Published: Saturday, 06 April 2019 | Written by SciFi Vision
This Sunday, the UK series A Discovery of Witches, based on the first book in the All Souls trilogy of the same name by Deborah Harkness, premieres for the first time on network television in the United States on both AMC and BBC America simultaneously.
A Discovery of Witches takes place in a world where vampires, witches, and daemons live secretly among humans. The show follows Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), a witch, who unaware of her strength of magical abilities, summons a manuscript that has been lost that other supernaturals have been looking for. She meets Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), who has been looking for the book for over a century, as he thinks it contains secrets to his vampire heritage.
In the series, Edward Bluemel stars as Marcus Whitmore, a vampire sired by Matthew, who works with him in the lab at Oxford, trying to find out answers about their ancestors.
On the series Killing Eve, which also premieres on both networks on the same night, Bluemel plays the part of Hugo in the second season, who works in the Counter-Terrorism department at MI-6. The series follows Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) on her cat-and-mouse quest to apprehend a female assassin who goes by Villanelle (Jodie Comer).
Bluemel recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about his work on both series.
SCIFI VISION: For A Discovery of Witches, did you know about the books before you took on the role?
EDWARD BLUEMEL: No, I didn’t, actually. It was really nice to be introduced to them through playing a character, which was something I’d never done before. It was the first time I’ve ever acted in something that’s an adaptation.
And because it’s so special to a lot of people who’ve read the book, who were nice to me as an actor, it was really nice to be able to just go into it with no preconceptions of what the character should be like, and to just have a crack at it and sort of hope for the best. I didn’t feel the pressure as much as if I had read them, I think.
I was just going to ask about feeling pressure from the fans, so you already answered that. So, have you read the books since you got the role?
Yes, I have, and they’re brilliant. They’re really good. There’s so much more richness to them than there is in the TV show, because they are so detailed, and they’re amazing to read.
Other than the script then, was there anywhere else you took inspiration from or something you thought about while building the character?
I wouldn’t say there was anywhere in particular that I took inspiration from. I think when I first went into that first audition, I decided to just take what was on the page, not overthink it, and just sort of see what happened really. They seemed to respond really well to that, so I sort of just took that from there. The character grew quite naturally without me looking at many outside sources. So, that’s sort of where Marcus came from, really, was just me having fun seeing what worked and trying not to censor myself too much.
Do you have a favorite scene that was from the book? Or if not, maybe just your favorite scene in general from the show?
My favorite scene, actually, was not in the book. My opening scene, basically, is my friend getting run over by a car, and I try to save him by turning him into a vampire. It was so much fun to film. It created a big stunt with this guy being hit by the car. It was the first time I’d ever been on the set with a big stunt like that before, so that was amazing to watch, just from an outside perspective. But also it was just a lot of fun to film, because when you sign up to do a vampire drama, you really want to do vampire stuff [laughs], and it was really fun that straight away I got to do this scene with loads of blood, loads of gore, prosthetics, and to do some good old fashioned vampire bloodsucking, which was really, really nice.
[laughs] Yeah, this series doesn’t have as much of that as some vampire shows.
The fake blood tasted really good as well.
[laughs] Is there anything coming up from the books that you hope is in the series in the future?
Yeah, there’s sort of this great storyline, that Marcus, despite being young and often deemed a bit immature as a vampire, he is given this title of the Grand Master of the Knights of Lazarus, which is this rebellion faction of creatures that are fighting against the sort of ruling classes, who are very old fashioned, very traditional. And in the books, there’s this amazing storyline with him being the grand master and rallying around and rallying all of the other creatures together to come up against the other guys, which is really fun, because he’s young. And I’ve played him as sort of immature and quite like jovial, but it’d be really nice to be able to put him in a position of power and see how that tests the character.
I know that the show has already been renewed for seasons two and three. I don’t know if you’ve read beyond the third book, but obviously after the trilogy is Time’s Convert, which is Marcus's story. Has there been any discussion at all about going beyond the three books and maybe doing something based on it?
Yeah, I think it’s been talked about very loosely. It’s something that obviously really interests me, because you suddenly get a huge amount of Marcus’s backstory, and also Marcus sort of falls in love with this character called Phoebe. You get loads of their story as well in this fourth book, which is really amazing and useful to have as an actor for me, but also, I would love to be able to portray that in some way, shape, or form. But I think the way that it would work, is if they sort of use elements of that to inform the other three books when they’re adapting them. And I think it should all probably be in the same thing, and I think that would be really amazing.
Can you talk about working with the cast?
It was amazing, really. It’s sort of a mix of really brilliant actors loads of which have done all kinds of theater, amazing film, and TV. So, it was quite daunting for me at the beginning, because I very much felt like the young one, who was sort of a bit like Marcus; he was a bit out of his depth. But it was awesome to be able to see how good they are, how confident and assured they are, and how that instantly rubbed off on set and made me feel much more comfortable. It just created a really nice environment, because, you know, this stuff comes so easily to them now, because they’re so experienced. That’s really amazing to witness and work alongside.
What did you find the hardest part about playing Marcus?
I think it’s really hard to play somebody who is 261 years old but is still a kid. You sort of can’t embrace the age and be all wise, because in the context, age is relative, really. You know, if I’m 260 years old, everybody else is 3000, and suddenly I’m really young again.
So, it was really interesting to handle that age thing. He looks like he’s twenty-two, but he’s really, really old. Does that come with a certain amount of wisdom that humans don’t have? You try to get the balance right between him still being young, positive, and enthusiastic, while also very occasionally just having a moment where, you know, he’s seen everything, done everything. And I think that’s something really important to think about when you’re playing someone who’s immortal.
Is there someone in the cast you would like to have more scenes with next season who you didn’t get to work as much with?
I suppose I worked loads with Matthew, so I can’t really say him, but I think Lindsey Duncan, who played Ysabeau, is an amazing actress who’s done so much here in Britain; she is sort of revered. I didn’t really get to do anything with her, so I’d love to do something with some scenes with her if that was possible later down the line.
This you’ve probably been asked before, but I’m going to ask it anyway: would you want to be a witch, vampire, or daemon?
Ooh. So, I would rule out daemon, because in this context, daemons are just sort of geniuses that can’t handle it, and they always get depressed. I think I would actually go for witch, because I think immortality is a lot harder work than maybe you might think. I think immortality must be absolutely hell really, because there’re just no parameters to anything, and you have to keep yourself busy forever, and that’s a pretty big ask. And I think, you know, witches can do all these amazing things and have these unbelievable powers and talent, yet they have a normal life span. I think that’s really nice.
Can you describe Marcus in three words?
I think he is playful, honest, and brave. I’m would say "very brave," but that would be four words. He is brave, because he goes against everything that vampires should be.
Before you go, I wanted to switch gears and ask you a question or two about your work on Killing Eve this season. How did you first get involved in the show?
Very sort of regularly. I just did one audition, and then I waited a long time. I never did another audition; it was just straight in, which was strange, because I thought that first audition went terribly. I had lost my voice. I’d been to an Arctic Monkeys gig the night before, and I had no voice at all, so I had to sort of play Hugo in the audition as if he was a husky voiced man like it was a character choice, but it clearly went all right.
When I showed up on set, they were probably like, “Where’s the voice?”
But it was just one audition, and then it was just straight in, and I was suddenly doing a read through and filming.
Do you have a favorite moment from the show? I know you probably can’t reveal as much about that show, since it hasn’t aired anywhere yet.
I think one of my favorite moments was when we were filming in Peckham in London, and it was me and Sandra filming right outside the chief station. We hadn’t really felt the impact of it coming out in the UK yet; it had just come out.
And while we were filming a scene, in the background of the shot, when a double decker bus with Sandra’s face huge on it, saying, Killing Eve, [drove though], it ruined the shot. But it was a moment I will always remember, because it was like, we’re suddenly a hit. We were like, “Oh no, this is important!” [laughs] and suddenly all the pressure was on again [laughs], but in the best possible way. It was very exciting.
Is there something you can think of since doing both of these shows that you’ve learned, either as an actor, or just about yourself in general?
I think what I’ve learned, is just to not necessarily think about the end product, but to think about sort of what people are going to think of a character, how people are going to react to a character. I think what I would take to another job that I’ve learned definitely on these two, is to just concentrate on myself and the actors around me and sort of what we’re creating in that moment, and not to over-intellectualize it or think about the end result, because that doesn’t help at all. It’s really nice to be able to just create these characters and have fun. I think that really shows on screen, and it sort of takes care of itself.