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Interview: Tricia Helfer

Dracula is one of the most iconic characters portrayed in film and television. Actors who have played this character are some of the best the business has had to offer. From Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., Christophe Lee, Gerard Butler, and Gary Oldman just to name a few.

Now, you can add another name to the impressive list. Tricia Helfer will now play the iconic character in the fourth season of the Syfy series Van Helsing. Helfer, of course, is no stranger to the Syfy channel being a part of the cast of Battlestar Galactica for several seasons.

Not only will she be seen in Van Helsing, but she will be returning for the final season of Lucifer on Netflix and had a memorable episode in the rebooted series Creepshow on Shudder.

Today, we sit down with Helfer to talk about playing Dracula, what it was like to return to the set of Lucifer and her experience working on her episode of Creepshow.

Pop Culture Principle – We read that when you received the script for Van Helsing, your character was called The Dark One. Did you know that character was actually Dracula and what was your reaction when you realized you’d be playing such an iconic character?

Tricia Helfer – No, actually I didn’t. When I started reading the script for my character The Dark One and I got to the part where my character says, “I’m your master, Dracula”, I think I squealed! I knew that my character would probably be evil when I first got the script, but finding out I was going to play Dracula was amazing.

Pop Culture Principle – In building your version of Dracula, did you do any research and watch any old Dracula films or did you decide to start from a clean slate and build the character from scratch?

Tricia Helfer – I purposely didn’t. Even though I grew up without a television and wasn’t really up on anything pop culture related, we’ve all been exposed to some extent to Dracula. It’s daunting enough taking on a role like that and I didn’t want to try and copy someone or have their interpretation in my mind. I had talked to Michael Eckland who is on the show and he suggested I watch a couple of episodes of Van Helsing. I did more immediate research in terms of what our story is.

Pop Culture Principle – To our knowledge, there has never been a female actor to play the iconic character Dracula. How does it feel being the first female Dracula?

Tricia Helfer – It feels special. If I had thought about it too much, it could also be completely debilitating right? So, I really didn’t put too much into it aside from thinking that it would be a fun character to play. In my first episode, I just have the one scene, so it’s not like I had too much to go on and you are not privy to the other scripts. So, all I had to base it off was what was on the page in that particular scene in that particular script.

My vision of the character was luckily the same as what the producers were thinking. We were going a little more androgynous with a little sexuality to her. It’s a fluid type of sexuality and not a bombshell type thing. I shot that scene in a day and I was out again. I didn’t go back for another couple of months.

If can be debilitating if you think too much about playing this iconic character and for me, my own process is to pare it down to what is on the page and who you are communicating with and what is happening that you understand and then just kind of play on the day.

Pop Culture Principle – At the recent SDCC, we got to see a trailer for the new season of Van Helsing and get a first look at your Dracula. Did you have an input as far as her look was concerned?

Tricia Helfer – I had talked back and forth with hair and makeup and they had sent me some images and they were along the lines of what I was thinking. So, I didn’t have to fight that at all because they sent me some very cool androgynous, Tilda Swinton-esque images. I think that plays more in my next episode towards the end of the season. I can’t give away too much, but she’s not back in the portal! Dracula got fooled twice by Abraham and Vanessa, but no fooling her three times!

Pop Culture Principle – Was it an easy fit for you coming into a show that’s been on the air several seasons already?

Tricia Helfer – I really worked with a limited amount of the cast in my first episode. It can be really difficult coming in, but my scene was really contained and we did it all in one day. Everybody was very welcoming and I was excited to go back for my next episode. I still work with a lot of the same people and this is Dracula’s introduction, so she’s kind of getting her bearings still this season. Dracula is going to have a little bit of a learning curve, but I would beware.

Pop Culture Principle – Van Helsing has a very loyal and passionate fan base. Have you had any interaction with them on social media?

Tricia Helfer – You know, a bit yes. I think it was because it was announced that I was going to play Dracula. The fans have been very supportive, at least I haven’t heard too many negative things. I’ve been a bit busy and maybe I’ve missed some of the other comments, but so far, it’s been positive. If you make a female Dracula, you are going to upset some people and then there are some people who aren’t upset about the female angle but upset at your portrayal of the character. I’m excited for the fans to see more of this character and I’m excited to interact more with them on social media.

Pop Culture Principle – Lucifer will be returning for its fifth and final season. We now know that Charlotte will be returning for the final season. Can you tell us what it was like to return to the show and that character?

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Tricia Helfer – It was like coming home. We are all still friends. A lot of the crew is different, so three’s an element of a little bit of separation because you don’t have a shorthand with everybody, but once I got to know the new crew, they were amazing. Such a fun group of people and it really is an exceptional group of people who really enjoy what they do and it shows on screen. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my character went back, but I would go so far as to say that I went back. There is a noir episode that was filmed and I won’t tell you how it comes to be, but everybody gets to play an alternate version of themselves and it was extremely fun.

Pop Culture Principle – We have to say that your character’s death scene at the end of Season 3 with Amenadiel was truly heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. Can you talk about shooting that scene and working with DB Woodside?

Tricia Helfer – It’s been so amazing the outpouring of love for that scene and the portrayal of it by the entire team. D.B. was an absolute rock star in that scene. It took us a month and a half to shoot that scene because we got fogged in halfway through. We had to go back out with a second unit crew three weeks later to shoot the death part of the rest of it. It was the scene that never ended!

When I was watching it on television and when DB’s wings come out and he looks up to the sky and says, “Let’s go home”, I cried! It definitely hit a chord with people and I think it was just a beautiful redemption story and a platonic love story and just people being there for each other. I think a lot of that is missing in our lives today and it’s nice to feel that someone has got your back.

Pop Culture Principle – You also recently appeared in a fantastic episode of the rebooted series Creepshow. What was it like working on The Companion/Lydia Layne’s Better Half?

Tricia Helfer – It was so much fun. It was such a whirlwind because I went in and shot the episode in three days and I was also going to a convention with half of the Battlestar cast in Pensacola, FL.

Greg Nicotero was just amazing to work with and is such a genius. Roxanne Benjamin directed the episode and Danielle Lyn who plays Celia, she and I just got along fantastically and became really close friends. We had a lot of laughs and also some gross-out moments. I mean, you can’t have Greg Nicotero around and not have your stomach turned a few times! 😊 I got really banged up shooting in that elevator pretending that there was an earthquake happening and flinging myself from side to side.

Pop Culture Principle – A lot of your time is spent in a small space and basically acting along. Do you feel scenes like that help stretch you as an actor and do you enjoy scenes like that?

Tricia Helfer – One of the hardest things to do is play dead, especially when your body is getting thrown around and Danielle did an amazing job. It is disconcerting in some ways when you are the only one on the screen. There is a moment in the episode where Lydia is losing it and begins to hallucinate and she just starts losing her mind. I’m literally in there by myself and I know I am going to go nuts when the cameras roll, but I can’t do it in rehearsal.

I can’t go 100 percent in rehearsal because I have to save it for the actual filming. For me, when I’m in a scene with myself, I don’t want to rehearse with myself. I don’t mind rehearsing with somebody else, but with myself, I want to think about it in my head and just do it.

Pop Culture Principle – It was recently announced that NBC will be rebooting Battlestar Galactica for its Peacock streaming service. Not much is known right now, but what was your initial thought to the news and do you think it’s a good idea?

Tricia Helfer – I’m sure everybody that goes through that has sort of a similar reaction. At first, I felt like your stomach just hit your diaphragm or something. Then you wonder if some of us are going to be involved? Is this going to be a reboot? I mean yea, our show was a reboot, so why can’t there be another reboot. It seems a little early, but that’s because to us, that were involved in our Battlestar, it’s still present.

I am doing a rewatch podcast about the show on Syfy Wire and the series is available on Amazon Prime and it’s still current. So, when I meet people, they are introducing their teenagers to the show who were too young to watch it at the beginning. It still feels current and I think that is why to me and some of the cast it wasn’t that long ago, but when you actually think about it, it was that long ago. Sam is a brilliant showrunner and I think he’ll probably do a wonderful version of that adaptation of it. So, I certainly wish them all the best, but I would be lying if I said in the beginning, I didn’t go huh? At the same time, it’s the business and hopefully, it will be a great show and if anything, they can complement each other.

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We want to send a huge thank you to the wonderful Tricia Helfer for talking with us. You can catch new episodes of Van Helsing every Friday night at 10/9c on Syfy. Tricia's episode of Creepshow entitled The Companion/Lydia Layne's Better Half is now available on Shudder.

**Van Helsing photos courtesy of Dan Power/Nomadic Pictures Inc./SYFY**

**Lucifer photo courtesy of Michael Courtney/FOX**

**Creepshow photo courtesy of Shudder**

**All other photos courtesy of Manfred Baumann**

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