I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Daniel Gillies while he flexed his culinary muscles on his TV brother’s recipe for stuffed red peppers. We talked about underrepresented vampires, gender equality, racial diversity, the UFC, our mutual crush on Mads Mikkelsen, and even managed to squeeze in some stuff about his awesome show The Originals and its upcoming third season.
Our website’s mission is to promote women’s contributions to sci-fi and fantasy, and I have to say that The Originals has done a pretty great job of showcasing a lot of powerful yet very different women from many racial backgrounds. Do you know if this has been a conscious goal of the series?
Well, that’s Julie Plec. I think the same could be said of any of her shows. There are always frequent and complex female characters. And what’s lovely about The Originals is that we’re most triumphantly racially diverse. It should be. It’s set in New Orleans where it’s absolutely as diverse as it gets, and we should be seeing many cultures represented. What’s cool, in terms of your question on whether it’s a conscious choice, is that, absolutely, I think it’s a choice. Ostensibly, we’re a show aimed at women in a lot of ways, even though, as the show has grown and diversified, I’ve noticed a growing male audience that is really enjoying the show. However, particularly in our origin when we split from the mothership of The Vampire Diaries, a show with an enormous demographic of women followers, it’s been in our best interest to have strong, intelligent, sassy, cool, intellectually dexterous women at the center of these dramas. It has not only behooved us to have women wielding great intellects, but we’re also sensitive to a multiplicity of female wisdom, strength, humor and contemporary fun set amid this world of magic realism. And I think they’ve done it masterfully. Look at the number of writers we have, too. I just finished working with the writer of the last episode who’s a woman, Diane Ademu-John. Michelle Paradise wrote the episode before that. Julie wrote the one before that. It’s written by women. Are we designing this show with lots of women in mind deliberately? The short answer is absolutely.
That’s fantastic. Not to put down the male characters ’cause you guys are great, too, but I really enjoy that there’s a sense of equality in the show regardless of what gender you are as a character. Basically, anyone can kick anyone’s ass.
Do you know who’s not represented? This bothers me. Overweight vampires. I would watch the shit out of a show that had a heavy vampire.
Have you seen What We Do In The Shadows?
Yes, of course. I think Jemaine Clement is one of the most special and unique artists out there right now. I’m so in awe of him. I love what he and Taika and those guys are doing. It makes me proud to be a New Zealander. And now we’ve gone way off topic!
What really drives The Originals as a show is its focus on family and the issues that tear them apart and bring them together. What can we expect from the Mikaelsons in Season 3?
There’s something very dark about this season, already. I really feel like we’re finding our own voice. When you spin off from another series, inevitably, you always have the tone, sound, and resonance of the show that you emerged from (in this case The Vampire Diaries.) And I think it’s taken us a good season to jettison our former similarities. Right now we’re really hitting our stride and starting to sound like ourselves. The first four episodes of Season 3, which we’ve just done, have been the best episodes of the show we’ve ever done.
What can you expect? The best version of the show that I’ve ever seen, first of all. Second, you can expect an all out war. It’s just mayhem. It’s probably getting a lot worse before it gets better, and this family’s gonna need heaven and hell to unify it once again. I’m just guessing here, but I think you’re gonna see a war between the brothers. With great difficulty they’ll find a resolution or they won’t. Which kinda breaks my heart, but also excites me at the prospect of acting that out.
Should we expect to see more of the “Red Door” part of Elijah’s personality?
Yes. 100%. I’ve just spent the last several days doing nothing but “Red Door” stuff. We’re visiting that past so much this season. We’re really digging into it. Look, it’s the reason people are tuning in, and Julie and Michael Narducci are super hip to this. The show works best when these writers focus on who these people are. It’s a beautiful thing to unveil all these nuances that contributed to the creatures we know they are, and have come to love or not love. It’s not easy doing the history stuff, though. It’s tricky to schedule and organize. We have a marvelous costume department, but it’s elaborate, expensive, and difficult. They really believe that the best version of this show is an entire and thorough investigation of what it was that created The Original family.
Speaking of Michael Narducci. He said that, as a writer, he can’t think of his characters in terms of “ships” because it diminishes their individual stories. I love that, and think it makes for better writing. However, Hayley and Elijah’s relationship is very interesting. Why do you think that is? Is there still new ground for them to explore? Do you think they’re being setup for a very Shakespearean-like fate?
Let me ask you a question. What do you like about it? I’m curious.
I don’t gravitate towards most love stories, especially the teenage “I just met you and I’m madly in love with you” romances. Realistically, you have to overcome obstacles in order to be in a successful relationship. The challenges that you deal with everyday as a couple. Obviously, these two have massive challenges. But still, there’s this pull or attraction, and I think it’s based on deep respect for each other. To me that’s the most important thing in a relationship.
It’s funny you say that. My wife once said to me — it almost broke my heart, and my knee jerk reaction was to think that it was a weird thing to say — but she thought respect is more important than love in a relationship.
And she’s so right. Love has ebbs and flows, but when respect is broken, love inevitably diminishes. You get stuck when you have no respect, and I love your take on it. But I think this love being forbidden is an enormous reason why it’s popular. My knee jerk reaction when I found out about it in the spinoff pilot was, “What the fuck are you doing? This is a disaster!” But as it’s gone on, what I like is that it’s this complicated, weird, unspoken romance. These two (Hayley and Elijah) feel like a romance lifted from the pages of a Jane Austen novel, by way of a Jerry Springer special, wandering around New Orleans like disenfranchised protagonists of Anne Rice’s subconscious. Nobody’s halfway about that relationship. Nobody’s bored by it. When Hayley and I, forgive my French, fucked by the fireplace, there was this outrage online, “This is disgusting. They made it like a porn. What a cheap shot.” We got all this hate. But no one was saying, “What a bore. There’s no chemistry.” I think we’re decent enough actors that we’re doing our job. It’s not about propriety or doing what you want to see — by the way, I’m so proudly administering this turkey mince into these half shell peppers right now. I feel like Michelangelo staring at the ceiling of the Sistine. I think I’ve created masterpieces. I’m just so proud of my red pepper children here.
You should be proud. I microwave stuff.
Fuck. Where was I before my ego got the best of me? I think people don’t know what they want. “Give us Damon and Elena!” Then, the moment they get together. “Hmm, I don’t know.” People want what they can’t have, and, often, they don’t want to be given what you’re giving them. You can never appease everyone. If I was Julie and Michael, I wouldn’t even look at Twitter.
I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s this trend of studios catering to their fan base with the same bullshit, which diminishes originality. But a lot of us don’t want predictable crap. We want to be moved, which is why we’re drawn to shows like yours. Have you seen Hannibal?
Hannibal is awesome. I have the most enormous crush on Mads Mikkelsen.
I’ll fight you for him.
I think he’s one of the best actors in the world. He’s just gold. He’s unbelievable. His brother, too.
The cast in The Originals is incredible, too. And you’ve had some interesting challenges like having multiple actors playing the same character (for example, Rebekah, Finn, Esther, etc). What was it like portraying these same relationships with different actors?
It’s wonderful. I pretty much love everyone. It’s difficult when you don’t know whether or not our actors are gonna be able to commit. They couldn’t secure a deal with Maisie, so we lost her. I do wish we could have held on to her. I loved her interpretation of Rebekah. I thought she was gonna take it to some new, different, and wonderful places. Daniel Sharman, rather than trying to imitate Nate Buzolic (who, by the way, gave me this recipe), came in and brought this entirely new dimension to Kol. The CW is a bit of a revolving door. It’s difficult for people to want to sign on for a long period of time because the shows are so demanding. We’ve got a great new cast this season, though. Andrew Lees, Rebecca Breeds, Oliver Ackland.
Getting back to Hayley and Elijah, there’s a love triangle between your character, Hayley and Jackson, where you play the powerful, exciting love interest and Jackson plays the wholesome, good guy. Going back a few years to Spider-Man 2, you’ve played the good guy part. Is it more fun playing Elijah, who could probably kick Spider-Man’s ass?
I just feel lucky whenever I’m working. I do prefer to play more complex characters. I’m a better actor than I was then. You mention fighting. I don’t really watch Professional Sports of any kind, but I religiously watch the UFC and MMA.
You’ve obviously heard Fedor is coming back.
He’s my hero. He’s the Marlon Brando of the sport. He came in and defined it. He made it exciting. Champions now are so dull. He fought to win, to entertain. He fought for the glory of the sport. He could lose the next 10 fights miserably, and he’d still be the greatest of all time. On top of everything else, he’s kind. If there’s one thing I could wish for my son, it’s the quality of Kindness. Not enough men are good at it. People certainly don’t value it. Fedor does.
The Originals Season 3 premieres tonight at 9 p.m. EDT on The CW.