Edward Bluemel, who plays Marcus in A Discovery of Witches, talks playing a vampire, his dream of being thrown through a coffee table, and the crossover between Marcus and his Killing Eve character, Hugo.
Q: What attracted you to the role of Marcus?
A: I think that what attracted me definitely was this fantasy/historical crossover. The show has all the markings of a great fantasy drama but at the same time, it’s based on these books written by Deborah Harkness that have a really strong historical backbone. I really liked the idea of a show that combines something that’s definitely not real with stuff that’s real, and I think that’s a really cool sort of mix. Then for Marcus, I was just attracted to that because who doesn’t want to play a vampire? That was the initial attraction, and then as I got to know him, so many more things jumped out at me during filming and researching the character that made me sort of fall in love with him and his non-vampiric tendencies as well.
Q: Were there any conscious changes you made to your physicality to play a character that technically isn’t human?
A: It’s really interesting watching the show and seeing how every vampire handles their heightened senses differently. Something that was important to me was that Marcus sort of let himself down when he was a young vampire; he was way too open about being a vampire. He sired loads and loads of people and caused a lot of damage, and now he keeps a lid on it as much as he can in terms of being noticeable as a vampire. He appears the most human of the bunch, whereas Matthew is very sort of almost like an animal — always alert, always sniffing, always watching everything. Marcus is really focused on blending in as much as possible. … I made the decision to make him far more like what we recognize as human and to be clear that this vampire, unlike Matthew, has made a real effort to blend in with humanity.
Q: Speaking of Matthew, how would you describe their relationship?
A: It’s quite unconventional for a father and a son, but it’s a different type of father and son as we know it. I think there’s often a lot of responsibility and resentment with a vampire child because they’re really, really hard work. When someone first becomes a vampire, they’re really volatile, erratic and incredibly dangerous, because they can’t handle all of their cravings and urges. So I think Matthew is very tired of this in Marcus; he’s spent literally hundreds of years trying to control him. Definitely when we meet [Marcus] in the series, he’s going through a calmer period in his life, but that history is always there and Marcus has had to be looked after, always had an eye kept on him, because he’s just been too dangerous in the past to be left alone. So I think there’s a lot of contention with them. I think there is a lot of love and care there between them, but vampires don’t really show their love very often, and they show their love in ways we wouldn’t necessarily. They show their love by looking out for each other. [Matthew]’s not a man who is going to give Marcus a hug or read out a bedtime story. I mean I would love to be read a bedtime story by Matthew Goode, but I don’t think Marcus has ever got one.
Q: The first time we see Marcus in Episode 1, he tries to turn his friend into a vampire but fails. What kind of effect does that have on him?
A: I think it has a huge effect. If you imagine that that’s how vampires can make children, you have to look at it in the same way as someone realizing they’re infertile or impotent or something like that. I think it’s a real hit to his ego on a superficial level and to his masculinity, the idea that he can’t become a father. But I think on a deeper level, he knows that once he could make children, and he wasted that opportunity by making loads of children he then couldn’t handle at all. There’s a lot of sadness in Marcus, which I hope in further seasons we can unlock, because he’s been through so much that we don’t see in his vast lifetime compared to humans. There’s a real frustration because James in Episode 1 is a really good friend of Marcus, and Marcus sees this as an opportunity to go, “I can save his life, and this can be a vampire child I can really care for and love,” and unfortunately it doesn’t work. He’s found someone that he cares about and wants to save, but he can’t.
Q: Marcus seems to get along pretty well with Diana. Why do you think he seems to lack the prejudice against other creatures that many of the other characters have?
A: I think this is what makes Marcus so special and unique as a character in the show. He became a vampire during the American Revolution. He was an armed medic on the American side and he’s always been a guy who passionately believes in freedom. He’s very liberal — about as left-wing as it gets for a vampire. He believes everyone deserves as much as anyone else, so he’s a really good antithesis to the other vampires because he’s so open. He’s a bit of a revolutionary, a bit of rebel. He’s ready to accept Diana pretty quickly. He treats her with respect and he’s very interested in her, and wants to talk to her — he’s very personable — and I think that’s not your traditional vampire and I think that’s why he’s a really great character.
Q: What do you think Marcus makes of Matthew and Diana’s relationship?
A: I think he’s very intuitive and sees exactly what’s going on very quickly. He’s a bit mischievous as well and he tries to psych Diana out, but is warded off quickly by Matthew in a very stereotypical Matthew fashion. Sniffing her and telling her her blood type to remind her that she is in vampire territory and reminding her how dangerous they can be. But I think also that comes from a caring thing. When he first meets Diana, he sees someone and is very quick to give people the benefit of the doubt, whereas Miriam is much more skeptical. But Marcus immediately cares for her and he wants to make sure that she feels comfortable knowing what she’s getting herself into. Showing her, “You can’t hide anything from us” is a bit of a power move, but at the same time there’s definite care in it. He’s setting her up to succeed with them and realize what they’re all about.
Q: In Episode 4, Marcus has a brief, violent run-in with Juliette in which she throws Marcus across the room. What was it like filming that scene?
A: Through a table! A dream of mine, to be thrown through a coffee table. It was a lot of fun. It was amazing to do stuff with Elarica [Gallacher], who plays Juliette. There’s these little pockets of “teams” on the show, and only occasionally do they overlap, so it was really nice to overlap with her. It was amazing to me, too, because the show is so female-driven — the books are written by Deborah Harkness, the screenplay is written by women, it’s being produced by women, most of our directors are women — and it was amazing to have a scene that was like, “Poor Marcus, stuck between these two ridiculously powerful women.” He’s a lover, not a fighter, as most vampires are. He’s definitely very dangerous if he has to be, but he’s no match for Juliette who is an absolute trained killer, and he needs Miriam to save him. And that kind of sums up the show for me: these powerful women taking the show by the scruff of the neck a bit, and then poor old Marcus lingering between them all just hoping he makes it out alive.
Q: Speaking of shows by and about powerful women, you’re also on Killing Eve right now, playing Eve’s entitled MI6 team member, Hugo. What’s it like being on two shows that air literally back-to-back?
A: It’s terrifying in a way because I’m worried that the charade will be up and everyone will see in great detail that I play the same character in everything. But I feel so lucky. It’s a crazy coincidence that it worked out this way, because A Discovery of Witches came out in the U.K. ages ago now and it’s been a long journey to TV in America. I think it’s really fun. I hope people that are fans of both of them and double bill. I hope they can at least get a good laugh about the fact that I’m in both of them and that these characters are similar on the surface, but very different underneath — just with very, very similar faces. [Laughs]
Q: Do you think there’s any character crossover between Killing Eve‘s Hugo and Marcus in A Discovery of Witches?
A: They’re both very confident, they both don’t take themselves too seriously, they both love to make an inappropriate comment at an inappropriate time. They’re both sort of very personable and intuitive people. People tend to end up confiding in them both, but it’s what they do with that information that separates them. The fact that Marcus is, at heart, a really wise and kind person, whereas Hugo is a little bit naughty. He has his own agenda, he’s very manipulative, and we see all sorts of sides in Killing Eve of Hugo. You see him at his worst and you also see him at his best. You do sort of see a good side to Hugo, but he makes people much more nervous than Marcus does. The other thing they have in common is they both shag a lot. [Laughs] That’s a big similarity. They’re both absolute womanizers. I think in the grand scheme of things, Marcus has been with many more women because he’s been alive for 261 years, so he’s probably done it all, but Hugo is doing his best to catch up.
Q: It’s interesting that you say Hugo is more dangerous when Marcus is literally a living weapon.
A: That is interesting! I think Marcus definitely is incredibly physically dangerous but would be less likely to use that danger for his own good or to gain power or for anything like that. Just [be] thankful that Hugo isn’t a vampire because that would be a real problem. You need Marcus’s personality to try his best to dial back the vampire tendencies, whereas Hugo would love to be a vampire and I think a lot of people would be dead.
Read a Q&A with Owen Teale, who plays Peter Knox.
A Discovery of Witches airs Sundays at 9/8c.
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