Exclusive: Bzhaun Rhoden Talks Van Helsing

***Spoilers for 2.04***

Bzhaun RhodenTonight Syfy aired an all-new episode of its series Van Helsing, "A Home." In the episode, as Vanessa (Kelly Overton) mourns her daughter's death, she and Julius (Aleks Paunovich) fight a new group of vampires.

Meanwhile, Sam (Chris Heyerdahl) continues to kill those at the detention center, leaving Felix, played by Bzhaun Rhoden, to watch. Sam misses his friendship with Mohammed (Trezzo Mahoro) and tries to break Felix and change him into a replacement. When he refuses, Sam cuts out his tongue.

Rhoden recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about his part on the show, working with Heyerdahl, and more.

SCIFI VISION: Can you talk about how you first became involved with the show?

Bzhaun RhodenBZHAUN RHODEN: My agent sent it out to me, as they do; I got the email. It was my first big audition.

I had never auditioned for anything of this magnitude before. So, I just went in, tried my best, and one thing led to another, and I got cast for the part.

Had you seen the show before?

No. I started watching it as soon as I got the audition notice for it. I looked into it and started watching it, kind of binged watched it real quick, loved it, and then went into the audition. [laughs]

Other than watching the show, was there anything else that you looked into? I know at least at this point you don't play a vampire, although with this show that could always change, but was there anything like vampire lore or maybe about Van Helsing or maybe even about victims that you researched before you started playing the role?

No. No, I did not do any sort of research in regards to the lore any sort of victim torturesque thing. I just kind of went off the script, the vibe of the show, and I just had faith in that.

Was there anywhere else though that you got inspiration for the character from when you were creating him, other than the script?

Yeah, a lot of it came from director's notes, basically telling me the sort of mental process that he goes through, the fact that this kid is sort of a good kid in just a terrible, terrible situation. Sort of untapped potential, you know, he has yet to prove himself, not only to his juvenile peers, but also to himself.

It kind of hit home, actually, because I believe everyone's gone through a point in their life where they don't believe that someone who's in charge should be in charge, like they're incompetent. And I've had that many times, so it was very easy to sort of tap into that and apply it to the character.

Did they tell you anything about his backstory, like why he was in the detention center?

Bzhaun Rhoden
Photo © Leslie Alejandro
No. They did not.

Did you make stuff up to be able to play him? You don't have to tell me what, I was just curious. I know often actors need that.

Yeah, I mean, whether or not they were in there before everything happened, like with the virus, is completely up in the air. However, what is solid, is the fact that the virus happened, and wherever these kids were before, they found refuge and built a space in this juvenile detention center. They could have been a group of kids from the same school, and all the relationships that were in that school just kind of transferred over into the new situation at the juvenile detention center. So, Felix could have been bullied at school, and now he's still bullied in this new situation.

You know, I didn't even think about the fact they might not have started out there. [laughs]

Do you have a favorite scene specifically that you can talk about?

My favorite scene, which is really weird, but it's the scene in which I'm being tortured, where Felix's getting the whips across his arms. That was pretty intense.

I actually found some of that hard to watch, but obviously in a good way, since it's supposed to be. [laughs] Actually a lot of the scenes with you and Chris Heyerdahl were; they were very creepy. [laughs]

Yes really creepy. [laughs]

Can you talk about working with Chris as Sam?

[laughs] He's unbelievable, the greatest; like it was a treat. I learned so much from working alongside him. I was very, very fortunate that my character is very important to him throughout that little story arc, because the most major thing that he taught me, or at least reminded me of, is that acting is just playing.

We did a scene together, and it was the first scene we did together, and after the scene he just patted me on my shoulder, and he was like, "Good playing." And then he walked off.

Bzhaun Rhoden and Chris HeyerdahlAnd I sat there, and then I was like, "Oh, yeah, that is all I'm trying to do. I'm just trying to play. Keep it simple."

He kind of brought me down to earth, kept me grounded during those scenes, because they were hard, but it was okay, because I had him.

I know the show is dark to begin with, but in these episodes, with Sam and your character, it becomes even darker, in my opinion, and as I said, very creepy. Was it hard to kind of get into that space or to get out of it, to kind of leave that darkness behind?

No to both of those. It's not hard to get in, and it's not hard to get out. I feel in the right environment, working with the right people, going into and leaving the moment should be easy. I'm sure other people get trapped in the moment and get lost, I just personally don't.

Ok cool, because I think that part would not be a good one to go method with! [laughs]

No. [laughs]

Although, it also seems to me, and I really don't know, but from watching him, Chris seems like he would be someone who has a lot of fun in between takes.

Yeah, there were times where before the scene I would read over the script, and I would need a moment, for sure, to get into it. Absolutely.

But getting out of it was really easy, because as soon as the scene would be over, we'd look at each other and be like, "Yes! We did it!" [laughs]

Can you talk about working with the makeup, the practical effects? You obviously were covered in a lot of blood.

That was another thing that was a first, the makeup and all the effects to that level. I loved it. It was really awesome to sit there and see how all these cuts and bruises are applied.

In fact, at one point, my shirt is taken off, and there are a whole bunch of scars along my back. There was a team of three ladies just working on my back, and it took like forty-five minutes, but every minute was awesome.

Bzhaun Rhoden
Photo © Leslie Alejandro
This is an odd question, but was it hard to kind of affect speech after Sam had cut your character's tongue out? I would think that would be hard to do.

That was the hardest part, because, I kid you not, I read the script, I knew that was going to happen, and maybe two nights before we were going to shoot those parts, I was up all night trying to find videos of people either acting like they had no tongue or literally didn't have one, and I could not find anything. I just wanted to sit there and mimic them, but I couldn't find anything.

So, I just went in and was kind of asking around how I should do it.

At first I start doing it like [[mumbles]], but I still have dialog. I still have to have my tongue cut out, but at the same time, I have to be clear. It was very difficult, because you have to be careful not to get out of character as well, because you're so focused on the speech.

That makes total sense. I was going to say, on a lot of shows where that happens, either you don't hear them speak again, or they mumble, but you had to actually talk after that. I think it worked as a good balance. But that was still very gross. [laughs]

Lastly, give me three words to describe Felix.

Never give up.

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