Tonight, Syfy is premiering their latest series, Bitten, based off the best-selling book series, “Women of the Otherworld,” by Kelley Armstrong. Bitten is about a young woman who is turned into a werewolf…and is the sole female werewolf in existence. She’s split from her pack, wanting to live a normal life, but is pulled back in when bodies start piling up. Author Kelley Armstrong and series star Laura Vandervoort recently spoke to the press about the show, the book series, and more, so check out what they had to say.
On the fact that she is trained in martial arts
Laura Vandervoort: Yes. I grew up doing martial arts. So Elena feels like, you know, the other part of me. I relate to so much about her. Obviously, not the werewolf part, but the fact that she can take care of herself physically.
And I think it was great that the writers wrote in some extra hand-to-hand combat scenes. And especially in the finale – we have this epic fight that I just had a great time doing. And we had great stunt coordinators that help us so as incorporate the animalistic side to the fighting.
It wasn’t a part of the audition, but, you know, I think it definitely benefits the character. The fact that most of the actors on the show are physically able to do the fight scene sequences.
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On how she came up with the idea for the book series
Kelley Armstron: Okay. For the books, “Bitten” actually came out of an X-Files episode. I was in a writing group. And as part of a writing group you’re expected to actually write new stuff. I was trying to come up with an idea, sat down and watched X-Files.
It was way back in their first season. Their one and only werewolf episode. It was your typical big guy who changes into some beast like thing and goes around slaughtering people under the full moon. And I said that’s not how I would do werewolves.
And for a writer, that then sparks how would I do them? And I wrote a short story with this character named Elena and I loved that world so much that I wrote a book.
Laura: I had no idea it was the X-Files. That’s really cool for me to know as well.
Kelley: Which goes to show you how long ago I started writing “Bitten.” It was the first season of the show; it is old stuff.
Laura: I actually – yes, I love the X-Files. Like I was watching that as well. So that’s cool to know.
On how she got the role
Laura: I actually received an offer for the role – which was amazing, first of all. And ended up speaking to J.B. on the phone just to get an idea of the premise of the show and how it would look and how the wolves would be done.
And so we spoke for about an hour. And I heard how passionate he was about the project – he’s our executive producer. And it just sounded like something I’d really been looking to do—such a layered thing—and the character who is both flawed and strong.
And so I read the books. I read “Women of the Otherworld” and “Bitten” and did a bit of research. And as soon as I realized the amazing quality of what was there I jumped on. And we did some auditions and chemistry reads with the guys and we just sort of hit the ground running—no pun intended.
And I mean it was the most challenging six months I’ve had thanks to Kelley and the writers. Every day was a challenge for me. And there were days where I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle the emotional side of it or the physical side of it or just being in every scene. And I did. And I’m so grateful for the experience.
On their versions/interpretations of Elena
Kelley: The creation of Elena really was, I mean, it is my first published novel. So it was way back. And I wanted to create a character who would be a werewolf and be uncomfortable with that role, but ultimately come to embrace it.
So often we – at that time – saw werewolves that was a curse, something that you wanted to end to get out of. And I wanted a character who – while she would feel that she should think that way – really deep down doesn’t. And “Bitten” was about coming to understand that what you think you should be is not always what you’re meant to be.
Laura: And I agree with what Kelley said. A lot of, you know, there’s a lot of parallels with Elena in the show and women in general. You know, Elena flees to Toronto to try to hide who she truly is and try to have this almost perfect image of what she feels people need from her, but she’s just pushing down the animal inside of her. And it’s such an amazing character that a lot of the skeletons in her closet are explored this season. You learn a lot about her history and some of her demons come back.
So every episode was shocking to us when we’d read it. We had no idea, you know, where they were going to go with it. So I think even if you’re not a sci-fi fan you’re going to find something that you truly love about this show because it’s not just about the sci-fi. It’s not just about the werewolves, it’s about the characters and their relationships and it’s just very layered.
On how their werewolves differ from others
Laura: Our werewolves are actually more down to earth. They’re life-sized to any other wolf. It’s not a fantasy show. It’s as realistic as we can be with the situation at hand.
And the wolves have the actor’s eyes and the same coloring – their fur is the same coloring as the hair. So it’s, you know, obviously we are dealing with a mythical idea of werewolves, but we’re trying to make it as true to life as we can. And that’s making sure the werewolves aren’t any different to a typical wolf.
On the relationship between Laura & her pack
Laura: It’s complicated. She grew up in a foster care system – so never really had much of a family dynamic. So once she’s bitten into the pack it’s conflicted because she is the trade. They didn’t – it wasn’t at her, you know, it wasn’t by her own will.
They bit her. And she had to survive it on her own. But at the same time she finally has a family that she’s always wanted and people who will look out for her.
So she’s torn between, you know, what she’s always wanted and how she got it – and then the life that she should be living in Toronto. But eventually within the season you realize that she is very close with the pack and she is their best tracker and she does love them all equally in different ways. And wants to help them and help the family.
On working with CGI
Laura: Yes. I mean that’s been a wonderful part of the show as well. We don’t have to do the furry prosthetics and in the makeup chair for four or five hours in the morning. We have a wonderful visual effects team that some of them worked on the Life of Pi–on the tiger’s fur.
So they’re just amazing artists who know exactly how to make the fur move and in certain lights. And we have actually a German Shepherd that our producer has that will run throughout the scene and we’ll get the motion of the wolf and then capture that onto camera with our visual effects wolves.
So we haven’t had to worry about too much of that. It’s more of the transition from human to wolf that the actors portray – that the bones shifting and snapping and contorting. And then after that it’s all visual effects with the actor’s eyes.
On Elena as a role model
Laura: That’s exactly why I loved what Kelley had created. I always want – I mean I grew up as tomboy and I wanted to be not necessarily a role model, but I mean I would go to Comic Conventions after playing Supergirl and I’d see, you know, 8-9-year-old girls who look up to superheroes.
But those superheroes are in tube tops and short shorts. And it just, it turned me the wrong way. And so I wanted to always play women that I would be proud of young girls looking up to. Obviously the show isn’t necessarily for young girls, but Elena is an individual.
She speaks for herself. She always comes out on top. She’s strong. She puts these boys in place when she needs to in the pack. And I love that about her.
Kelley: And I’ll just say, Laura, thank you for taking that stance on it in general for young women because I do agree. It is – especially in the world of fantasy and superheroes – giving role models who aren’t in the skimpy little, you know, outfits in, you know, in impossible poses is so important for young women.
Laura: Yes. I agree with you Kelley 100%. And I mean there is a sexuality to the werewolves and needing to see that part of it. The fact that she is just so strong, I think is a great idea of what women should be and can be on television.
On the differences between the books and the show
Kelley: I really didn’t have any influence. And that is what I felt was the correct stance to be taken. I mean a TV show is an adaptation. It is another version for a different medium. And to take a book and translate it directly to screen would make a very boring book. Because I will warn you, in “Bitten,” I spent way too much time in Elena’s head.
And to put that on the screen would have been boring. Somebody else has to take it with fresh eyes and reconstruct it for a different medium. And I personally feel that by getting involved – I’m, of course, so attached to my characters and so attached to my world that I would be objecting to things that I shouldn’t be objecting to.
And I was so thrilled with the early scripts I read. I was so thrilled with the writing and how they got the characters. And yes, there are changes, but there should be. And I was quite happy to leave it in everyone’s capable hands and just step back.
It is [my baby]. And I think that is very difficult. But I think it’s also very, very necessary because this is my work envisioned by other writers and by actors. And I’m thrilled to have that happen. I’m thrilled to have, you know, current readers see it on a screen and new people see it. But it’s not supposed to be my books translated to the small screen.
On how this differs from her previous roles
Laura: Probably like I said, it’s the most challenging role. I mean Smallville – playing Supergirl, she was an iconic superhero that had existed since the 80s – if not earlier. And so there was a lot of pressure there to play her, but it was also very – I had no room for interpretation. It was already laid out and that was that and that was great.
With V, again, with just a minor character for the first season and she was actually just intended to be a guest star. So they hadn’t really thought her out very much. And then when they saw the dynamic and chemistry with the other actors and I, they wrote her in as the daughter of the queen, so then it became more interesting. And then Elena – with Bitten – not only was Kelley, you know, gracious enough to allow us to interpret a little bit and add our own personalities into the characters, but she’s just a colorful character for me.
Like I can’t even express how much I feel in love with her. I’ve, you know, I’ve been acting since I was 13. I’ve never fallen in love with a character the way that I fell in love with Elena. Like I was actually sad – like I was leaving a person behind on the day that we wrapped because I just became so attached to her.
Honestly. And also, obviously, the cast and crew. But she’s the closest to heart for me – with a character that I’ve ever played. Everything about her is just so, you know, redeeming. And she’s sad and she’s layered and she’s, you know, not perfect.
It’s such an interesting role for me and the most adult role that I’ve ever had a chance to be a part of. And not only that, but it’s my first lead on a series. So I invested a lot of my heart and soul and a lot of personal, you know, things that were happening to me at the time of filming are on camera because you just can’t hide something. So there’s a lot of overlapping between Elena and myself.
On the problem of eating all the food the wolves eat versus getting naked for the camera
Laura: You know, it’s funny. The producers, we did an eating scene and they came back to me the next day and said we loved seeing Elena eating on camera. We want to do it more. And I just though oh no. And, you know, I’m getting naked as a werewolf. You want me to do both of these things? I’m not sure if that’s, you know, a good idea.
But, yes. That’s a really fun part when Elena and no one is around. It’s a whole – she stress eats or, you know, she has to hide her appetite from her human boyfriend. So when he’s not around she’s scarfing down the bacon and, you know.
That’s a really fun part of the character – that the crew and I would have a good laugh because the director wouldn’t yell cut. So I’d keep having to eat and stuff my face and stuff my face. And eventually the crew would laugh and we’d cut and, you know, had a good time with it.
But I would try to find ways around it. The boys definitely – we had a big breakfast scene and the boys, you know, after three hours weren’t looking so good after sausages and ham and all of that.