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Interview: Famke Janssen talks Hemlock Grove

Following an auspicious and sometimes inconsistent inaugural campaign, Hemlock Grove returned to Netflix looking to be more confident and focused in its second season. No longer would the show adhere to the book of the same name that inspired the show, and brought in alongside a couple of new actors was Charles ‘Chic’ Eglee.

A writer and director, Eglee’s credits include working on The Walking Dead as well as Dexter as executive producer. Those bloody dramas would look to inspire Grove this time around, as the supernatural thriller opted for more gore and scares as well as more coherent storytelling.

“Chic really wanted to make it all about peeling back the layers of the characters, we were all onions really,” explained actress Famke Janssen to a group of journalists while promoting the show in Toronto. Her matriarch Olivia has a slew of changes this year, especially as she ended the first season in such a precarious and uncertain position.

“You can really see that with Olivia. We think we know who she is, she is introduced as this highly manipulative character that has control over everything and everybody, and then we strip her of all that, then what do we see? What is left of her?

Well, for one, earth tones, Janssen says jokingly. No longer is Olivia only draped in white, and no more does she have a peculiar accent (justified in part by the fact that she lost her tongue in Season One).

“Chic is a strongly opinionated person with really artistic ideas,” Janssen explained. “He decided to watch the first season, read what people had written about the show and their thoughts on it, and opted out of reading the book so he could have a really perspective on where to take the second season.”

“He flew to New York to see me and (EP) David Strathairn,  talked me through what they wanted to do, and how they wanted to change things. She is one of the big changes from last year, but he was pretty prepared.”

It becomes instantly a much more intimate and eerie show, with less chaos and longer, more thoughtful exchanges, especially between the two young male leads and former friends Peter (Landon Liboiron) and Olivia’s son Roman (Bill Skarsgard).

“It really is [different],” Janssen continued. “It’s finding the balance of how much can I keep of the character so we don’t become a whole new some, but you have to think of the bigger picture too, of the gigantic puzzle and how your little piece fits into all of that.”

Another change includes the appearance of female directors, a key addition said Janssen. The first season saw no women behind the camera helming an episode, and while two across the second season isn’t a massive number, it’s still something.

It is noteworthy because there is a lack of female directors in America, it’s still very rare,” said Janssen. “You see them in independent films, you don’t see them in studio films. Last year we have zero, so this season to have two is a big jump up. It’s nice to have a female perspective sometimes. I hope one day we get to the point where we don’t even have to specify gender when we are talking about directors.”

There is something that certainly didn’t change: Janssen’s wariness when it comes to gore and blood. She joked about covering her eyes while watching the premieres and getting queasy thinking about certain scene (the transformations, among others).

She has made sure to laud the team that works to create such effective visuals and effects, but Janssen isn’t eager to take it all in. “I just had my eyes closed,” she said of watching one part of the premiere. She would turn to the person next to her and say, “Just tell me when it’s over.”

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.