The series premiere of Bitten airs Monday, January 13th at 10pm on Syfy. Bitten stars Laura Vandervoort. And the series is based on the bestselling author Kelley Armstrong‘s novels.
How you begin your involvement with Bitten? Kelley, what was your inspiration for the book series? And Laura, how did you first get involved in the TV series?
Kelley Armstrong: Okay. For the books, Bitten actually came out of an X-Files episode. I was in a writing group. And as part of a writing group you’re expected to actually write new stuff. I was trying to come up with an idea, sat down and watched X-Files. It was way back in their first season. Their one and only werewolf episode. It was your typical big guy who changes into some beast like thing and goes around slaughtering people under the full moon. And I said that’s not how I would do werewolves. And for a writer, that then sparks how would I do them? And I wrote a short story with this character named Elena and I loved that world so much that I wrote a book.
Laura Vandervoort: I had no idea it was the X-Files. That’s really cool for me to know as well.
Kelley Armstrong: Which goes to show you how long ago I started writing Bitten. It was the first season of the show. It is old stuff.
Laura Vandervoort: I actually – yes, I love the X-Files. Like I was watching that as well. So that’s cool to know.
Laura Vandervoort: I actually received an offer for the role. Which was amazing, first of all. And ended up speaking to J.B. on the phone just to get an idea of the premise of the show and how it would look and how the wolves would be done.
And so we spoke for about an hour. And I heard how passionate he was about the project – he’s our executive producer. And it just sounded like something I’d really been looking to do—such a layered thing—and the character who is both flawed and strong.
And so I read the books. I read Women of the Otherworld and Bitten and did a bit of research. And as soon as I realized the amazing quality of what was there I jumped on. And we did some auditions and chemistry reads with the guys and we just sort of hit the ground running—no pun intended.
And I mean it was the most challenging six months I’ve had thanks to Kelley and the writers. Every day was a challenge for me. And there were days where I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle the emotional side of it or the physical side of it or just being in every scene. And I did. And I’m so grateful for the experience.
Since one of you created Elena and one of you plays Elena, kind of tell us a little bit about her and does your interpretation of her kind of differ from each of your versions of her?
Kelley Armstrong: So the creation of Elena really was – I mean it is my first published novel… And I wanted to create a character who would be a werewolf and be uncomfortable with that role, but ultimately come to embrace it.
So often we – at that time – saw werewolves that was a curse, something that you wanted to end to get out of. And I wanted a character who – while she would feel that she should think that way – really deep down doesn’t. And Bitten was about coming to understand that what you think you should be is not always what you’re meant to be.
Laura Vandervoort: And I agree with what Kelley said. A lot of, you know, there’s a lot of parallels with Elena in the show and women in general. You know, Elena flees to Toronto to try to hide who she truly is and try to have this almost perfect image of what she feels people need from her, but she’s just pushing down the animal inside of her. And it’s such an amazing character that a lot of the skeletons in her closet are explored this season. You learn a lot about her history and some of her demons come back.
So every episode was shocking to us when we’d read it. We had no idea, you know, where they were going to go with it. So I think even if you’re not a sci-fi fan you’re going to find something that you truly love about this show because it’s not just about the sci-fi. It’s not just about the werewolves, it’s about the characters and their relationships and it’s just very layered.
Syfy also has Being Human. So how do your werewolves kind of differ from Josh’s werewolf?
Laura Vandervoort: Our werewolves are actually more down to earth. They’re life-sized to any other wolf. It’s not a fantasy show. It’s as realistic as we can be with the situation at hand.
And the wolves have the actor’s eyes and the same coloring – their fur is the same coloring as the hair. So it’s, you know, obviously we are dealing with a mythical idea of werewolves, but we’re trying to make it as true to life as we can. And that’s making sure the werewolves aren’t any different to a typical wolf.
Laura, can you tell us a little bit about the relationship between Elena and her pack?
Laura Vandervoort: It’s complicated. She grew up in a foster care system – so never really had much of a family dynamic. So once she’s Bitten into the pack it’s conflicted because she is the trade. They didn’t – it wasn’t at her, you know, it wasn’t by her own will.
They bit her. And she had to survive it on her own. But at the same time she finally has a family that she’s always wanted and people who will look out for her.
So she’s torn between, you know, what she’s always wanted and how she got it – and then the life that she should be living in Toronto. But eventually within the season you realize that she is very close with the pack and she is their best tracker and she does love them all equally in different ways. And wants to help them and help the family.
Since she is such a strong, self-confident woman, do you see Elena as being a role model?
Laura Vandervoort: Yes. You hit it. And that’s exactly why I loved what Kelley had created… I grew up as tomboy and I wanted to be not necessarily a role model, but I mean I would go to Comic Conventions after playing Supergirl and I’d see, you know, 8 – 9 year old girls who look up to superheroes. But those superheroes are in tube tops and short shorts. And it just, it turned me the wrong way. And so I wanted to always play women that I would be proud of young girls looking up to. Obviously the show isn’t necessarily for young girls, but Elena is an individual. She speaks for herself. She always comes out on top. She’s strong. She puts these boys in place when she needs to in the pack. And I love that about her.
Kelley Armstrong: And I’ll just say, Laura, thank you for taking that stance on it in general for young women because I do agree. It is – especially in the world of fantasy and superheroes – giving role models who aren’t in the skimpy little, you know, outfits in, you know… in impossible poses is so important for young women.
Laura Vandervoort: Yes. I agree with you Kelley 100%. And I mean there is a sexuality to the werewolves and needing to see that part of it. The fact that she is just so strong, I think is a great idea of what women should be and can be on television.
Kelley, how much influence did you have on the TV show to stick close to the books?
Kelley Armstrong: I really didn’t have any influence. And that is what I felt was the correct stance to be taken. I mean a TV show is an adaptation. It is another version for a different medium. And to take a book and translate it directly to screen would make a very boring book. Because I will warn you, in Bitten I spent way too much time in Elena’s head.
And to put that on the screen would have been boring. Somebody else has to take it with fresh eyes and reconstruct it for a different medium. And I personally feel that by getting involved – I’m, of course, so attached to my characters and so attached to my world that I would be objecting to things that I shouldn’t be objecting to.
And I was so thrilled with the early scripts I read. I was so thrilled with the writing and how they got the characters. And yes, there are changes, but there should be. And I was quite happy to leave it in everyone’s capable hands and just step back.
Laura, could you tell us what differences or challenges that you faced with Elena versus your characters in V and Smallville?
Laura Vandervoort: Probably like I said, it’s the most challenging role. I mean Smallville – playing Supergirl, she was an iconic superhero that had existed since the 80s – if not earlier. And so there was a lot of pressure there to play her, but it was also very – I had no room for interpretation. It was already laid out and that was that and that was great.
With V, again, with just a minor character for the first season and she was actually just intended to be a guest star. So they hadn’t really thought her out very much. And then when they saw the dynamic and chemistry with the other actors and I, they wrote her in as the daughter of the queen, so then it became more interesting. And then Elena – with Bitten – not only was Kelley, you know, gracious enough to allow us to interpret a little bit and add our own personalities into the characters, but she’s just a colorful character for me.
Like I can’t even express how much I feel in love with her. I’ve, you know, I’ve been acting since I was 13. I’ve never fallen in love with a character the way that I fell in love with Elena. Like I was actually sad – like I was leaving a person behind on the day that we wrapped because I just became so attached to her. Honestly. And also, obviously, the cast and crew. But she’s the closest to heart for me – with a character that I’ve ever played. Everything about her is just so, you know, redeeming. And she’s sad and she’s layered and she’s, you know, not perfect.
It’s such an interesting role for me and the most adult role that I’ve ever had a chance to be a part of. And not only that, but it’s my first lead on a series. So I invested a lot of my heart and soul and a lot of personal, you know, things that were happening to me at the time of filming are on camera because you just can’t hide something. So there’s a lot of overlapping between Elena and myself.
What is the best and worst thing about working with the supernatural genre?
Kelley Armstrong: The best thing about working with it is just the capacity for imagination. That is what I love. I have been asked many times why do you write this stuff? And I say I have no idea. I grew up writing about the paranormal. And I blame too many Saturday mornings watching Scooby Doo. I just saw such a capacity for imagination there where I could take anything and say what if and spin it. As for the worst think, well, honestly, I mean the worst thing is also something that is a plus. I mean the genre has gotten much more popular. And when I started it was a struggle.
It is far more popular now – which is both good and bad because you are always being, you know, asked how does your stuff differ from what is currently out there – and worrying. If I do something, you know, new – is that too similar to what somebody else has already done?
Laura Vandervoort: So in just terms of the sci-fi, like Kelley’s was saying, before this was such a popular drama and genre and I think what she did with it sort of transcend the time. And that’s why we’re still able to use it now. And you can’t compare. Yes, it’s a great time to be having this show premiere – especially because Syfy has been doing so well.
But there’s so much more to the show than the sci-fi. That’s why that the characters and the stories have lasted. And hopefully will last and people will enjoy them. And it’s because it’s about the characters and their flaws and Elena’s history. And the fact that she is such a broken down human being and then suddenly becomes a werewolf and has to deal with that.