x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Jonathan Rhys Meyers sinks fangs into Dracula role

The Golden-Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers sinks his fangs into Victorian London in this stylish and bloody take on Dracula on OSN.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Alexander Grayson in Dracula. NBC, Jonathon Hession / AP photo
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Alexander Grayson in Dracula. NBC, Jonathon Hession / AP photo

If television were an accurate barometer of the vampire risk faced by the general population, we’d all be wearing neck guards and stringing up the garlic with every sunset.

The little screen teems and froths with bloodsuckers – The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, True Blood, Being Human and Hemlock Grove – who open more throats than an emergency tracheotomy team, then conveniently “compel” us to forget the mayhem we saw so they can continue to get away with bloody murder.

That all of the above takes place in our modern world – an era that pooh-poohs the paranormal and puts the sum of human knowledge on tap via palm-sized smartphones – shows just how far today’s misguided vampires have strayed from the mysterious, gothic roots so ably planted in our collective consciousness by the Irish author Bram Stoker when he wrote Dracula in 1897.

Purists, take heart. Your dark prayers have been answered with Dracula, a provocative new drama that brings the bat-winged sexy back to Victorian England.

Expect a “new version of the classic Bram Stoker tale”, says Bob Greenblatt, the chairman of NBC Entertainment. “In the world of Twilight and True Blood and all the contemporised stories, we thought we’d go back to the original.”

The Irish actor and Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors, Velvet Goldmine) stars in this twisty, sophisticated hour as one of the world’s most iconic demons, who slips into London in the guise of the American entrepreneur Alexander Grayson.

He’s not there for the crumpets, either. He hopes to exact revenge on those who cursed him with immortality as Dracula, back in his dark medieval days when he was known as Vlad Tepes, a prince of Wallachia.

“His anger and his fury have been building up for hundreds of years,” says Rhys Meyers. “He’s a manifestation of pain and loss. He’s a tempest.

“It’s what happens when you ‘break’ somebody to that extent. When you completely demolish their spirit, when you completely demolish their environment and take away those things that they love. Not only taking away his wife, his kingdom and his power – but taking away his life and not allowing him the peace of death. It’s the ultimate cruelty. It’s torture on an epic level.”

His revenge plan is derailed, however, when he falls for the go-getter medical student Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) – who appears to be the reincarnation of his wife.

“When she sees Grayson for the very first time, she is overcome by this sense of knowing, of déjà vu. She recognises him instantly – but cannot place why,” says De Gouw, an Australian actress who also portrays The Huntress in Arrow.

“Grayson has a very different experience of Mina. He knows her as Ilona, his wife who was murdered in front of his eyes centuries ago. His response to her? He’s completely caught off guard and completely knocked off his feet by it, because his love for Ilona was so intense.”

While Dracula does indeed stay true to its time period, it also looks towards the future.

Grayson’s mission is to bring modern science to Victorian society. He’s above all interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night – useful for someone who shuns the sun.

Dracula serves up “hints of modernity and bits of the past”, adds De Gouw. “There’s a bit of blood, guts and gore. And some sex. It’s got everything. And it looks so beautiful. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.”

The sweeping period sets and ornate decor “contain the majesty of Downton Abbey or Boardwalk Empire”, says Rhys Meyers. “It’s very, very lush and very, very beautiful.

“I think using beautiful sets and putting people out of their time comfort zone is a way of allowing them to embrace the fantastic-ness of what is happening – the brutality, but also the beauty. It’s easier to digest in a historical setting.”

Dracula is on at 10pm tomorrow on OSN First HD

artslife@thenational.ae