Stars say Marvel's 'Helstrom' siblings are 'extra-human'
UPI News Service, 10/16/2020
Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon said they were attracted to Marvel's Helstrom because it was a complicated sibling drama wrapped in a supernatural horror story.
"Something I really loved about it from the beginning is that it is about a family," Austen told UPI in a joint video-conference interview with Lemmon.
"It's about the dynamic of a brother and sister, and what they can do and can't do together," Austen said. "I thought that was something that I hadn't seen before, that I was really into."
Lemmon said she also was excited by the dynamic.
"I knew it would be a fun acting challenge to get to invest in something that was extra-human; that to me was a total draw," Lemmon said.
In the show, which debuts on Hulu on Friday, the actors play ethics professor-exorcist Daimon and auction house owner-vigilante Ana.
The super-powered siblings were estranged for years due to the childhood trauma inflicted upon them by their wicked father, who, until recently, was presumed dead.
"This is the ultimate bad dad story," series creator and showrunner Paul Zbyszewski told UPI in a separate video chat, explaining how it was his job to figure out the emotional core of the story.
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"You don't get to care about a character and relate to them unless you find that sort of universal, emotional, relatable truth in them and their dynamic," Zbyszewski said.
With different ways of righting the wrongs they see, the brother and sister reunite after a gory incident involving their institutionalized and demonically possessed mother, Victoria (Elizabeth Marvel).
"We were pulled apart and he carried on one path and I carried on a different path, and so when we meet again much later in life, we've been formed in totally different ways," Lemmon said.
"I think that gives the show a lot of bite and depth because we are thrust into this position where we have to take something on together," she added.
Louise (June Carryl) is the head of the mental hospital in which Victoria has lived for years. She is a surrogate mother to Daimon, while Gabriella (Ariana Guerra), a nun-in-training, is Louise's assistant and helps Daimon confront and dispatch demons.
"One of the major themes of the show is nature versus nurture, and that is shown so clearly through the characters of Ana and Daimon. Daimon is the example of what happens when someone is taken from something so traumatic and so broken and so evil and is given an opportunity in life to turn himself around and Ana hasn't," Austen said.
Marvel was delighted to play a character who has so many different aspects to her personality.
"It's sort of like when you take on Shakespeare or Greek drama. You're asked to do very domestic, realistic acting in a massively heightened, cosmic universe, which is the same as Helstrom," Marvel told UPI in a joint interview with co-star Robert Wisdom.
"We are taking very serious domestic issues in this supernatural world and that is heaven for an actor."
Finding the deep and menacing voice of Mother was a happy accident that came while she watched the news on television.
"I would take a cushion and scream into it because I was so extremely frustrated by what was happening, and my voice grew hoarse, which actually worked really well for the demon," Marvel laughed.
Ana also has a protector and sidekick. Caretaker (Wisdom) is the mysterious expert in the occult who follows Ana's every move, and Chris (Alain Uy) is the ride-or-die friend who helps Ana run her auction house.
"It was a dive into a supernatural fantasy world, but it was a dive where we were allowed to be human," Wisdom said.
"We weren't peeling off layers and showing superpowers, but we were peeling off layers to show who we are and what voices were behind our hearts. You see good and bad emerge and that is always powerful to watch."
While Caretaker is brilliant and kind in the show's opening episodes, his association with the morally murky Ana might leave viewers wondering about his motives.
That duality is part of what intrigued Wisdom about his character.
"As Elizabeth said, it's Greek tragedy. Ana is my Electra. It's that kind of sharpness that she has and we get to watch her unfold and then [Caretaker] tries to hold the reins," Wisdom said.
The cast hopes viewers will find in the show a message of how to maintain one's humanity in the face of cruelty and chaos.
"The writers and producers have done a really incredible job of trying to make this mean something and trying to make this a comment on the world that we live in. I think we see good and evil every single day in this world," Austen said. "I felt very proud to have been a part of that."
"Because we as actors really did try to put as much heart and soul and awareness into the building of [the show], I hope it can be a place where people escape to and feel as though they can maybe purge or release some of the very real feelings they are having in their day-to-day [lives] in the safe, contained world of imagination," she said.
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