You might know James Callis from his role as the narcissistic hot-mess Dr. Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica, or Bridget’s delightfully muck-raking friend Tom in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Lesser known turns from the English actor include Shakespeare in Key and Peele, Courier Flaps in the Rick and Morty season 2 finale, “The Wedding Squanchers,” and about 1000 live action drama roles (ya know, if you’re into that). But Castlevania fans will know James for his work as the half vampire / half human hero of Wallachia, Adrian Fahrenheit Tepes – aka Alucard. Here, James gives his perspective on acting, Alucard’s internal conflict, and the experience of envying his character’s effortless rock-hard abs.
Why did you choose to be an actor, and what do you love about it?
My Grandmother was an opera singer. My mother an actress and singer. Both gave up their professions to be homemakers. My earliest theatrical experience was going to Christmas pantomime to see Hansel and Gretel – age 4. Hansel and Gretel decried the fact that they were starving and had nothing to eat. I was terribly moved – and in the middle of the production, ventured on stage unbidden to give them my chocolates. It was an unexpected show stopper. To be totally honest, there was something magical about the theatre. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I knew I wanted to be a part of that mystery and excitement. Creating other worlds and not only investigating them, but living through them as well.
Do you enjoy any aspect of voice acting in particular?
No costume or make-up. Working with great minds. Being able to tell a story solely through the medium of sound is a real kick.
How were you introduced to Castlevania as a project? Did you go in with any expectations?
I always loved vampire stories. I had not heard of “Castlevania” when I received a script. But I had only played two electronic games when I was a kid – one being, funnily enough “The Dracula”. It was kind of like “Pac Man”, but Dracula, going ‘round a maze biting people to convert them, and you had to avoid the priests – but found safety once you entered your coffin! The other was “Donkey Kong”!
So, yeah: absolutely no idea about “Castlevania” or how iconic it was initially. That’s all changed now! I remember thinking Fahrenheit was an odd middle name! It also took me awhile to work out that Alucard was Dracula backwards. The show itself has exceeded all expectations. The writing is EPIC! The characters really do come off the page – and I happen to think the artwork is equally legendary. Hey! Nice work if you can get it as a beautiful immortal – shredded scion to Vlad Tepes! I’ve seriously never looked so good! I guess blondes do have more fun.
What do you consider when you’re choosing projects, and weighing some against others?
Basically – if I like it. If it’s a challenge, if it’s something I haven’t done before. Castlevania hit all of those boxes. And did I mention I get to play a beautiful blonde immortal Dhampir? (possibly!)
Do you have genres or types of project that you gravitate toward?
Not really. Personal preference is for material that’s dark – gritty and dangerous – but that hasn’t precluded me from doing the odd spot of comedy now and again. Ticking all the boxes: the dark, gritty, and dangerous types of things I like to watch are also ingrained with a level of humanity and humor.
What about Castlevania the project and Alucard the character compelled you to take the role?
Knowing Adi Shankar was producing, Warren Ellis was writing, Richard Armitage was going to be Trevor and seeing early artwork from our director Sam Deats…. it was not a little inspiring!!
How did you build out for yourself the way that Alucard is feeling throughout this season, as he embarks on a mission to kill his own father?
It’s a tightrope to walk – it will be fair to say that he plays his Alucard’s very close to his chest. Someone who has lived, loved, experienced humanity in all its glory and its despair – and potentially gets to do that, if not eternally, then certainly indefinitely – is going to have a different set of values to almost everyone else. Not to mention that interesting quirk in our psyche between nature and nurture. Son of a Vampire and a mortal woman, killed by humans. How about this word, to put it in a word: “Torn”.
How was it accessing those emotions – particularly within a character so poised and restrained by nature?
Another good question. I think of Alucard – at least on the surface – as having the visage and demeanor of a placid lake. But as we say, still rivers run deep. This is not a character in denial, but more a character with the ability to repress so much human instinct. Only so much is important. Only so much of the self is worth presenting to the world – but a dancing gust of wind that plays upon the surface of that body of water is more dangerous than it might seem. Anything other than seeming stillness or deep serenity is threatening when it comes to Alucard – just the arch of his eyebrow is enough to telegraph that all is not well in Wallachia. With an anchor and moral compass rooted in his impending centuries, everything is kept as “light” as possible—like dancing on the meniscus of the water for the story and psychological counterpoint. Qui seme le vent…
What are your favorite media representations of Dracula and vampires at large?
Nosferatu – still one of the most brilliant and chilling films I’ve ever seen! Obviously loved Gary Oldman in his incarnation. Right now it would have to be Graham McTavish in this show!
What do you think Castlevania brings to this canon that is unique or new?
Well simply, it’s a dark, adult themed anime-inspired show. Not that I’m au fait with the medium per se – but the only thing that comes close to this was the animated version of The Lord of the Rings – back when they believed The Lord of the Rings was unfilmable for live action. I have to say though, this has the edge. It’s darker and gorier and if you’d told me how much I was going to be invested in the finished product when we commenced – I don’t think I would have believed you! There’s nothing like this. Definitely not for kids!
What TV shows are you a fan of, and do you regularly watch animation? Would you have watched Castlevania were you not involved in the project?
Oooh – let me see, let me see – there was this one show called Battlestar Galactica – that I’m kind of partial to. Growing up I avidly watched Miami Vice, The A Team, loved 24 when it surfaced, Homeland (did you guys see 12 Monkeys?!) Just watched Maniac – blown away!! Genre wise: Sci-fi, dystopian worlds (which, don’t we all love!?), action-adventure, etc. The only animation I saw was mentioned, The Lord of the Rings. Think they ran out of money to make the whole trilogy – talk about leaving the audience on the edge of their seats!
What do you like best about playing Alucard? Do you relate to him?
See above —shirtless dispassionate dispatching and attrition of monsters. And not really – seeing as I’m human, or so I’ve been told. Also – Alucard – naturally ripped, and he doesn’t work out. Or like doughnuts. I think. So more ‘envious of’, than naturally ‘relating to’.
From either season, do you have a favorite scene, moment or line of his?
It begins: “Imagine it. A world without humans…” Gloriously dark – and I pray to the lords of Kool – not prophetic.
The final scene of the season, where we’re left with only Alucard, is heart-wrenching. How was the experience of recording it?
To quote someone who’s been in the news recently. “SAD!”
If you could say something to Alucard at the beginning of Season 2, what would it be?
“Oh cursèd spite – that ever you were born to set it right.”
How has the experience been of working on Castlevania, overall?
Spell binding, hugely enjoyable and deeply satisfying.
What are your favorite aspects of the show, and how do you feel those were expanded upon or further explored in season 2?
Less isn’t always more – I think we got that right in season 2. No pun intended, but the stakes are really high. If plan A doesn’t work, there will be no plan B! Just loved being a part of something that is true to itself and is like nothing else I’ve ever seen. I’m a fan.
Would you like to say anything to fans of the series?
Fangs awfully. x
Thank you for the interview, James, and the fantastic work! Looking forward to seeing more of Alucard in Castlevania season 3.