When Van Helsing returns tonight for its fifth and final season on Syfy, it will wrap up with the larger-than-life showdown between the Van Helsings and Dracula, between light and dark. So, will fans be satisfied?
Monsters & Critics was able to join a roundtable on Zoom that included Jonathan Scarfe (director, co-executive producer, and the role of Axel Miller), Tricia Helfer (Dracula), and Nicole Muñoz (Jack) to get their opinion on the beginning of the end as the first three episodes back delve into the backstory of both Dracula and the Van Helsing vampire hunters.
Here is what Scarfe, Helfer, and Muñoz had to say:
Monsters & Critics: This is the beginning of the end. Is this the vision for the finale that was original showrunner Neil LaBute’s vision, or have things changed along the way?
Jonathan Scarfe: I think shows like to pretend that they masterminded something from the get-go and they never altered course along the way, but I think it was an evolving thing. It should make fans happy because we were lucky enough to know it was the fifth and final season, so it actually gave the writers the opportunity to bring it to a satisfying conclusion.
Tricia Helfer: I wasn’t around, and I never met Neil. What I do know is having the liberty of knowing it is the final season, you can place things in.
This show is its own entity. It is its own version of the Dracula story and the Van Helsing story, so to be able to finalize it in a way that the team wanted and bring back all the mythology that was layered in in the first four seasons of the show without feeling like you’re giving away too much, knowing you are coming to an end, is the most important thing. I know every actor and team hates when the plug gets pulled, and “we didn’t finish the story.”
Nicole Muñoz: I think the season will be satisfying even for new fans or viewers who are coming in for episode 1 of season 5 because they will be able to follow a whole storyline and see it end properly.
But I think it will be even more satisfying for those who have been around since season 1 episode 1 because we really hit on a lot of stuff, points from previous seasons, and wrap everything up very nicely.
Is the finale open ended enough that there could be a movie?
Jonathan Scarfe: I think there’s enough in there that they could pull that off if they wanted to, but at the same time, they bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, so you can walk away going, ‘Right, there was a beginning, middle and end to that story,’ which I love. I think that shows that are lucky enough to have that opportunity are better for it.
What was it like filming at the castle in Slovakia?
Jonathan Scarfe: It was spectacular. I think we might be the 37th vampire show that shot in that castle, but for good reason.
Nicole Muñoz: There is not much acting that needs to be done when you’re in such an amazing castle. The stage is already set. It was incredible to step in there. Everything came to you.
Tricia Helfer: I’ve been on amazing sets that have been built, but to be playing18th century Transylvania and not have to imagine, walk through a stage door and then have your air conditioning tube going, to actually just be there and not even in the castle itself, but the grounds around, it just instantaneously puts you into a mindset.
I think it allows — at least speaking for myself, it allows you to play a little bit more in the moment, because that part of your brain is not also trying to imagine your surroundings and imagine what it’s going to look like when CGI is all finished with adding on stuff.
M&C: Have you pulled any aspects of previous characters into this character that you’re playing now?
Jonathan Scarfe: The short answer to that is no. I think there are aspects of our personal life that we brought to these characters, that was the fun part of the character. I hadn’t played anyone like Axel before. I hadn’t played anybody in the military, I hadn’t played that archetype before, but there were things that had happened in my life, like sailing around the ocean and doing things like that that were survivalist in nature that were fun to bring to the character.
Tricia Helfer: I think with any role, it’s an amalgamation of so many aspects of your personal life, what you’ve studied and are bringing into it from your research. With Dracula, I was kind of overwhelmed in the beginning. I purposely didn’t want to go back because it’s such an iconic character and so many people have played it that I didn’t want to get stuck in, “Oh, this is what Gary Oldman did, maybe I should do this.”
Then it’s also a female Dracula and our own version of it. And TV moves fast. By the time you get the offer, you’re pretty quickly going up there filming, so it’s not like I could sit there and watch everything.
But between seasons four and five, I did read a really interesting book on Draculas throughout cinematic history. It was really interesting for me to read it from some of the first incarnations and how it works creature-like, and all the different versions which I found really interesting more so than watching something.
But I think, for me, playing her was just fun. It was like a big therapy session. I got a lot out. I got to release a lot of anger. This character, for me, was a lot of play, a lot of imagination, more so than drawing from personal experience aside from the fact that I like biting people.
Nicole Muñoz: I think for Jack, it was more so pulling out parts of me that I knew were inside, like confidence and inner strength that typically in my day-to-day, wasn’t always there. Playing Jack in Season 4, especially, helped me pull that out.
I’ve noticed growth in myself and I really do have Jack to thank for that. I find that Jack pulled personality traits from other characters around her. There’s some Violet in Jack, and some Ivory in Jack, and there’s definitely some Axel in Jack. I think you will see that next season. I think that’s what happens with Jack’s personality rather than it being me personally.
M&C: Nicole, how are you doing with a more leading role than you’ve played before?
Nicole Muñoz: It’s an ensemble cast, really. Yes, this is definitely bigger than Defiance, but I did Defiance when I was 18, and I’m 26 now. Since then, I’ve had a lot of growth in my career and myself and I think it led to being prepared for Season 5. I felt very prepared and supported by the cast and crew. I think we pulled it off pretty well.
Jonathan Scarfe: Nicole had a lot of heavy lifting to do this season and she absolutely rose to the occasion.
M&C: Tricia, between the season 4 finale and the season 5 beginning, your character is so different. Can you talk about the range this character allows you to play?
Tricia Helfer: With its Season 4 finale, Dracula has turned and she’s trying to take over what is left of humanity. I didn’t know much past that. We didn’t have the Season 5 episodes yet. I can’t really give away too much about the character in the beginning because I’ve been sworn to secrecy by our showrunner, but you will really see an origin story.
It’s 18th century Transylvania in the first three episodes, and it is the origin story of Dracula, which I think selfishly because it’s my character but also for the show, and you know you’re doing a final season and it’s a show about the Van Helsing vampire hunters, so at some point ultimately for Dracula, darkness is going to come in. It’s a show between light and dark.
So, for me, it was very interesting, and I hope the fans will find it as enthralling as I did playing it. It was such a treat to be able to do that time period, but it also really makes our version of the show and our version of Dracula unique. I think that’s about all I can say.
A lot happens in the first three episodes to explain your question about the difference between her in both seasons, but I can’t really get into that too much without giving away some spoilers.
Jonathan Scarfe: I think the writers did an amazing job with that, taking the license to completely reinvent the Dracula origin story to suit the show. There’s a big gap in the before and after. That’s for sure.
Tricia Helfer: I got lucky because my introduction was Jonathan directing episode 7 in season 4 and then the Transylvania episodes were also Jonathan doing a massive directing of basically a mini-series. We shot it all as one. We had worked together before and I just have such trust and faith in Jonathan’s vision. We also had a shorthand that really helped me as an actor coming in and playing the origin story and the differences in that. All I have to do is look at Jonathan sometimes, and it’s “Okay, got it.”
Van Helsing premieres its fifth and final season tonight at 10 p.m. ET/9c on Syfy.