A whopping 1900 words of chat with the actor who plays new vampire on the block Hal (Contains some minor spoilers, but no biggies)
SFX: This is your first TV role, and it’s as a regular, so it must be a massive deal for you, right?
Damien Molony: “Yeah! I’m really, really happy about it and I’m really excited about the fans seeing it, and the audience at large, because I think it’s a fantastic storyline.”
It must be a bit daunting to follow in the footsteps of Aidan Turner, because Mitchell was such a popular character.
“Yeah, it is. I talked to the producers when we first started - before I did any acting we did a week of rehearsals - and they were like, ‘You are not replacing Mitchell, but you will be seen as Mitchell’s replacement.’ So I was nervous.”
It’s a great platform for an actor: Aidan’s career has really taken off...
“… On to bigger and better things, absolutely, and Russell’s done so well. And there’s so many fantastic guest actors, which is the best thing. You do the readthroughs and you see the trainload of guest actors who’ve come in for it and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I recognise him, I recognise her!’ That’s the best thing. Then they’re in for three weeks and you get three weeks of opportunities to work with these fantastic actors.”
So tell us about your character, Hal. What’s he like?
“Well, he’s very old, he’s been a vampire for a very long time. Basically he goes through life cycles, because he’s been around for so long: he can have 30 years of being quite calm, quite contained, living a very basic life and then suddenly he’ll have 50 years of out-and-out aggression, rape and torture and tearing through the countryside killing everything he sees. When we first see Hal in one of the prequels it’s 1955 and I’ve been tearing it up in Eastern Europe. In the last 50 years I’ve been hosting dogfights [with werewolves], and we have this specific werewolf who’s a fantastic fighter - he hasn’t lost a fight. I’m getting to the end of a cycle, I’m really tired of the way that I’ve gone and slightly remorseful and very guilty, and there’s a lot of shame, and I kinda realise that enough is enough and I need to go clean. Hal’s very taken by this werewolf, Leo is his name, and I ask him, ‘If you can take care of me would you?’, and Leo says, ‘If you’re looking for a simple life I can provide you with that”. So when the series starts, for the last 50 years basically, Hal has just existed in this bubble.”
Does he remember his past?
“Absolutely, and he’s trying to block it out. So he listens to music and he plays with a domino in order to stop the memories coming back. And Leo’s given Hal basic exercises to do with fitness, and different things to keep his mind focussed and stay away from blood. So there are focus issues that he really has to deal with.”
So he’s completely out of touch with the modern world, basically?
“Completely. He’s got a tweed suit on and he’s very prim and proper. He’s so dated and so 1950s, and he’s terrified of any sort of human contact. And he’s so posh, and he’s so sneering about Tom [McNair] and werewolves. So for Hal the series is him being thrown back into this whole world. When it comes to episode two, Hal moves into the house and is relying on them to look after him, basically. But so much shit happens in this house - it’s probably the worst place to put a vampire in that’s trying to deal with being thrust back into the world! Then I have to go and work in a café with Tom, and that’s obviously a disaster because there’s customers all the time, which is a nightmare!”
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How do those two get on together?
“As the series starts Tom and Hal clash, they absolutely hate each other, because obviously it’s werewolf/vampire and Tom is so terrified that the vampires are going to come and he sees me as the vampires, so he’s really suspicious of me. So we start off absolutely hating each other, but as the series progresses and we go through more and more shit-storms together we get a lot closer and become kinda like brothers, basically. There’s moments where Tom looks to Hal for advice and vice versa, so they really help each other out as the series progresses.”
So presumably the character changes as the series goes on?
“He does, he gets a little bit more streetwise as the story goes along. By the time we get to episode four I have a new haircut, the tweed suit is gone – I really want to get my hands on that tweed suit! – and I get cool clothes… or what Hal thinks is cool anyway, which is slightly cool, but he just wears them so badly! And I find a little bit more responsibility in the house. Because at the start he very much expects to be accepted. He’s like, ‘Well I’m here, look after me or I will tear Barry apart’, for the first couple of episodes, but as the series goes on it’s like, ‘Well, I need to help out here’. There’s a lot of people coming to threaten them, and there’s a lot more responsibility to take on. I think I’ve earned my place in the house by the end of the series.”
And what about Annie: what’s Hal’s relationship with her like?
“Well, Hal absolutely looks up to her. Like Leo, she gives him things to do and she doesn’t take any shit from him. She’s like “Hold the baby!” and I’m like “I don’t want to do babies!”, and she’s like, “Hold it!” She's a very motherly influence, and he needs that kind of protection.”
What is his relationship to the Old Ones?
“Well, Hal is an Old One, so Hal was around when they were ripping through Europe in the Russian wars and the Baltic wars of the 1500s - that’s when Hal became a vampire. I think he was on his death bed and a surgeon who was a vampire said, ‘If you want to live I can make you live forever’ and Hal said, ‘Yes, I’ll take that.’ So Hal has become this terror, one of the most bloodthirsty vampires of all time, and would have been one of the very first vampires… I have a feeling that he probably would have had something to do with Herrick and, as he was older, Mitchell. So there’s a bloodline which you can trace and it leads back towards Hal, because Hal was one of the first. And he knows that the Old Ones are on their way, there’s that kind of dread and that fear throughout the series that they’re coming back. Hal knows because they share the same blood: he is intrinsically linked, almost metaphysically, to these Old Ones, so as soon as the Old Ones arrive in the country, he knows. He feels like he will slowly sink in and join the ranks. And he starts to slip from his mantle of, ‘I’ll never drink blood, I’m focused’, he starts to fall off the wagon a little bit - which is quite sad, because he’s only doing it because he can’t help himself. It’s like a drug addict.”
Is drug addiction a useful thing to think about when approaching your performance?
“Completely. That way you can make it human and you can make the audience relate to it. I did a lot of research on drug addicts and alcoholics and rehab and falling off the wagon, which is so useful because then you can totally get into that world. As opposed to saying, ‘Well, could you imagine if I was a vampire?’ it’s, ‘Could you imagine if I was drug-riddled?’, that kind of thing.”
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Where there any moments in the series that particularly blew your mind?
“Well, there’s a scene where it goes into the future, were things to continue as they’re going in this particular way - 2000-and-whenever - and there’s a big reference to Hal in the future. That future involves a lot of Hal, and there’s a really massive image of Hal in the future... As soon as I got something of that I sent a picture to my best friend who loves the show and to my mum. She was like, “Can we have it?” and I was like, ‘Yeah, but I’m not sure you could hang it…!’”
And what about a favourite episode?
“I really enjoyed episode five [“Hold The Front Page”] - I think that’s absolutely hilarious. Five is Craig’s [guest star Craig Roberts, as Adam]. It’s the one I laughed out loud at the most.”
How does Hal get on with Adam?
“Well, Hal is very, ‘That’s not the way vampires should hold themselves!’ Adam’s all about sex and Hal is all about etiquette and decorum. There’s so many penis jokes from Adam, and for Hal it’s like, ‘He’s talking in front of a lady!’ So they jar slightly, but I think Hal realises that he could take Adam under his wing a little bit and teach him some of the tricks of the trade. I try and teach him some little routines and some exercises to keep him off blood, but he’s absolutely not interested in any of it whatsoever!”
Had you watched the series before you got the job?
“I’d never seen it except for one episode last year, the zombie one. I lived with the girl who played Sasha the zombie, so the only time I saw it was the episode that she was in. Then when I got cast I got the box sets. I really enjoyed series one and series two but I thought that series three went to a different level. The storyline throughout was phenomenal: constantly Aidan’s character was on the back foot, different people were trying to figure out about the Box Tunnel 20, that kind of thing. But the way the storyline leads on from series three and develops the idea of the baby… I just think it’s a very exciting storyline. And there’s so many fantastic tangents that go off the main storyline, too. In episode four we’ve got this great evil ghost who comes in, and in episode six we have a young girl werewolf. There’s lots of different branches off while it still tells the throughline story.
“What’s so great about the show is that obviously it has a bizarre supernatural concept - I mean, “next door’s a vampire a werewolf and a ghost” doesn’t make any sense - but people can relate with all the characters. And for every horrific moment, the next scene it’s usually followed by lighthearted comedy, like being horrendously irritated with people – ‘That’s not how you hold a baby!’ I think its very, very clever and really gives the audience a chance to get involved and become part of the show and really relate to the characters. So yes, Hal is downtrodden and melancholic throughout the series, but there are glimpses of him with a little smirk, or there are moments where he just completely makes a fool of himself in front of a girl that he really fancies. I think that’s how the show functions so well and is so popular: it has horror, blood, throats, all that kind of stuff but there’s a heart behind it. So it’s really, really exciting to work on.”
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