (Lisa). But the creative, the sense of the show, I don’t know if they changed anything.
I actually should ask them, but it was such a great opportunity and it came round and I had to chemistry read and like everyone who was there was so nervous. But when I got the (slides) and they said, they’re interested in sort of auditioning you for this part, I read them and I was like, “This is great.”
Like if just sometimes you read material and it just makes sense to you and I don’t know whether that’s just, because it’s meant to be or because the writing’s good and the writing is good. But I just read it and I was like, “I think I know how this girl is meant to play and I know where she sits. And I understand it.” It wasn’t like a really great leap for me to make as, as an actor as far as like, “Oh, how do I do this?”
It just came to make complete sense to me. So I’m not sure if they wrote it with me in mind or whether they changed it. I have no idea, I’d love to know. I should ask the guys, but no when I read the (slides), I was like, “This is so exciting” and I was so looking forward to being able to go into those dark places. Because vampires are – they’re very interesting creatures.
They play out one sort of shadow itself and you don’t get the opportunity to really do that a lot of the time, to live in that dark space constantly.
So no, I’d love to know the answer to that. I can’t tell you right now, but I can say that when I read it I really responded to it and I was really excited to go in and have the opportunity to read with Sam and for Syfy. And the people who, the wonderful writers and creators of the show.
SciFiPulse: What was the most challenging aspect about filming the episodes for you?
Dichen Lachman: The most challenging, it’s going to be so – such a basic thing. I think it was like showing the teeth with the dots so they could like the fangs extending. And wearing the black contact lenses which cover your entire eye. I mean, all of us – all the vampires you had to have them fitted. You used to dread sitting in the makeup chair having someone like put these enormous lenses in our eyes.
It was very difficult and Sam and I often had conversations about how to show our teeth so they could see CGI, the fangs growing because you kind of feel like a complete (unintelligible) in front of the camera and you’re trying to raise your upper lip so they can, find the dots to make the CGI possible.
That was I think one of the more difficult things because I’ve never done anything. Well, I’ve done things with CGI, but never sort of, that’s part of the performance. And when you’re performing – I mean, this is one of the things about being an actor. Sometimes it’s just very technical, it’s not sort of really craft-based.
You have to be this angle and you have to raise your lip just the right amount and, you’re still trying to keep in the moment and also satisfy the needs of the effects department. That was a real challenge and it’s such a basic thing.
But no, I found that one of the more difficult things and obviously, as an actor sometimes when you’re doing a show, you have – and they shoot so fast especially, on a show like Being Human. I mean, they’re all remarkable. They work very quickly. They work very hard and the actors are all incredibly good. So they’re all, they’re for each other and for the show.
But when you have to reach that emotional point, sometimes you don’t always have the time to get where you need to get and there’s a lot of pressure that I put on myself to get to those places and really commit to them. And I think one of the things in television is when you’re working at that speed, you really have to have a technique.
You’re like a very strong technique so that you can be in those moments truthfully for the show and for the character. That was also challenging and that’s challenging in all shows, when you have to get to the heightened emotional place. But you couldn’t be working with nicer people, more supportive. And yes, so it was definitely the technical aspect first and then reaching that sort of heightened emotional state.
SciFiPulse: Can you see through the contact lenses though?
Dichen Lachman: There’s a tiny little hole for your pupil to see through, but it’s not very big. So your vision is limited. You can still see. It’s very uncomfortable for the first sort of 15 minutes because the things so large and so foreign in your eye. But then it’s sort of like, it settles in and you just have – your peripheral vision becomes extremely limited and you can only really see what’s directly in front of you.
And I remember Sam and Kyle had a big fight scene and they wanted them to wear these contacts and they were like on the top of a building with no balcony. They’re on the roof and Sam just had to say, “We can’t do this with the contacts in. We may fall off and we can hardly see.” It was so completely dangerous. Yes so you can still see, but it’s very limited.
But everyone’s so understanding and the makeup department, they’re the sweetest, loveliest people on Earth. And, they did everything to try and make you feel comfortable. And, everyone understood that it was like a thing. I can’t even imagine doing an entire film with those things in and I know people have. But yes, you can see.
SciFiPulse: How do you see Surans relationship with her mother?
Dichen Lachman: Well, I mean Suren’s relationship with her mother is very complicated. She’s always let her mother down and anything she did was never good enough. And it’s sort of like, it’s one of those relationships which is very strained and there’s a lot of love there and there’s a lot of hate there, and resentment and disappointment.
And you really see that as the episode sort of continue on. You really feel the tension. She can never do the right thing by her mother and so sometimes she just doesn’t even try. And then other times, she’s tries and then she fails. And it’s just a very difficult relationship. I actually have a really wonderful relationship with my mother, so it was difficult to find something personal that I connected to bring that to life.
But I found other things and hopefully that really comes across and you enjoy the tension in that relationship plays out.
SciFiPulse: What is it you think about Being Human that keeps people tuning in?
Dichen Lachman: Well, it’s such a wonderful show and I think just people, human beings struggle with being human and just being part of society every day. I mean there’s a lot of people who feel outside of the community or they don’t feel like they fit in or they’re trying to fit in or they’re just trying to get by.
And I think, even though it’s a show about a vampire, ghost and a werewolf, I think it’s very relatable. Everyone’s trying to make a relationship, work with a job and juggling, different things that come up in their day to day lives. And I think people relate to the show. And the characters are so fun and watchable and they have that balance of sort of drama, but also that lightness.
And the camaraderie between the house mates is so beautiful and I think Aidan’s sort of love of – he wants to sort of serve and yet he’s sort of always pulling between giving and also satiating his hunger. And I think that’s in life – I think that’s a balance that everyone struggles with. Everyone struggles with a dark side and they’re always trying to do the right thing.
We all – everyone always tries to do the right thing. We don’t always manage, but I think most people I think are inherently good. And sometimes where there are a lot of good people who just aren’t good at being a good person, but sometimes it’s a push and pull like we all have it. And I think people relate to that and it’s a beautiful show.
The storyline’s are wonderful and when I first watched the whole series, I watched it all back to back and I thought I just found this really lovely balance between sort of tragedy and comedy. And usually those things go hand in hand anyway. But I think it’s that, you know. I think people just they respond to the characters.
SciFiPulse: Thus far we know the theme of the show this season is temptation. Is Suren going to be tempted as well?
Dichen Lachman: I think there is some temptation there for her to, I think she’s just been in this world for so long and she’s so deeply entrenched in that because her mother is sort of like the queen of the vampires. I think if it’s there it’s very fleeting because she knows her fate and that’s why in a way she’s so damaged.
I think the main – you’ll see more of the temptation creep in with Aidan who’s constantly being pulled back into this world. Somehow he’s always trying to escape it and he’s always trying to sort of run away from who he is and the people around him. And she’s just there, she’s like just pulling him back in and pulling him back in.
And as much as he tries to resist, there’s sort of just this – I mean, I guess it all becomes relative and if you’ve been alive for 500 hundred or 1000 years, 80 years isn’t really that long. In the grand scheme of things, maybe it’s like, five years or something. The equivalent of that, in your mind. But yes, she has been a part of his life for a very long time and yes she was gone for a little while.
But, she’s back and that sort of feeling with him I think even though he’s never let it really live and occupy too much space. The fact that he’s working so closely with her is making that harder and harder for him. So I think you will see her go through a little bit of that, but her fate is very much, (unintelligible). There’s no question where her future is.
And it’s a very hard thing I think ultimately for her to accept, but it’s just something that she knows. And there are things about, my character as a person, that I don’t like, but I know that I’m always going to be like that and there’s nothing I can do to change it even if it’s just a little, mundane thing. There are just some things that we can’t change.
SciFiPulse: You’ve done a lot of science fiction, fantasy, horror. Were you a fan of these kind of things before you started doing them?
Dichen Lachman: I love sci-fi and fantasy. It’s, for me, I – my friend, a very good friend of mine, (Max Kabalek), he always – he’s in casting. But he always says, “I’m Asian, but from the future.” So it’s sort of – it’s very hard for me to fit into like a period piece or, you know – I mean, yes in modern days, they can sort of slip me into a show here or there, but for the family involved forget about it because, I have like this sort of weird, unique alien thing going.
And so I’m very grateful that I guess in a way it just kind of works. Like I love sci-fi, fantasy and I kind of fit into that world because I don’t – it’s weird. People find it hard to cast me in real circumstances. I hope that changes because I’ve always loved period pieces and I love the fact that on this show because it is a fantasy, I actually get to be – I get to exist in, the 1920s and 30s.
In the normal world – I mean, like I love Deadwood, but I’d never be on that show.
Like I think it’s one of the greatest shows ever and if I was on that show, I’d probably be one of the Chinese hookers that they throw into the fire and that’s about all I would be doing on that show. And it’s sad because I am half, Australian and my father’s family is European and I really respond to that. I understand sort of that time and I would love to explore that, but I can’t.
I mean, unless someone writes a show or a movie about one of the little people or the women who work in like in an opium den way back then or something. It’s just not going to happen. So one of the most exciting things about reading the scripts they came in with that I could be a person or a vampire at least.
But in that period and I get to be like a person that people acknowledge and not just like one of the Asian people that do something in the background. So that was really exciting and I’ve digressed very much from your question. I don’t even know if I’ve answered it.
SciFiPulse: I always wonder why they don’t have more Asians and Latinos and other types of people on TV. It’s weird.
Dichen Lachman: Well, I guess it’s because they weren’t like doing things of like note because they were sort of like the people that were kind of pushed down to the bottom of the thing. It was just the way it happened. I don’t think – obviously there are stories like that that are really fascinating, that occurred in those communities, but I feel like no one wrote them down.
I hope something surfaces sometime soon, but at the moment, I love sci-fi/fantasy and somehow I just – thanks to Joss Whedon I guess I’ve made a little home there. And I hope I can continue to do this genre because I love it. I love it, I think it’s a wonderful place to play out ideas and opinions about the world today in a safe place, you know.
SciFiPulse: Good question here about your experience on Being Human. What would you say was probably your most memorable moment so far on the shoot?
Dichen Lachman: It’s probably – memorable. If it’s just about the shoot, it was probably one of the days I woke up at like 4:00 in the morning and the whole city was covered in snow. And no one had like driven on the road yet. So even the roads were white, everything was white and I just was jumping up and down shouting, “It’s snowing, it’s snowing. It’s snowing” all by myself. Montreal hotel room.
And then driving to work that day was just spectacular because I’ve never lived in a city where it snowed. And I was just so excited by it. I just – the rest of the day I just kind of spent making footprints in the snow and like a kid just kicking it around. It was just the most beautiful thing.
As far as like the character, I think definitely the flashbacks because I think everyone can hear my answers, but just the opportunity to go – to be in a period situation, the 1930s and get to wear the clothes and have the hair done like that and take myself back into that time was such a cool experience. And I’ll always be so grateful that the writers wrote that for me and they had the courage to sort of say, “Why can’t you be in the 19, 30s or 20s?”
She’s a vampire. I’ll be very, very grateful for that opportunity. I hope I have it again, to do something like that. But to feel the extras dressed up and the props and the art department did such a beautiful job. And I mean, I didn’t even really have to take myself back into that time. It was built around me and I just had to be the character. And I’d say it was definitely that.
SciFiPulse: I know you mentioned before the difficulty of wearing the contacts, but in terms of the character itself, what would you say was the biggest challenge in approaching that character along the way?
Dichen Lachman: I think it was just not to make her too sort of bitchy. It’s very easy to just slide into just being plain old mean. When you have a character like this who’s so powerful and who doesn’t really care about anybody, very sort of, princessy. She is, she’s a princess and she behaves like one. And it was just to make her likable, to make you feel for her. That was challenging.
And I really hope that she is likable and I made her likable. I hope you guys feel that when you watch the show because, as an actor you do have to fight against that because it’s very easy to slip into just being plain old mean. But, it was something that I had to always, bring back. Pull myself back. Also, my face is to – if I don’t smile, I look really mean.
I think people always they misinterpret me unless I have like a really big grin on my face; they think I’m in a terrible mood or that I hate them. But I often say, “I’m sorry, it’s just my face. It’s the way it’s constructed.” So I hope she comes across likable. I hope that’s something you got in the second episode.
SciFiPulse: I don’t want to spoil the exact sequence of events or anything, but before Suren came back from being in the ground, the last time she saw Aidan was in a situation where she went a bit nuts which is why she was put in the ground to begin with. So I think that being in the ground on top of that for 80 years can’t have been good for her sanity.
And in your first ep, Suren seems pretty lost and I’m just wondering if you can speak to whether she ever really gets over the effects of her punishment? How that plays out in regards to sanity over the course of the season?
Dichen Lachman: Right, yes I mean it is a long time, but I think she’s been alive for so long, it probably doesn’t feel as long for her as far as her sanity’s concerned. I don’t think it like affects her too much. It’s like, every year we live our lives as humans, they years go like .7 or 7% faster and they feel like that because it’s relative to how long we’ve been alive.
And I feel like yes, it is a long time and she still thinks it’s a long time, but I don’t think it feels like what 80 years would feel like to us. So as far as her sanity goes, I think there is a slight adjustment and I discussed this with the show runners. Like how different do you want her to be like coming out of the ground. I mean, the world’s changed and they’re like, “No, she’s a vampire. she adapts very quickly.”
And she’s – that element of it is not, something that we want to play into too much. It doesn’t affect her sanity so much. I think it’s more about her relationship with her mother, that her mother could do something like that to her. It’s like when your mom says to you, “You’re grounded and you can’t go out, the next month and you can’t see your boyfriend. And you can’t see your friends.”
You’re stuck in your room; weirdly it’s sort of the same thing. And it’s that resentment that she has towards her mother I think which you’ll see more throughout the show that her mother would do that. Its like how could you do that to me? But, maybe it does affect her sanity slightly. But it’s not something that, you see present too much in the character.
ScifiPulse: Okay and you say that as a vampire, she’s pretty adaptable. And in the first episode, she does seem a little lost, but I’m just wondering how quickly does she get – gain her bearings in terms of all the changes that have been happening while she’s been away?
Dichen Lachman: I think that she seems a little lost since she’s still sort of like adjusting from being woken up, but I think it’s pretty fast. Like she, she’s already out on the street looking for (Cecilia), you know – I mean, she might have said, “I was completely lost and I found this,” but I think she’s very – she has a plan.
She’s had 80 years to think about how she’s going to get to the top of the pile and make sure that never happens to her again. And she’s been waiting for them to kind of dig her up I guess. And she’s been waiting for this opportunity. So I think in terms of like adjusting to everything – I think the vampire world hasn’t really changed that much, like it is changing and, Bishop had all these ideas of how they could sort of, survive in the best way.
And I think she’s just more concerned about how she’s going to survive the best way and how she’s going to be happy and get what she wants. I don’t think she’s so concerned with the world of vampires as much as someone like mother or Bishop is about the greater good for the vampires. I think she’s actually quite sort of selfish in many ways and she just wants to be happy and she’s still very adolescent in a way, you know.
And yet as far as the world, as I said, I talked to about that with the show runners and they’re like, “She’s already understands how it all works, phones, cars.” Just it’s all there and she just accepts it.
Being Human airs every Monday on Syfy Channel in the USA.
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By Ian M. Cullen