Exclusive: Nicole Muñoz on Joining the Van Helsing Cast

Nicole MuñozTonight, an all-new episode of Van Helsing premieres on Syfy. The series is set during the vampire apocalypse and follows Vanessa Van Helsing (Kelly Overton) and the friends she meets along the way, as they fight to stop the vampires and take their world back.
This season Nicole Muñoz joins the cast as Jack, who discovers in tonight's episode that she has some powers of her own.

Muñoz recently talked to SciFi Vision about joining Van Helsing, working with Kelly Overton, the process of learning stunts, and more.

***Spoilers for 4.03***

SCIFI VISION: How did you first get involved in the series? I mean, obviously, you were with Syfy before for Defiance, but was this an audition, or did they ask you or - ?

Nicole MuñozNICOLE MUÑOZ: This was an audition. I actually self-taped for it originally. It was one of the first auditions I had to self-tape for the pilot season this year, because I was in Spain visiting my dad.

And then I came back, taped it, and I got a call back, which is basically an in-person meeting, and it happened to be Jonathan Lloyd Walker who was in the room as well as casting.

And I think they had about ten girls and ten boys. Jack was originally supposed to be a boy, so they were auditioning boys for Jack and then girls for Violet. So, I was actually reading for Violet the whole time. [laughs]

So, that was kind of fun actually. I had a great time in the room; it felt good.

And Jonathan, as soon as I started kind of talking back and forth with him in the room, I knew instantly that whether it was going to be this or something else, he was someone I really wanted to work with. So, I'm really happy that I actually got the part.

But it was cool during the process of being on hold, because after the call back, they were playing with the idea of me being Jack. And then I think I heard about [the original gender] through my agent. I was like, “Oh, I have to be Jack.” I didn't know much of Jack’s story at all. I just kind of knew the character was originally a boy. I’m pretty sure they actually switched it up quite a bit, but I just liked the idea. It sounded interesting to kind of genderbend the role like that.

...I'm not sure originally if he was even going to be a main character. I knew he was going to be optioned, but I wasn't sure. I really didn't know much about it, which to me, like as a Nicole thing, when I don't really know too much about something, I get really excited about it, kind of like the unknown. [laughs] So, I was eager to dive into that one.

In tonight’s episode, Jack dies and comes back, so there is obviously something quite different about her. I know you said you didn’t know much when you auditioned, but once you got the part, maybe after a couple scripts, did they tell you more about who you would be playing?

Yeah, as soon as I got the part, they sat me down pretty soon after and talked to me kind of about the storyline. And I actually didn't know too much, but the doors were open throughout the season to come in and ask more questions.

Nicole MuñozAs I got more information, basically I was told there's something special about Jack, and this is going to be about Jack sort of finding out about herself and coming into herself.

Actually, it’s in 403, 402, I believe, where I talked about how when the rising happened, I was on a school trip. So, to me, that kind of meant she didn’t really have a chance to fully grow up, and when she was growing up, it was in this crazy vampire-run type environment. So, fight or flight kind of kicks in before anything else.

So, I think it's Jack trying to figure out who she is, even just in terms of personality or psychologically with a lot of trauma going on.

And there are all these super weird things happening, but, I mean, anything can happen when you’re being hunted by vampires.

Obviously, this role is quite physical, so can you talk about fight training, weapons training, anything like that, that you had to go through?

Yeah, as soon as I got a call back for the job - I didn't actually have the job yet, but I knew this was one I really wanted - I kind of decided, you know what; let's just go for it. Let's pretend you already got it.

So, I was already boxing enough, but I decided to really up my schedule, and that was going twice a day, five, six days a week depending on the week. I was trying to get my physicality up, basically, like cardio and stamina and techniques and memory retention so you can learn combos. Because a lot of the stuff on set we get to rehearse it maybe a week, if we're lucky, in advance, but usually maybe a couple days.

And you have stunt coordinators on set and our stunt doubles. And they run through the choreography with you pretty quickly, and then you do it, and then your stunt double jumps in and does it.

My stunt double, Tally [Rodin], she's amazing and so patient with me and has been more than great. She's actually still taking me out to fight training, because we bonded so well on set. I mean, she became one of my really close friends. So, that was a great experience.

Nicole Muñoz
Photo © Noah Asanias
But yeah, we learned pretty on the fly. That first episode actually, there was no rehearsal for that. I learned that on the day. I was filming the first part when I was up on the stairs, and then while they were setting up lighting, Tally and Dan Rizzuto, who coordinates, were like, “All right, here's the combo.” And I was like, “Oh, great.” [laughs]

I mean, I have a dance background, so I can learn choreography pretty quickly I’d say, but as soon as that happened, I got like a crazy adrenaline rush. And I was like, I want to do this in every episode. And I just kept saying, “Please more fight choreography; please more fight choreography.” [laughs] Because it's just so fast; it's so much fun.

You know, if you learn ahead of time on the day, it doesn't hinder you, because you already know it. Then you go on site and you can focus on the dramatic part and the sides, and then you just get to basically play for a minute and do a really fun fight scene with whoever your partner is.

Did you have any weapons training?

It was a funny joke. I have a gun on my leg the whole time, but I don't think I ever use it. Maybe once, actually in this week's episode I think, because I think I said something about never using it. [laughs] But no, I didn't get any gun training.

Most of the time just before filming scenes if I had my crossbow, I would just kind of run over to the side and be like, “Hey, am I holding this right? Is this coming across right?” But that was kind of the extent of the training with the crossbow.

Okay, so in this week's episode, a lot happens to you. Obviously, you get bit, stabbed, set on fire, and then resurrected. Can you talk about that kind of from a filming standpoint, like the special effects makeup and all that? The version I had wasn’t completed, but it still looked really great.

Did you get to see the full body burn?

Yeah, I mean, there was probably more fire they're going to add, but they had you covered in, I guess you would call it burnt skin?

As soon as I come out of the dumpster and I start standing up slowly, that's actually another actress that they put in full prosthetics, because it took so long to get those prosthetics on, so they applied those while I was filming the big fight scene that comes up right before that and me stabbing myself.

And then while they were filming her, I was in the makeup chair getting just like a little bit of burn marks on my face. So, by then, I'm like supposedly healed a lot more, and then that's when I start speaking my lines of, “Help me! Please help me!”

Can you talk a little bit about filming the actual fight scene that leads up to that?

That was one of my bigger fight scenes, I believe, up to that point, and that was really fun.

Nicole MuñozThat one we got some rehearsal time for, and I was very excited to do that. Tally was heavily involved, thankfully, and she did some really cool stuff. I'm actually not sure what ended up making the cut, but she did some really cool running on top of the car and some good jumps and stuff. And that was really enjoyable to watch. I just love seeing her work.

But the fight scenes are always enjoyable, and it kind of helps you with adrenaline for the rest of scene, because you go right from the choreography into the dialogue, and you don't cut so you keep the adrenaline going, and you know, the reality of being a little bit out of breath. And it's just fun, because it gets your blood pumping, and then you really feel like you're in it. It's a really good rush.

Can you talk about working with Kelly Overton?

Yeah, that was great. Working with Kelly was amazing. She was really, I have to say generous. My first day on set, getting to meet her - it's her show, right? So her kind of being able to lay down the groundwork for me, she was so welcoming. She was ready to run lines and talk about the tone of the show, and she just had all these stories about past seasons and how things work around here on set, that kind of thing. And it felt very symbolic when she passes me her sword in the episode. I think it’s episode two she gives me her sword.

Working with Kelly was great, because she's like a little ray of sunshine on set. What I mean to say, is that when she comes on set, everybody is in better spirits, because you can tell that she's very happy to be there. And when the lead is like that, it just adds more to the show and things just run smoother and better. And there's kind of an excitement in the air, and Kelly was just so professional and offering of her knowledge of the show, which was very, very helpful for me. I kind of felt like I was asking her one thousand and one questions, but she answered every single one of them. So, that was really nice.

Now, I know you can’t say too much about it, because it doesn’t happen until episode 409, but you kind of get your own episode. I mean, it’s obviously still an ensemble cast, but you’re the lead of the episode. Can you talk about that and maybe tease a bit about the episode?

You're talking about the origin episode?

Nicole Muñoz
Photo © Kristine Cofsky

I guess if I was to tease about it right now, I think all I can really say, would be when you hear me talking to Vanessa on the staircase about my past, there's an episode that comes up, and you get to see that in depth. It kind of helps people see who Jack is and why she's the way she is, and it’s an interesting take on that.

I don't think there’s been a take on the show before as to how someone Jack's age reacts to something like this happening, and it's just a very traumatic experience in general. It kind of speaks to why Jack carries a lot of survivor’s guilt. I’m really excited about that episode.

Also, something interesting to add, is Michael Nankin directed that episode. That was really special to me, because of Defiance; he produced Defiance. We worked together on the first episode of Defiance, as well as the last episode, and then to work on this very meaningful episode, to me, meant a lot. That was a really nice kind of cycle that happened

Is there something that you can kind of tease specifically about next week’s episode coming up? 

I think I have one scene to tease. We can kind of say in the next episode Jack gets to learn a little bit more about herself in a very special way. Jack starts to find what she's been looking for and she might be in deeper than she thinks.

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