INTERVIEW—KANDYSE MCCLURE TALKS ABOUT CHASING THE SUPERNATURAL IN THE NETFLIX SERIES “HEMLOCK GROVE”

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Actress Kandyse McClure talks about her riveting Netflix series, Hemlock Grove, and why you need to binge on this supernatural thriller.

She’s been in a slew of TV shows and has gained fame and a cult following in the beloved series Battlestar Galactica as Officer Dualla. Now, actress Kandyse McClure returns to television in a new way with the exclusive Netflix supernatural thriller Hemlock Grove from Executive Producer Eli Roth.

Not your typical supernatural series where vampires are pulling out their fangs at every turn, Hemlock Grove—based on Brian McGreevy’s 2012 debut novel of the same name—instead moves to thrill and chill you from the inside…very slowly.

The series is a mesmerizing tale of murder and mystery with hidden supernatural monsters set in a Pennsylvania steel town, which is turned upside down when a young girl is brutally murdered by someone, or some thing. Cue in the suspects: a local outcast Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) who comes from a long line of werewolves, and the town’s rich playboy, Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgard), who besides having a strong penchant for blood, has a weird obsession with his cousin Letha and an even creepier relationship with his icy cold mother Olivia (Famke Janssen), who is clearly not of this world.

In this twisted town where no one is who or what they seem, in walks Dr. Clementine Chasseur (McClure), a fish and wildlife officer who is hell-bent on stopping the brutal massacres and fulfilling a secret agenda of her own.

McClure recently opened up about playing a strong female character, what it was like filming the show with her cast mates and why she thinks sucking in 13 episodes of this unique show is nothing but a good thing

You’ve been in a number of great TV shows and most recently the critically-acclaimed Hemlock Grove. It’s a very intriguing series. How did that come about for you?
McClure: I just remember being really attracted to the material right away. The voice that was coming through, I really appreciated it. She’s a woman who knows what she’s talking about. She’s unbothered by the people around her and she seems like she’s giving out a lot information but she’s really taking in more than she is giving. I like a character with a secret and I thought she actually had something else to tell me.

There’s a huge place for strong female characters on TV now. Was this another draw for you and this character?
McClure: I’m happy to really be a part of this resurgence, really, of strong female characters, particularly in television writing. You use to find that women’s characters were usually in reference to a man; we’re someone’s girlfriend or we’re someone’s wife. Very rarely did we see a female doctor like my character. I’ve been lucky to be a part of gender changes in some scripts where you read it and the character can be either a man or a woman. For my career, it’s a positive turn of events.

What were your thoughts about the episodes being available all at once and exclusively on Netflix?
McClure: I was really excited to be a part of this. I love the cable networks and it’s kind of like the brass ring for an actor to be a part of them with all of the great writing and screen time that goes along with it. But I’ve been partial to the upstart mavericks kind of projects and anything trying to do something new within this already saturated medium. For Netflix, to sort of fly in the face of convention and know that this is how our subscription base likes to watch shows, it’s certainly the way I identify with it. We have busy lives! Some people say that they miss the water cooler chat with this kind of stuff but I think with this you get to talk about the series as a whole the way you would talk about a film and the journey that you went on.

Hemlock Grove is another series that dives into the supernatural. Why do you think we love this genre so much?
McClure: Human beings have always thought about the mystical side of life and have always wondered about things we don’t understand and mythology is part of our consciousness. I think this idea of super humanity, or humanity with something extra, when animal and man come together, or a being of super powers, becomes like a real possibility for us with the advent of biotechnologies today and the thought that we can create these mystical beings or make ourselves immortal or stronger or heal ourselves. I think the idea is represented very well in Hemlock Grove.

I kept waiting for a traditional vampire to appear but things take a more intriguing turn. That’s one of the things that’s so great about the series, is that it’s a slow burn. It doesn’t give up the goods right away.
McClure: I think Brian McGreevy would be very proud of that statement because the last thing he wanted to do was give up the goods! It was so interesting having a novelist as our lead writer and as our showrunner. Brian is a novelist and he wants to keep as much to himself as possible. He’s a lover of words and of intrigue and of stringing his audience along. We weren’t bound by typical TV conventions. We didn’t have to have cliffhangers or reasons for people to come back and watch the next episode.

Kandyse-McClure-hemlock-grove-Dr. Clementine Chasseur is a very serious gal with a serious past. Would you consider her somewhat of a warrior?
McClure: Absolutely. I think she has a warrior’s spirit. She’s somewhat broken and doubtful but wants so much to do the right thing. She thinks she knows what the right thing is, but then starts to question that. But really, ultimately, the right thing for her is to trust herself.

She has such a sweet first name though!
McClure: When I was doing research for the role and I was speaking to Brian and reading the book, I was like, “this is such a juicy name.” Clementine Chasseur is the merciful hunter and when I asked Brian about her name, he was like, “Oh it was just the name of the coffee shop I wrote at everyday.”

One of the things that is striking about Clementine is that she’s very stripped down. It looks like you’re barely wearing makeup. Is it daunting to be on screen like that?
McClure: It was absolutely liberating! I was so excited about it. With all this pressure to be perfect and to maintain that especially when you’re doing heavy work in terms of content and the emotional journey you’re trying to take, I didn’t have any of that. She wasn’t meant to be beautiful. She wasn’t meant to be someone who considered her appearance at all. She used her appearance in the way people perceive her whether they thought she was beautiful or they underestimated her because she was small. That was more of a tool for her. I actually wore very little makeup and I did my own hair most of the time. It was fantastic. I got an extra 45 minutes of sleep every morning because I didn’t have to be in hair and makeup!

Hemlock Grove has a great cast. What was it like filming and working with Famke Jansen, Bill Skarsgard, Landon Liboiron and the rest of the cast?
McClure: It was really excellent. The first thing that struck me was I was one of the adults! We formed a really close bond right away. Brian spent a lot of time with all of us on set to us create those relationships. I was really impressed with Landon and Bill is hilarious. Bill is kind of like acting royalty but I just witnessed him being himself. They were all so invested. Freya, one of our Australian actresses, had so much energy for the project and wanted to know everything about it and all of us. She maintained her American accent for the entire shoot and just went back to being Australian when we were done.
Famke was very much like the character she plays—stern and distant—but with this quirky humor underneath it all. I actually found her to be really funny.

It must have been slightly intimidating going up against her in some of the scenes you shared.
McClure: Yeah, she’s so statuesque and had that withering, withering stare! I mean, it was great for me, because there was sort of no acting required. Clementine in being intimidated by this woman and having a goal and not wanting to display weakness in front of her because you know who she is and what she is. But I really found Famke to be endearingly sweet. She’s such a great example of a strong leading woman.

Of course, you’re recognized for being on the cult hit Battlestar Galactica. What was it like to be part of such a hit, and do you mind that it still follows you today?
McClure: I was just recently in Houston where had a Galactica reunion and I got to see a lot of the cast members, which was great. Personally, we’re family and we enjoy each other’s company and we went through something together that changed all of our lives and that will never change between us.
I was recently asked the question about being type cast and whether it’s a frustrating thing as an actor. My thoughts are, if you want to consistently work in Hollywood you sort of have to be type cast. They have to know that you do something well and when they’re looking for that they look to you. That’s what you want. With independent films or small productions you may get the opportunity to spread your wings. But it’s a good thing when someone knows you for being something good. With Battlestar Galactica we broke the boundaries of what sci-fi actually means. We weren’t necessarily a science fiction show; we were a human drama that happens to be set in space. The response I get from fans is how the show affected them personally and emotionally and not how cool the special effects were. I’m proud to have been a part of that show.

What’s up next for you?
McClure: I just shot a movie in North Carolina called Careful What You Wish For. I’m starring opposite Isabel Lucas, Paul Sorvino, and our leading man is Nick Jonas. I confess to not knowing anything about the Jonas brothers! But I learned a lot and he was amazing and really impressive. It’s going to be a sexy thriller.

 

Catch Hemlock Grove now on Netflix. You don’t want to miss all the supernatural intrigue and action!

 

—By Toni-Marie Ippolito

 

 

Main Photo of Kandyse McClure © Jean-Claude Photography.

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