Famke Janssen Previews Hemlock Grove, Mysterious New Character

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With the success it enjoyed in February by launching an entire season of House Of Cards at once, Netflix next ventures to the world of horror with its new series, Hemlock Grove, based on the novel by Brian McGreevy.

All 13 episodes of go live today via streaming on Netflix.

Besides McGreevy adapting his book for the series, horror master Eli Roth (Hostel) is also on board as Executive Producer/Director and the cast is headlined by Famke Janssen, who takes a break from the X-Men franchise to sink her teeth into the role of complicated matriarch Olivia Godfrey.

I saw down recently with Janssen to talk about what other classic – and unique – TV shows Hemlock is like, while also touching on the relationship between Olivia and her son and her wish to play more comedic roles...

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TV Fanatic: Talk to me about Olivia. From all the roles you’ve played throughout your career, how is she different?
Famke Janssen: When I read it, I thought this has the potential to be something very different from what I’ve played, but there are traps that I can see in here that may remind people of Ava Moore from Nip/Tuck or something like that.

So, I had a conversation with Eli Roth on the phone [and] I said, “Look, I don’t want to go down that route because I’ve done it before and I’m going to repeat myself. I want to try something different with it. Let me know sort of what you’re thinking.”

I had a very good experience on Nip/Tuck with that. Ryan Murphy got inspired by the people he works with so he starts writing for them as the show goes on. We had never worked together before so when he saw where I was taking Ava Moore…he was like ‘I didn’t know she could cry so well. Oh my God, I didn’t realize this aspect of her.’ So, he would embellish on that and whatever.

So, one of the things I fought for was a very specific dialect, which is a little bit more in the way that those movie stars from the 1930s spoke, that Mid-Atlantic, Transatlantic, whatever that’s called. So, I did that. That helped me. I’m only dressed in white, which is another sort of fun element…she’s very mysterious anyway. What time she’s from, where she’s from, what her background is. It’s entirely fabricated and it’s put on this, more than likely, this way of speak. So those elements made it really fun for me to play her.

Hemlock Grove Cast Pic

TVF: Okay. There’s a line in the trailer (BELOW) where the question is asked, ‘Who are you? What are you?’ Is that specific to the theme of the show being about identity and who people are?
FJ: A little bit both. I mean it was specifically directed to me, that line. But the show has larger themes.

TVF: This seems like it’s going to be the kind of show where we’re going to learn a lot in pieces. True?
FJ: Yeah. Don’t expect a linear story or character development in any traditional way. It’s really different in that sense. What my attraction to it was the Twin Peaks feel. Today people still talk about Twin Peaks and have no idea what really happened or who some of these people were. That is what I hope they will continue to go down that path with Hemlock. I think that will be actually its strength.

TVF: Olivia is a mother to Roman, played by Bill Skarsgård, who’s great. What kind of mother is she and what’s their relationship like?
FJ: It’s a complicated relationship. She has two children. She has this seven foot monstrosity of the young girl who’s deformed and is a product of this biomedical institute and young Roman, who’s played by Bill Skarsgård. They’re very similar in the way that similarity between a parent and a child would cause a lot of friction. And she’s controlling because she has very specific plans for him. He, of course, has very specific plans of getting out of her agenda.

TVF: How would you define the relationship between Olivia and Norman (Dougray Scott), her brother-in-law?
FJ: They’re lovers. That’s how I would describe that. They’ve had a long-term relationship on and off.

TVF: Is it more physical or is it also emotional?
FJ: It’s both. She was married to his brother, brother committed suicide. Then they both have their children and lives and whatever. But it’s this ongoing relationship that’s complicated, like everybody else in the story. The characters are complex and complicated and are intertwined in various ways.

TVF: I was looking over all your credits and everything leans a little more towards the dramatic side instead of comedy, but yet Love and Sex (the 2000 romantic comedy with Jon Favreau) is one of my favorite movies.
FJ: Me too! Can I tell you, it’s something I so badly wish I had been able to do more of. I just don’t get cast that way. In the studio films I am typecast in a very specific kind of way. Very strong, alien, other-worldly femme fatale, kickass women. That has sort of dictated what’s happened. I’ve fought going against type for my entire career…I look a very specific way. Unless people get to know me, they know how quirky and goofy I am. But you have to see Love and Sex, which nobody did. Or you have to come into my home life and then you’ll know.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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