The Casteel Series from V.C. Andrews comes to an end on Saturday, August 24.
If you've been following along, you know that in all four movies that preceded Web of Dreams airing this Saturday, was the presence of Leigh VanVoreen, Heaven's mother, and grandmother to Annie.
We had a chance to catch up with Jennifer Laporte, who brings Leigh to life in Web of Dreams. She's read the books and watched the movies, so you don't want to miss this conversation with the young woman who plays the girl that started it all.
So What was your knowledge of V.C. Andrews and the Casteel family dramas before you got involved with Web of Dreams?
My knowledge of V.C. Andrews was just a little limited to Flowers in the Attic, of course. I think that's the novel and film that most people are most aware of when it comes to V.C. Andrews.
But I was very familiar with the whole Casteel family series before I auditioned for Web of Dreams cause they'd been shooting in Vancouver, and I was so excited by them, and it felt like a story that I would be able to fit into. So I was following that closely and reading the books.
Oh good. So that helps with how you got involved with the production. I understand that you actually chose to move to Vancouver for your career?
Yes, that's right. I moved there from New York. It's a smaller pond up here, and I'm so lucky to be a dual citizen, and I just love living in Vancouver. It's a beautiful city. I love the Pacific Northwest.
Oh, I think I've only been there once on a set visit, but my goodness, I really like it. And there is so much television that films up there.
Oh, I know. No kidding. They call it Hollywood North, and it absolutely is that. There's just so much content, which is really exciting for us locals.
So what did you think of the books as you started reading them?
I think there are a lot of fun. They're just so twisted, and it draws you in, and it really explores some very dark fantasies and dark thoughts that perhaps all of us are intrigued by. Quite taboo, of course.
Oh, absolutely. What were your first thoughts of the script whenever you finally got it in hand? How did it live up to the book, and what did you think about your role in it?
I was so excited because I felt it really lived up to the book, and I'm a big reader, and I'm a big lover of books, and I always feel very protective of a book when it is being turned into a film.
And when I read the script, I was so excited because there were so many details that I know people who have read the books will get and will see.
And even our props department, they went so far to really capture a lot of the elements of the book, and that was really exciting for me as an actor to get to play with and live with.
Have you watched any of the other movies if they've aired?
I have, yes. I've been following all of them, and it's just so fun to see because I've met Annalise with Gates of Paradise, and Lizzie Boys who's starring in that, and I've met both of them.
They play my daughter and granddaughter, and they're so sweet, and I was really excited to support their films because it's all part of this big family for me.
So through the first four movies, she is merely an idea for viewers. Can you describe Leigh VanVoreen for the readers?
Yes. Leigh VanVoreen is really the matriarch of the story. She is a passionate and curious young woman and finds herself in unfortunate circumstances but really finds the strength to be able to make the best decisions she can to come out of that and to leave very hurtful circumstances.
Yeah, I think that viewers that have been watching along with us and our readers are going to want to know this. Are these movies produced as strictly as dramas or do they lean into the dark, comedic aspects of the material?
Hmm. I think both. I think the book lends itself and the story lends itself to that. It certainly is a very good representation of the drama genre, but there is a lot of dark comedy as well, and there's room for that.
And I think perhaps in some of the different stories and films, there is more room for that. I think Web of Dreams is quite dramatic and I think really captures that.
I agree. I would say that the Web of Dreams is definitely, I think out of the five it's the most dramatic of the bunch.
But viewers might be pleasantly surprised at the turn that her life takes. You got to play the one person who was happy. You found your happy ending, even though it was cut short.
Yes, yes, And I just love Leigh's journey, and it was so fun to play. And you're right that she does find her happy ending. Although it just might not be for forever or for very long, but ...
Right. What do you think she'd be thinking if she had knowledge of what happened in her family tree? What would her reaction be?
I think she would be angry, so angry at Tony for being able to have still so much control over her daughter and granddaughter. But I think she would have hope.
And I think she would feel excited that her lineage, her daughter and her granddaughter, do follow suit with being strong women and being able to exact their vengeance or move through these circumstances.
Did it surprise you reading the final book and/or being a part of the movie that Luke Casteel, who ended up being her husband, was actually such a kind and generous soul prior to how we got introduced to him?
Yeah, I love Luke Castille in our story, in Web of Dreams, because we see Luke and Leigh's love story when they first meet, and he is such a generous and kind young man. And I actually read Web of Dreams first.
So going through the rest of the story in the books, to see how he treats our daughter Heaven afterward was such a shock to me. So I think going backwards, it'll actually be interesting for viewers to see his origin, as well to see, oh, was a loving, normal young man.
Yeah, he was the best of the bunch, really.
He was, absolutely.
And he was also responsible for setting everything else that happened in motion.
It was because, yeah. But I see that it all comes from how much he loves Leigh, actually, that when she passes, if that's okay to say? No spoilers. Maybe-
No, no, because you start the movie knowing that she doesn't survive.
Right, of course.
She dies during childbirth.
Yes, that's right, that I think you see with Web of Dreams that the catalyst for that is just how much he loves Leigh and how devastated he really is that she passes in childbirth and can't bear the sight of our daughter, and it's tragic when you get the love story.
Do you think it would have been better for Heaven in the long run to have been raised with Tony or with Luke?
That's a very good question. I think ... Ooh, that's very tough because I'm in a Leigh mode, and I'm very protective.
I would say Luke only because there are perhaps more resources or ways for her to get out of those circumstances whereas Tony has a way of entrapping people and really having a hand in keeping them in this dark world.
That's a good answer. What did you most like playing? What aspects of Leigh did you most enjoy?
I loved her strength. I think she's certainly not a victim at all. Sp she falls into a difficult, very, very difficult circumstance.
But I loved finding the strength and the tone in her story of her decision to leave Farthinggale and to leave Tony and her mother and to stick to her gut and try to find a better life for her child. I loved playing that. I love the strength in her.
And what was the one thing about Leigh's life that shocked you the most?
The one thing that shocked me the most was the disappearance of Leigh's biological father because he was also such a generous, kind, and loving man and in the books as well. And Leigh's mother just makes it incredibly difficult for him to get into contact with Leigh.
So that was shocking to me that oh, he just disappears after a certain point. And he's such a wonderful man that is really encouraging for her.
And what's next for you?
What's next for me? I write and produce my own work. So I'm working on my own short projects right now, and I am in the thick of auditioning always and looking forward to what the next project is.
I hope to see you in some more Lifetime and/or Hallmark movies.
Thank you. Yes, I hope so too. I love both those channels.
Yeah, I mean, they are very highly regarded by female viewers and get a lot of attention. So I think you made a great choice going to Vancouver.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.