What have been the most challenging aspects for you as far as filming this series?
DL: It’s such basic things, but one was baring your teeth with the dots so that they (visual effects) could show the vampire fangs extending. The other was wearing the black contact lenses, which cover your entire eye. They had to be specially fitted, and all the actors who played vampires used to dread sitting in the makeup chair and having someone put these enormous lenses in our eyes.
So it was very difficult and Sam and I often had conversations about how to show our teeth in order to show the CGI (computer generated-image) fangs growing. You kind of feel silly in front of the camera trying to raise your upper lip high enough so that they can find the dots in order to make the CGI possible.
I’d never done anything before involving CGI that was so much a part of the performance. That’s one of the things about acting, though. Sometimes the work is very technical and not really craft-based. So while you’re trying to stay in the moment, you’re also trying to satisfy the needs of the effects department. That was a real challenge and, again, it’s such a basic thing.
The really difficult thing is when they shoot fast, especially on a show like Being Human. I mean, they’re all remarkable, the cast and the crew. They work very hard and the actors are all incredibly good. So they’re all there for each other and for the show, but when you have to reach that emotional point, sometimes you don’t always have the time to get where you need to get. There’s a lot of pressure that I put on myself to get to those places and really commit to them. When you’re working at that speed, you really have to have a very strong technique so that you can be in those moments truthfully for the show as well as your character.
Can you see through the contacts? Do they cover your whole eye or are they just like regular contact lenses?
DL: There’s a tiny hole for your pupil to see through, but it’s not very big, so your vision is limited. It’s very uncomfortable for the first sort of 15 minutes because the lenses so large and foreign in your eye. They eventually settle in, but your peripheral vision becomes extremely limited and you can only really see what’s directly in front of you.
I remember Sam and Kyle Schmid (Henry) had a big fight scene on the top of a building with no balcony and they wanted them to wear the contacts. They were on the roof and Sam had to say, “We can’t do this with the contacts in. We can hardly see and may fall off the edge of the roof.”
Everyone is very understanding, though, including the makeup department, who are the sweetest, loveliest people on Earth. They did everything to try and make you feel comfortable. I can’t imagine doing an entire film with those lenses in and I know people have.
Dichen, could talk a little bit about your experiences filming your first episode of Being Human and what it was like initially stepping into the Suren role.
DL: Well, firstly, everyone was amazing. I couldn’t have been on a set with nicer people, and Montreal, which is where they shoot the show, is just a stunning city. As most of you know it’s predominately French speaking, so you feel like you’re in Europe in a way.
Stepping onto the set, obviously I was nervous. You always get a little nervous on your first day. There was a bit of tweaking to do with the character just because I’d only gotten there a few days before and we were still trying to find Suren’s voice. How does someone who’s centuries old speak, especially when they’ve been in the ground for 80 years?
I had my ideas as did the show runners, and we were trying to find a balance as far as what she sounds like. You have Mother, who sounds very, specific and strong. So does Suren sound exactly like her mother or is she a bit different? Finding the voice and the accent was very tricky on the first day. Fortunately I work with an amazing dialect coach, Mary McDonald-Lewis. She and I designed an accent and a voice for Suren that was a little bit American as well as a little bit British. We modernized her voice slightly and made it slightly more youthful than Mother’s.
If something doesn’t sound right, people won’t believe it, and it’s very important for me to be specific, consistent and settled with a character’s voice. So one of my main priorities on the first day was communicating with (executive producer) Adam Kane about what they were looking for and how I felt about the character. Then it was a matter of bringing in Mary McDonald-Lewis to communicate with the show runners and with me so that we were all speaking the same language and finding the character’s voice.
You spoke before about the difficulty of wearing the contacts, but in terms of the character itself, what would you say was the biggest challenge approaching the Suren role?
DL: I think it was not to make her too bitchy. When you have a character like that that is so powerful, doesn’t really care about anybody and is not only a princess but behaves like one as well, you want to make her likable and have the viewer feel for her.
I really hope that Suren is likable and that I made her likable. As an actor it’s very easy to slip into just being plain old mean. That was something I had to always pull myself back from doing. Also, because of my face, if I don’t smile, I look really mean. Some people always misinterpret me unless I have a really big grin on my face. They think I’m in a terrible mood or that I hate them, but I often say, “I’m sorry, it’s just my face. It’s the way it’s constructed.”
What would you like to say to everybody who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
DL: I just can’t thank the people enough who support me and the projects I do. I’d be nowhere without the fans and I have a very soft place in my heart for those people who enjoy my work and believe in me because actors are funny creatures. We have enormous egos, but we’re deeply insecure, too. There’s an incredible paradox and we all have our moments where we sometimes don’t believe in ourselves and think, “Oh, I’m never going to work again and I’m a terrible actor.”
But then there are the fans – I look to them and they believe in me and help me keep believing in myself. They give me greater confidence and hope that I’m not too bad at my job and that I’ll continue to be able to do it. So I have a great deal of gratitude towards the people who support me and who believe in me.
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