In the opening moments of Dracula, NBC’s new take on Bram Stoker’s classic vampire tale, the titular creature is awakened after rotting in a coffin for centuries.
Feels almost that long since we’ve had Jonathan Rhys Meyers on our TV screens, doesn’t it?
The Tudors star makes his television return with the gothic – and well-known — story about a man cursed to walk the Earth forever, feasting on his victims and subject to the whims of the demon living inside him.
But the series that premieres Friday night (10/9c), Rhys Meyers says, is much more about his character’s battered humanity than his superhuman abilities. (In other words, don’t expect this bloodsucker to sparkle.)
“He’s been alive for 400 years, which means it’s not the monster that makes Dracula interesting. It’s the human that makes him interesting,” the actor tells TVLine. “They cursed him with still being human, which is a terrible thing: to create a monster and leave this little melanoma, this little cavity of humanity in him.”
Read on to find out what happens when that humanity is stoked, as well as why Dracula is quite the evolved horror project as well as who the fanged one loathes, lusts after, longs for and leaves standing guard when the sun rises.
RELATED | Watch the Dracula Trailer Now
ME, MYSELF AND DIE | Rhys Meyers’ character, Vlad Tepes, is a 16th-century warrior cursed with a demon: Dracula. “This is where the conflict exists,” Rhys Meyers says – but wait, it gets even more complicated: Tepes, whom we see making his entrance into 1896 London society, is pretending to be an American industrialist named Alexander Grayson. Grayson “is Vlad performing as an American,” the actor says, adding with a laugh, “I had to work very hard on the voice, because it’s not like an American of Santa Monica today.”
GRAND ENTRANCE | At a gala Grayson throws for his new British contemporaries, we learn that he’s gunning to take down members of the Order of the Dragon, aka the same organization that doomed him to eternal torment. First order of business: Destroy the source of their wealth by taking out their fossil-fuel holdings; yep, the bad guys in this story are Big Oil.
“It’s like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War,” Rhys Meyers explains. “If you take away the army’s ability to sustain itself, then it can’t fight… So what [Grayson] is doing is trying to deplete [the order]‘s army by rocking their finances. If you can’t pay your soldiers, your soldiers won’t fight for you.” An important note: “Grayson has wealth,” the actor says – and we’ll find out exactly how that came to be in future episodes.
HAVE WE MET? | Grayson is distracted from plotting his enemies’ downfall when he notices a very familiar face across the dance floor: Jessica De Gouw’s Mina Murray (Arrow), who bears an amazing resemblance to Vlad’s long-dead wife. Grayson takes an immediate interest in getting to know the young medical student – the only female in her class – and in championing her relationship with a handsome journalist named Jonathan Harker (played by Mr. Selfridge‘s Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Rhys Meyers knows that sounds counterintuitive. “I keep her close by keeping him close,” he says. “For now.”
IS IT GETTING WARM IN HERE? | Victoria Smurfit (About a Boy) plays Lady Jayne, a well-to-do woman with a secret that’s connected to the Order of the Dragon. Naturally, Grayson makes her one of his projects, and naturally, that involves the doffing of corsets. “Lady Jayne is the alpha female,” Rhys Meyers says. “Sex is very, very important to her.” (Grayson doesn’t seem to mind, either.)
FRIENDS AND FRENEMIES | Though to the world Grayson seems like just another braggart American, a few know his secret. These include Renfield (Game of Thrones‘ Nonso Anozie), his right-hand man, and Prof. Abraham Van Helsing (The River‘s Thomas Kretschmann) – the latter who is known in the lore as Dracula’s adversary. “They will become so,” Rhys Meyers says, laughing. “That little love affair won’t last.”
THIS SUCKS – BUT NOT TOO MUCH | The premiere features some hard-core fighting and a bit of gore, but don’t expect a Walking Dead-style gross-out each week. “We didn’t want to do too much of the neck-biting killing,” the actor says. “Too much of that, and then people get bored, and it’s not frightening anymore.” Plus, it’s just not Vlad’s style. “I didn’t want to turn him into somebody who’s his shouting, roaring monster,” he adds. “I wanted him to be much more controlled.”Follow @kimroots