This morning I had the pleasure of chatting with Daniel Gillies, star of both ‘Saving Hope’ on CTV as well as the upcoming spin-off of ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ ‘The Originals’ on The CW. Daniel also wrote and directed his first feature film ‘Broken Kingdom’ which debuted in 2012, starring both Daniel and his wife, Rachael Leigh Cook.
With the second season of 'Saving Hope' debuting in Canada tomorrow and the highly-anticipated 'The Originals' coming in the Autumn, Gillies is incredibly busy--yet he's still looking forward to his next feature project. I asked Daniel about his experiences with Elijah, the undead vampire and star of 'The Originals' on The CW.
Daniel Gillies as Elijah, one of the original vampires, pictured on the left.
TVRage: First of all, congratulations on 'The Originals' getting picked up!
Daniel Gillies: Thank you very much, man.
TVR: Elijah has survived for centuries; is that something that you have to keep in mind as you approach each new scene? Does his agelessness and his past constantly inform the way that you play each new scene that you get?
DG: That's a really good question. I find it really difficult going back to Elijah after playing Joel [referring to Dr. Joel Goran, Daniel's character on 'Saving Hope.'] It's not like flipping a switch. To me, Joel is really loose and alive and I can kind of go anywhere, physically, with him. He's very human, he's a lot like me. With Elijah, you have to bring a certain degree of weight and command. Unfortunately, myself, as a person, I just don't have that. I mean, I think everybody has it, but there's a certain sort of frequency with Elijah that I have to find... a particular cadence. I don't know why I gave him such a difficult sound and accent and gait--it's borderline theatrical. And I mean that in a loving way. I do know that people like it almost more when things become ridiculously heightened. There's a sort of a danger with Elijah all the time but I need to find that through a sort of a stillness and kind of a confidence. I think he's sort of slightly amused with everything transpiring. He never seems very threatened, even when he's threatened. It's an interesting character, I've been very lucky to play this role.
And nobody expected Elijah to be around for the amount of time that he has been around. The further down the road with it I got, the more I realized this sort of emerging thing. I'm sure a lot of lovers would confess to you that they have sort of little bits or skits that they do with one another--it's almost like a thing you would do for your school friends when you were a kid. Maybe imitating one of your teachers or perhaps one of your other friends--the bit becomes its own energy, you know? And in a way I'm making discoveries about Elijah all the time. About the romantic quality of him, for example. Obviously I am exploring that through the writing that I'm given, when they reveal certain things about his history, but truthfully, I'm the one who activates a lot of the finer details which people walk away with. People really feel something with this guy, which I'm really touched by. I mean, obviously it's a complex creation but what's neat is, it's a mutual creation: he wasn't written this way at all. He didn't read this way on the page. To bring a kind of humor and pathos to someone who could have been a lot more two-dimensional, it's been a really great honor. And kind of like with 'Broken Kingdom' [Gillies' feature film writing and directing debut from 2012], I look at Elijah and ask if I would have done what I've done with the character again--no, in truth, out of the twenty-plus episodes that I've done, I think there are like, two that I like, maybe. If that. And that's not me crucifying myself, or that I don't believe in myself as an artist, it's just the fact of it, it's the way it is.
TVR: Well, luckily you have a legion of fans that like all of the episodes! So they can like them enough for you I guess. Another question about Elijah: as you mentioned, he does have this weight to him. Sometimes he can be described as very calm and collected... and sometimes he's pushed out of that. I was curious, since you're the only person who knows the answer: do you see Elijah as a calm person that gets pushed too far, or is there always a chaos within him that he's keeping under control?
DG: That's sort of interesting. I think that being a brother to Klaus, there has to be a chaos that he's always trying to wrangle control of. That's the short answer to that question. Over the years it always confused me when I would see people playing immortal spirits or people who have been around for over a couple of hundred years, it would confuse me when I would see their behaviour being erratic, tempestuous or precarious. Why wouldn't they have learned a thing or two? And I understand that it's part of the beauty of the folklore of the vampire: when you're looking at Lestat [from Anne Rice novels] who has been around for 200 years but in regards to maturity he's still in his infancy. But I think that part of the intrinsic lore of the vampire is that we are who we are and you can't escape, really. Stephan is Stephan, Klaus is Klaus, Elijah is Elijah. They're inherently who they are. But I guess the one thing that always baffled me was, over time, why wouldn't you acquire sort of a degree of power, or gravity, or at least an understanding.
I imagine if there was a creature that could exist for these long periods of time it would have a deep sadness and an admiration for humanity. I don't know. It's such a beautiful idea, the vampire. I can see why people are in love with them, it's an endlessly beautiful idea.
TVR: Absolutely. So, just to tease us, your fanbase, here: how do you think 'The Originals' is going to differ from 'The Vampire Diaries?' What can we expect?
DG: I think it's going to be a lot more about family, the writing always returns to family. The bonds and, dare I say it, sometimes the manacles of family. I think that it's going to be a little darker. I think it's going to be a little bit more adult. I mean [Joseph Morgan, who plays Klaus] and I are a bit older than the others. Well actually, [Ian Somerhalder, who plays Damon] is the same age as us. But we're a little older. I think that carries with it its own kind of energy and naturally you have to write for that. Even though we're supposed to be hundreds of years old and in theory there's not much difference in age between us and the other vamps, I think we still have to write accordingly. Especially when you're writing new lovers into a story.
Man, if you quote me on that, [the new lovers], the fans will hate it! They really develop these allegiences. They really hate hearing that anybody new could come on the scene. Blessedly, there's a kind of amnesia with fans. They'll remember a certain character or romance until somebody sort of supplants that who's also really great. Then, they're content to forget.
But I think that the show is darker, more adult. I think that there's going to be a lot more enchantment and magic to it, because of the New Orleans setting that we have to fulfil. And I think that we're going to see a lot more warfare. Kind of strategic... it's going to be a battle to reclaim this kingdom. A borderline mafia type battle with Elijah and Klaus usurping their former kingdom.
TVR: That sounds great! I really appreciate you taking the time today.
DG: Thanks buddy.