The Saturday night family adventure slot on UK TV is now becoming a breeding ground for telefantasy shows, and ITV’s next attempt will a modern day spin on vampire hunter Van Helsing, called Demons. And last Saturday afternoon, the audience at the London Expo were treated to a world exclusive sneak peak in the form of an 80-second trailer (which, producer Johnny Capps later told SFX, he knocked up the day before – a proper big screen trailer will be going into cinemas later in the year.)
A barrage of CGI, outlandish prosthetics and stylish action scenes promised a show full of monsters, magic and black humour, though Mackenzie Crook with a wooden nose may task some getting used to. There’s a touch of Tim Burton, a hint of Pan’s Labyrinth and heavy dollop of Sam Raimi’s Spider-movies in the mix Star Christian Cooke, who leapt from the stage to watch the trailer from the front row, certainly seem impressed.
A panel comprising Cooke, co-creator Johnny Capps (Hex, Merlin), director Tom Harper and script editor Polly Buckle were on hand to enthuse about the show to the con audience, and SFX caught up with them in them later in the press room, where Capps and Cooke revealed a little bit more about the show:
“Demons is basically a high concept series, which follows Luke Van Helsing, or Luke Rutherford. And he discovers that he is a distant relation to Abraham Van Helsing, and it is his destiny to rid London of these monsters called Half Lives,” says Capps.
“Which he does with remarkable style and finesse,” interjects Cooke.
“So in the classic Spider-Man/Superman way, he’s a young man who realises that he has this great destiny, and these super powers,” continues Capps. “He’s basically told that he is a relative of Abraham Van Helsing by a character called Galvin, played by Phillip Glenister. Galvin becomes his mentor, through the series.”
“There’s a character called Thrip, played by Mackenzie Crook, who's a bounty hunter who’s trying to get Luke and take him over to the Half Lives to convert him,” adds Cooke. “And that’s how Galvin comes into Luke’s life, to break the news to him and tell him his history and his destiny.”
“And in that classic kind of way Luke wrestles between his destiny and trying to be a teenager,” Capps continues. “It is a Saturday night family show. The tone of the show is like Spider-Man. It’s for three generations. It should appeal to a broad family audience. Doctor Who is kind of for a younger generation, and this is to appeal more to teenagers. A family audience, but hopefully the teenage audience as well.”
When it came to casting, Capps and his co-producer Julian Murphy, had one rule: “Think BIG…
Once we've got a script that we're happy with we draw up our wish list. For the part of Thrip we thought what would be great would be to get Mackenzie Crook to play him. Because one thing that's crucial to the show is that as well as being very scary it also has a lot of humour in it. So to get a villain played by a great actor who also has comic ability was important to us. We sent the script to Mackenzie Crook and he said yes. We were very lucky.
“The part of Galvin is this redneck, American. Julian and I, when it first got commissioned, we were actually in LA, so we were talking to our American agents and going well, ‘Right, let's get an American actor.’ We were thinking of people like Ted Danson. So when we came back we had this big list of big American actors. At the time there was the writers’ strike, so there were a lot of American actors who were interested in the part. And then our casting director said, ‘Well, what about Philip Glenister? And we went, ‘Oh yeah, that's a really good idea.’ So we sent the script to him rather than all the American actors, and Philip read the script and loved it, loved the concept of the show. We met in Soho House for a drink and we chatted about our aspirations for the show. And then we left, thinking, ‘Not sure he's going to do it,’ and then the next day his agent called and said, ‘Yeah, he'd love to do it.’ Again we were very lucky getting exactly who we wanted.”
“Galvin is very charismatic, he’s very opinionated. I think it’s quite a departure for Philip. I think it'll be interesting to see how an audience responds to Philip as such a different kind of character.”
“He’s still exceptionally cool,” adds Cooke.
One thing that’s been noticeable by its absence in the prepublicity material for the show is the name Dracula…
“In the first season, we don’t meet Dracula,” says Capps, “but we meet Thrip who’s a vampire, and we meet some other vampire further on in the series.”
Notably Capps says “in the first season”. Does this mean he could turn up in series two?
“He might be available,” says Capps archly. SFX’s money is on the Big D actually turning up in the last scene of the last episode of season one – or is that just wishful thinking. But it would be the mother of all cliffhangers.
Below: Christian Cooke (in the white shirt) joins th audience to watch the Demons trailer