Dominic Sherwood talked with Rebecca Murray of “About.com” about “Vampire Academy”, his character and Mark Waters.
Dominic Sherwood stars in Vampire Academy as bad boy Christian Ozera, a character Sherwood describes as a complete opposite of himself. Christian’s disliked by most of the crowd of characters in the Vampire Academy but he’s been embraced by fans of Richelle Mead’s bestselling book series. And while Sherwood admits to being a complete klutz who doesn’t use sarcasm as a means to handle social interactions the way that Christian does, he actually knows someone who’s a lot like his Vampire Academy character and it wasn’t difficult to picture this brooding introvert as a real teenager dealing with life in high school.
Vampire Academy will be introducing the charming British actor to American audiences and in support of the film’s February 7, 2014 release, Sherwood talked about the appeal of the series, starring in what could possibly be a franchise, and director Mark Waters’ special trick on set.
Did you have any qualms about signing on to a young adult franchise?
“No, not at all. I read the character and I read the script, and working with Dan [Waters] and Mark and the rest of the cast – not at all. It was a no-brainer. I knew Mark and Dan were involved well before they gave me the script. They didn’t give me the script until the chemistry read. I was auditioning based on Dan and Mark who were selling it for me and Zoey [Deutch] and Sarah [Hyland] and the Weinsteins being behind it, and Lucy [Fry], obviously. Then there is the appeal of the character.”
What was it about the character you found so interesting?
“The 5-year-old in me got to play a vampire. He gets to play with fire and fall in love with the princess and save the day. The little boy in me would have kicked my ass if I hadn’t taken this role.”
So, there’s pretty much nothing about Christian you didn’t like?
“No, not at all, even the elements of his character that are completely different from me. There is the isolation, the sarcasm, the loneliness…from an acting point of view that was very exciting to take on because it’s very different from me so it’s something I have to work quite hard to achieve.”
Is it a bit freeing then to play a character who handles situations with sarcasm?
“Completely. It’s super cathartic to delve into a character. I don’t think it matters what the character is. Obviously Christian was great because he was so lonely and he was so dark. I think if you were to explore any emotions or character traits that aren’t your own, it would be very cathartic. It means you almost don’t have to experience those in real life.”
Christian’s the ‘brooding bad guy that all the women love’ type of character. As a guy, why is it that women love brooding bad boys?
[Laughing] “I don’t know. I think if it was a girl from the other point of view I would revel in the opportunity for you to open up to me and say, ‘Tell me your feelings. Don’t leave them on your own.’ I think that’s maybe a natural human instinct to want to help one another. I guess that’s why people empathize with Christian and grow fond of Christian is because … audience members, obviously no one likes Christian in the movie … but I guess that’s why audience members like him because they empathize with that kind of loneliness and isolation and want to open him up.”
And he’s got that special fire talent too.
[Laughing] “That’s pretty cool too.”
When you read the script and learned about his ability to control fire were you picturing how that would actually work on screen? How close is how you pictured it to what the actual final film effects look like?
“The script I got originally, they changed the ending. It looks exactly how I thought it was going to based on the script that we filmed from exactly how I thought it was going to. I was a little disappointed; I thought they were going to set my hands on fire. It sounds ridiculous, but the stunt guy even came up to me and said,’ Yeah, we’ve got this special gel. We’re going to do it for 20 seconds at a time and then we have to put it out and cool you down and then we can do it again.’ [Laughing] I think they must have seen me a couple of times on set and been like, ‘No, he’s way too clumsy for setting him on fire. He’ll run his hands through his hair or something and burn his eyebrows off. I don’t think we can let that happen.'”
Are you clumsy in real life or is it just the set that made you horribly clumsy?
“Oh no, all the time. I’m a horribly clumsy person. Yeah, I’m dropping stuff, falling over all the time. I’m a lot less clumsy when I used to motorbike. When I was on my motorbike or when I’m skateboarding or long-boarding, I’m very elegant. Not ‘very elegant’ – I’m more elegant when I’m doing those sort of things, but when I’m walking down the street I will probably fall down.”
That is so un-Christian Ozera.
“I know. That’s why Christian took so many takes because Dominic can’t walk straight.”
So there will be a DVD featurette on your inability to walk?
“I hope they missed a lot there.”
There are very passionate fans of Richelle Mead’s book series. Was the fan base on your mind as you were acting? How do you handle that?
“I care massively what they think the fans, hugely, but I try very hard not to let it influence me too much because otherwise I’m the sort of person that would let that pressure alter the performance and the performance was for us to do on set. I didn’t want that pressure to twist or turn it in any way.”
Did you end up reading all the books?
“No, this is really interesting. A couple of people have asked this. I read the book after I had finished the movie because I didn’t want to confuse Richelle’s story with Dan and Mark’s envisioning of Vampire Academy because they’re two separate things essentially. They’re very similar and obviously I found that afterwards, but I’m going to do the same with two and three and four and five and six.”
So there isn’t any particular scene you’re looking forward to because you don’t know what happens with Christian.
“I don’t know. People have kind of ruined it for me and I know how it ends and I’m very excited to do that. But yeah, as far as intricacies of it I’m not so sure.”
Is it weird that there’s going to be fans who, no matter what, are going to refer to you as “Christian” rather than your real name?
“Kind of, but that’s happened to me before. I did a TV show for the BBC that obviously didn’t have a cult following and wasn’t this huge thing like the Vampire Academy is, but I had people coming up to me on the street and referring to me as Jack, which was this small TV show. I actually think that it’s really nice that people appreciate and believe the character portrayal so well that they see me as Christian.”
When you sign onto a movie and you know that there’s a possibility you’re going to play the character more than once, is that in the back of your head, or do you care whether this is going to be a one-off and this is going to be the only time you get to play him?
“I think it very much depends on the project. With Vampire Academy the fact that it was a franchise was amazing to me. It was one of the things that was attracting me to it, that we had the scope to do six of these movies. It attracted me to the project. Another thing though there’s an ending to them so you couldn’t do another one and if you did, you could essentially ruin the whole idea of those movies. With Vampire Academy, I was very excited that we potentially were able to make six.”
What do you think it is about Richelle Mead’s books that sets Vampire Academy apart from other vampire movies or TV shows?
“Vampire mythology is something we’ve had for a such a long time as a culture. I think it molds itself around society. If you go all the way back to Nosferatu, people were afraid of rats and infection and that’s why Nosferatu looks like a rat. It’s been molded the whole way through and I think what we’ve done is we’ve molded modern day teenage society with the surreality of vampirism. It’s actually got a lot of Bram Stoker mythology in there as well. You see St. Vladamir, there’s the school. Vlad the Impaler was an actual person who Dracula was based on.”
Vampire Academy is labeled a young adult series, but do you think it reaches a larger demographic?
“I actually think the thing that makes it for all ages is that teenage kind of satire of high school because a teenager will look at it and go, ‘This is me. I’m going through this or I’m doing that or whatever it is.’ I think someone my age or even older would be able to look back and go. ‘God, I was that person.’ Or, ‘She used to bully me,’ or I used to be in love with that girl or she was her. I think it’s so relatable it kind of transcends age.”
So you could picture these characters existing within a normal high school environment?
“Minus the vampires?”
Minus the vampires.
“Yeah, I had doppelgangers for all of these characters in school.”
Even for Christian?
“Even for Christian.”
Have you talked to your ‘Christian’ doppelganger?
“I told him. I explained the whole story and the vampire thing and the Strigoi thing. He was like, ‘My parents are still alive,’ and I was like, ‘That’s not what I meant. I was just talking about the character.’ He didn’t really get it.”
Did you ever get a chance to talk to Richelle Mead during shooting?
“I did. She came to the set one day and I went out to dinner with her and Zoey and couple of others.”
What did she tell you about Christian?
“Not so much, actually. She was very appreciative of what we’re doing and she was very confident of what we were doing, but she didn’t say too much about it to me. She came down [to the set] for a day, which was awesome.”
Did it make you a little more nervous having the person who created the character on set?
“Yeah, very much so. It makes me focus on my development of the character and making sure that everything is in its place and going exactly how I want it. I was very anal that day making sure everything was perfect.”
Speaking of life on the set, what was Mark Waters like as a director?
“Amazing. Mark is an actor’s director – that’s the best way of putting him. He knows exactly how to talk to us and to work with us and how to get the best performance out of us and taught us all of these tricks and tips that I can now move on and use the rest of my life, but he’s also the nicest man.”
What sort of tricks and tips did he use?
“He taught us something called a ‘f**k pass’ which is basically where you’re allowed to swear as much as you want, regardless of how old the movie is. You’ll go through your themes and you aren’t restricted by anything. You’re allowed to say whatever you want and then you take the swear words out and stick to the script, but what you’re left with is the emotional peaks and troughs as if you were completely free. That was one of my favorite things to do before we did a scene. I used to do them with Lucy as well.”
That’s really unusual. How did that actually help you? Was it just the ability to feel more free?
“No, it’s completely an emotional thing. If we had a line that we had to say where potentially they were angry or they were upset or whatever it was and you have a line that’s been written in a movie that’s PG-13 you wouldn’t be able to vocalize it necessarily how you want to. Doing it with that freedom you then take those words away, but the emotion is all still there. It’s all still with you, so the words and the lines get said almost as if you’re putting in the swear words.”
And working with Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry?
“Lovely. They’re both such talented girls and so hardworking. It’s inspirational to work with people like them.”