Brian Truitt 20th July USA
Weekend Who’s Who
Recently it’s been all about vampires among those who love them some supernatural stuff, but Russell Tovey hopes in the next year or so, werewolves will take a bite out of pop culture. A former British child star who was in the Broadway and film versions of The History Boys, Tovey plays the lycanthropic porter George in Being Human, the monstrously addictive drama debuting its second season on BBC America Saturday night following the season finale of Doctor Who. (And if you’re not caught up, the first season of Being Human is out on DVD and Blu-ray today.) The show follows a werewolf, a vampire named Mitchell (Aidan Turner) and the ghost Annie (Lenora Crichlow) who share a house in Britain and try to make it in the world. For George, that means dealing with his inner wolf’s more violent tendencies. Tovey is taking a break from filming the third season in Cardiff, Wales — “I’ve got major spoilers for stuff years in advance,” he quips — to head to San Diego with the rest of the cast for a panel at Comic-Con on Friday, but read below for his thoughts on the second season (tread carefully if you’re not caught up, however) and what it takes to pull off a brilliant werewolf transformation scene.
Being Human is a cult hit over here. Can you walk around at Comic-Con and go unnoticed noticed?
We’ll have security, but yeah, I’m sure. The thing is, we go out in Cardiff all of us together. When you’re on your own, every now and then a few people will recognize you. If you’re with the group, it’s like being in a band. Everyone stares.
George is mostly a light-hearted character in the first season of Being Human, except for the whole dealing-with-being-a-werewolf thing. But from the looks of the first three episodes, the second season seems like a darker journey.
The writers and the creators wanted to take it darker with him. The way the first season finishes is that George is a guy who just wants to be normal, his biggest fear is killing someone in werewolf state, and he’s also embracing the wolf within him. He had an encounter with another werewolf called Tully in the first season, and he used the wolf to his advantage and George said never. At the end of the series, he kills Herrick – he’s a vampire, but he still kills someone and he uses the wolf to his advantage. He starts the second season, which is like three weeks after, in a state of shock, denial, terror and the world he’s suppressed for so long has been released and he starts to man up, basically. It makes him more masculine — George is a sensitive soul and really not like a tough man. The beast within him has made him more of a bastard, I suppose. [Laughs] That’s scary for him and bizarre for his friends around him who think they know George so well and they don’t.
Plus, he has his a tryst with a female vampire in the middle of the forest in the season premiere — which isn’t kosher since his girlfriend Nina (Sinead Keenan) is now a werewolf, too. It’s interesting because you’re all dirty and naked, and that’s very metaphorical in a sense. He is going down a non-George path.
He never considered having sex with a vampire in the woods when he’s in love with Nina. It is metaphorical for what’s going on in his head. He just isn’t in control and he doesn’t see straight anymore, nothing seems to make sense and he has no sort of moral anymore, and that’s what the wolf and what killing someone has done to him. It makes him more sexual, which is something George has never been. He’s been a bit of a prude. It’s completely altered him almost instantly. He’s just trying to find who he is now.
George and Nina fell in love in the first season gradually, and as the second season hits, she’s coming to grips with him accidentally turning her into a werewolf. As much as that seems to tears them apart a little bit, there’s always hope they’ll come back together because of that connection.
You hope so, yeah. They are completely in love on a level you can only dream of being in love with someone. They have connected on that level, so they will always be in each other’s thoughts and lives and prayers the whole time. She starts off as the person he loves the most in the world and the person who could accept him is the person he’s given the curse to. He has a huge IQ that normal people don’t, but when it comes to his emotions, he’s completely like a child. She’s the one who has to take control and make decisions because he would just go off on these tangents that are so random.
Explain those werewolf transformation scenes. There’s probably some effects work involved, but it’s still essentially you acting like you’re in extreme agony. What are those days like?
They’re long. [Laughs] You get up at 3:30 or 4 a.m. and you’re in makeup for three hours before anyone else gets in. You have contacts in and teeth, and you’re normally nine times out of 10 completely naked in front of everyone. You’ll have someone right behind you looking up your bum with a microphone. Your vanity just goes out the window, and it’s normally freezing cold in addition to your vanity gone. Now Nina is a werewolf and there are more werewolves coming into the third series, and everyone’s having all these vocal lessons and this movement added to the scream and stuff. When I did it, they just basically stripped me, threw me into a room and said, “Scream.” [Laughs] I was thrown right in the deep end so I’ve found my own language of it. Now they watch me to see how to do it, which is a massive compliment. I always felt like I wanted it to seem the most painful thing in the world, which it’s meant to be. I thought, “You’ve got to go for this because if you don’t and you do it half-heartedly, people watching it go, ‘Well, I don’t believe that’ or ‘He doesn’t look like he’s in pain,’ and it would just ruin it.
You probably know what place to go to methodically now, but was it hard the first time to go to a place in your head where you were in that much agony?
I’d like to say yes, but no, not really. That doesn’t mean I’m a tortured soul. [Laughs] I swing for it, I suppose. Maybe I’m just a good screamer. Some people can’t scream! I remember when I was a kid, the woman next door bought me a toy car, because I had a high voice and used to scream all the time as a little boy if I was upset or I didn’t want to eat my dinner. I was quite spoiled. She could hear it through the walls and it was horrible. She bought this car and she said, “If I hear you scream, I’m going to come get the car.” Obviously I did, and she would knock on the door and I used to run upstairs and go, “No, she can’t have the car back!” I’ve always been able to permeate buildings with my scream. [Laughs]
You began your acting career at age 11. It seems like British child stars end up in better straits than our child stars overall.
I don’t think there’s as much crystal meth involved. [Laughs] It seems like that, doesn’t it? But I think the difference between British and American child stars is that I suspect American child stars have a LOT more money. So when they become adults, it’s like, what do they have to do, really? Nothing. Whereas the British child stars don’t get that much money. They have to get with the real world anyway. [Laughs]
Syfy is prepping an American version of Being Human. What’s your take on that?
I think it’s brilliant for the people who’ve created the British version because that means they’ve sold the format. I don’t know how much they’ll get for that, but their work will get out there. I’m really pleased that our version has been seen in America, so American audiences can make a comparison. I’d be upset if we all the time were trying to get Being Human UK over there and no one was picking up, and then they did the American version and they wouldn’t even know we existed. Luckily, it’s good press for us and people can have the reference point. It’s like the American Office and the English Office. People love the English Office and then saw the American Office, and choose which one they like better. They had that choice, and it’s lovely people are going to have that choice with our show. I’m really excited to see it. I think they’ve got a lot bigger budget than we have. [Laughs] It’ll be really interesting to see what they do with the werewolves. I hope they don’t go down the CGI route. I hope they go down the way we have, the old-school homage to American Werewolf in London.
Knowing us, it’ll be CGI.
I hope it isn’t. That’s the beauty of the show as well is that it is kind of the old school, and you see it and it’s more human. It’ll also be interesting to see if they’re a lot sexier and their bodies are a bit more toned. My stomach’s a little big. That’s fine, we’re English, we’re allowed to be a bit average.