Last week I gave you some tips about how to queer your con, and I did my best to heed my own advice this past weekend at NYCC. I went with a band of queers and went to panels of shows featuring queer characters (or actresses who have played queer in the past) and panels about being queer and yet… very few panels talked about LGBTQ+ representation, even on the Shannara Chronicles panel, during which we saw a clip of Eretria and her new girlfriend being a cute couple. Too many of them didn’t even let their female stars talk very much at all! (Major exceptions being the Queer Pop Culture panel featuring Heather Hogan and the Badass Women of Sci-Fi panel.)
Maybe I was spoiled; Thursday was the first day of con, and the only things I did that day were interview Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis and then go to the Carmilla panel. I was talking to queer people about queer characters and listening to queer creators talking about queer representation. This little webseries that could was planted in fandom and has grown and blossomed into a feature-length film that’s not about Being Gay or Coming Out or really anything we’ve seen before. It’s about two women who love each other working together with their found family, trying to figure out what goes bump in the night. (Also, one of those things that goes bump in the night is shaped like Dominique Provost-Chalkley.) There’s no love triangle, there are more queer women of color, everyone in the cast is either a woman or non-binary except for one Token Man (silly, simple Kirsch.)
Instead of just presenting you my interview with one of the girls and then my interview with the other, I broke it up by theme. Because even though they weren’t at the same table, Elise and Natasha were usually on the same page. So keeping that in mind, and in no particular order, here are 10 things we learned about the Carmilla movie from the ladies who star in it.
1. How it begins
Natasha Negovanlis: When the film begins, Laura is having some strange dreams and she’s a little confused and doesn’t really know what they’re about. But they’re just living their happy little lives. Everything is pretty good, there’s no suspicion of anything dark or weird going on toward the beginning of the film. It’s nice to really see Laura and Carmilla in a more domestic setting and exploring their relationship. Then Carmilla starts to show signs of maybe re-vamping and she’s confused because she starts to have blood cravings again, and that’s something that she really doesn’t want. Natasha the actor was excited about playing someone with bloodlust; it was interesting to explore that. I sort of had to approach Carm as if she was a recovering addict. The way that the script was written — without giving away too much — is that she’s a little bit lost and doesn’t really know what to do with her human life. And I found that really interesting, and the way I had to kind of play it and interpret it is she was used to one thing, she was a blood addict, she was used to one style of living for so long and did a lot of terrible things in her past, like some addicts do, and she’s just adjusting to life where she doesn’t want to go back to blood but now she doesn’t know how to be in the world.
Elise Bauman: I was very happy to move them forward into a more mature life setting. Not to say early-to mid-20s is also not a time of growth and re-looking at yourself and what your life is! But to have Laura and Carmilla deal with more adult issues in a more mature way is a really important part of it, because as interesting as the angsty college-aged drama Laura went though in the series was, it was so good to see her trying to start a professional career and trying to decide what she wants to representing the world — how she wants to do that and what she’s willing to sacrifice and what she’s not.
2. The movie was shot in 14 days
Natasha: [The movie is] incredible. It surpassed all of our wildest dreams. When we were here at NYCC last year we shared a teaser trailer that was really just a concept video for the film; it hadn’t even been written yet. So the fact that we, a year later, are now putting out a film is amazing! It’s just incredible how quickly the writers and producers moved and made this thing that i think is quite good. I think when people watch it they won’t know that it was made in 14 days. We shot it in 14 days.
3. There are pros and cons to picking up a series again after a clean ending
Elise: We were all so excited about being able to revisit these characters and revisit the world again. I think Season 3 had such a wonderful final element feeling to it, and when we shot it we didn’t know if we were going to be filming anything else, so there was such a sense of a community finishing a marathon. We were all at the end of it celebrating, and it was so emotional and a wonderful experience. And I think that the only thing that ever crossed my mind is that I hope that we kept the original charm of the webseries, which was that it was a homegrown project, one that was told out of love for telling stories first. We didn’t have a massive budget, we didn’t have a lot of the things that go into normal development, and what we created was so authentic because of that. I wanted to really keep a hold of that while we expanded it into something new and brought in new elements as well. And I think we really did.
Natasha: I was worried about how to approach Carmilla as a human for sure. I got so comfortable playing a vampire and I really loved playing a vampire, but I had to acknowledge that even though she’s a human she’s still been around for centuries. So that’s always an interesting challenge to remember that, to remember that she’s had centuries of life experience. But I wasn’t too worried, I was just excited. Excited to explore these characters in a more three-dimensional way and to have more time to play with my costars, because we all just love working together so much that we were just like, “Alright let’s do this.”
4. The movie will deal with more than just vamps, but also relatable themes
Elise: I think the movie deals with a lot of themes of looking back at your history and taking responsibility for your actions and learning to grow from them, and how that shapes your future as well. So, a lot of the characters are dealing with pasts, and holding on their pasts, and bad things may have happened to them — how do you deal with that? You can choose to retaliate, to hold onto anger, to try to seek revenge and to shape your future into what you think you deserve it to be because you’ve had this bad thing happen. Or you can choose to forgive, and you can choose to move on, and you can choose to lead a beautiful life despite what may have happened to you in your past. That’s really the biggest thing that I took away from the film, and I think it’s so relevant to a lot of things that are happening right now as well. But then of course it’s still campy and fun, we have Kirsch, we have Mel, we have a lot of the old characters back and, you know, it’s the Scoob gang on an adventure and a mystery together again. And Carmilla starts to show signs of re-vamping and these characters go on a quest to get her life back.
I’ve learned a lot from Laura over the years. I’ve connected with her; our lives have mirrored each other in a lot of ways. A big thing Laura is learning in this film deals with your life not being where you thought it was and how maybe this concrete plan that you had for yourself and this vision you had for yourself… there’s wiggle room. And that there’s opportunities to grow in place that you might not have looked before, and learning to accept yourself for flaws, and once you take a look at that, then you can decide what you want to change, but you really have to be aware of all of that first. Laura has gone through a lot of self-realization throughout the season and continues into this film too, so I’m happy to lend a voice to that and also learn from that personally.
5. There some major perks of breaking free of the vlog format
Elise: I was very happy to get out of the vlog stuff, that was my least favorite part of filming. But it’s true, people do have a different—I have a very different way of presenting when a camera is on me. And to be able to see Laura behind the scenes a little bit—we introduce the vlog style back, but we get to see her a little more grungy with coffee, how she really is before she puts on the camera. And when you see that shift you also get to see the vulnerability and how self-conscious she is and how much she’s covering up. I don’t think she’s as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as she puts on, I think there’s a lot of deep fear and a lot of worry and she’s covering that up, so you get to see the flip side of that because of that contrast.
Natasha: I think that some of [Carmilla’s] walls have definitely come down a little bit. She’s been with Laura for so long now, you do get to see a lighter side to her, a side that’s a little more vulnerable and also she’s just so thrilled to be able to have a normal human life with Laura. So I think there’s a little bit of darkness that has been lifted off of her. But I’d say that she’s pretty much the same old Carm. she really gives no… poops. She doesn’t care what people think of her. I mean, I hope if I lived to be 345, or however old she is now, I wouldn’t care what people think about me. Same old Carm but a little happier… until she starts to show signs of re-vamping. Which she’s not thrilled about.
6. Breaking free of the single frame format meant new types of scenes
Elise: It was such a gift to be able to expand the world so much. We really were limited to a single frame for almost the entire three seasons, except for maybe the last four episodes of the third season. So, being able to put the characters IN the situations first-hand rather than talk about it after the fact — a lot of the webseries was Laura talking to her blog audience about what happened in the past, but it really does give the characters time to process things and come up with a narrative for it, and then you can control the narrative and how you come across. In this we get to see Laura behind the scenes a little bit, we get to see these characters dealing with things in the moment, which is always messy and not together and so that was such a wonderful thing. Also, I had way less monologues to camera which was my favorite thing. To have more time to play with my costars, it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. I think it gives the story what it deserves.
Natasha: I really enjoyed all of the action that you’ll see and all of the action sequences. In the series it’s a lot of just Laura retelling action that happened off-camera. It was really fun to just see these characters do stuff! And the other characters have some really really fun things to do, like LaFerry’s hilarious — they’re basically ghostbusting. Mel is such a badass with her crossbow. And Kirsch is just the lovable puppy everybody loves. But they all have fun little things to do. I’m excited for everyone to see everyone else’s work. I’m more excited for people to see everybody else’s work than my own!
Elise: We do see fangs in the movie, and that’s something I don’t think we ever saw in the webseries. We did get to play dress-up a little more for sure, and a lot of it — as you can see from the teaser trailer — happens in an older time period and there’s a lot of flashbacks, so we really got to dig into the vampire world a little bit more. And sort of the original gothic feel of it as well, which was fantastic.
7. Period clothes aren’t as fun as they look
Elise: Luckily I didn’t have to wear a corset while I was wearing my ball gown. I did have to wear one in a different scene and I don’t know how people breathed during that time! I think it’s such a representation of the confines that we still put women in and I very much enjoy being able to breathe. It was fun to play dress-up for sure, but I definitely prefer my modern yoga pants.
Natasha: There are some flashback type things… I can’t really speak to that too much. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was nice to see Carmilla — it’s not the start of Carmilla’s life, she was born in the 1600s—this is Victorian Era. So also remember she’s still quite ancient in these flashbacks. But I have a background in opera and musical theatre so I’m not stranger to period clothes. But thankfully we did not have to wear period undergarments, because those are not fun.
8. Dominique Provost-Chalkley is as delightful as you thought she was
Elise: Dominique was such an absolute pleasure to work with. She came in as such a pro on her first day. I think the first thing we did with her was a bit of fight choreography — that was the first time that I met her and I’m such a person who loves to just buckle down and get to it and get to the work and she’s very much in the same vein. And she does play a bit of the anti-hero in the film and getting to see her go to that side was such an awesome thing, because I would say a lot of people draw a lot of similarities to Laura and Waverly and seeing her in this new light and slip into that so seamlessly… that’s a role that I would love to play. It was incredible to work with her and I think Wynonna Earp fans are going to be in for a treat to see a different side of Dominique.
Natasha: It’s no surprise now that she plays Ell, Carmilla’s ex-girlfriend, and working with her was such a joy. I think I got to work with her the most, we had the most scenes together, and she was just such a giving actress. We play really well together; I think we have a lot of the same ideas about acting and so we clicked really, really well. I was admittedly a little nervous to work with her at first! Wynonna is so huge and she’s used to working on bigger sets and with bigger actors, so I was like, “Oh my gosh she’s going to think our show is so silly!” But she was just like part of the family as soon as she arrived and yeah we became very close friends. We had such a blast.
We were sad we didn’t have more to do together. One of my favorite things about her character as well is that there’s no angst involved. It’s not a love triangle. So she does create some drama for our character, but I really love that it’s still Laura and Carm together. But of course there are… I don’t think Carm is still in love with Ell, but Ell destroyed her heart. So I think she cracks open this vulnerability and this baggage that Carm’s been holding around for centuries that she was just shoving down and finally has to confront. Because she manifested. Literally.
9. Ell isn’t the only new face we’ll see
Natasha: Everyone was so lovely. It’s like we had known them forever, which is really lucky because sometimes you meet people and not everyone gets along with all of their colleagues. So I think Carmilla is very unique in the sense that all of the actors genuinely love and support each other. I definitely am very gracious for that. I’d been a big fan of Cara Gee’s work for a long time. I worked on the same project as her before but we didn’t have any scenes together, so it was nice to finally get to play with her and watch her work because i’m a huge fan of her. And her character in Carmilla is so different than other characters that she plays that I was very cool to see her put a different spin on the character.
Elise: The three new cast members were such phenomenal women and such a phenomenal presence to have come into the set with us.
10. It’s about representation, but not just for our sake
Elise: Dom and I talked a lot about the social responsibility of the shows that we’re in and how I still… my world is so positive and full of representation and full of love and I still hear about laws being passed that make homosexuality illegal and people committing acts of violence and hatred and I have to remind myself that that’s still a reality. And I hope I’m contributing in a positive way to at least give a voice to people and to give a platform to people and a viewpoint to people that says this is normal, this is nothing to feel separate from the rest of the world.
We’re looking to expand our audience; we have such a wonderful, dedicated, loyal fanbase that has shaped the series and really helped it grow. And I’m really hoping that the next level for that is not only did we provide queer representation to a young queer audience, but I hope that we’re able to bring it forward to the rest of the world and just have it be a love story and a mystery story instead of it being labeled as something “other” and something separate. I hope that people from all walks of life can see this film and relate to it for so many different reasons because there’s so many universal themes in this film, and I hope that people who might not necessarily have seen a queer relationship represented on screen before might go see this film and go, “Hey that was a great, fun love story/sci-fi/mystery/rom com. And just have it be accepted as the norm.
I think there’s always been this argument that “it won’t make as much money” and I think we’re starting to blow that lie out of the water; a lot of stories are successful that had previously been said couldn’t be told. And I think it’s so important to keep on telling these stories of diversity in all aspects. Not just queer representation, but cultural representation. And I think we’re starting to move forward in that direction and I think studios and producers are starting to understand that, that you can’t just represent one single type of person in the media, because that’s not the world we live in. We live in a diverse world, and we live in a world where everyone is connected despite that diversity, and why don’t we show that on screen?
Bonus: Elise would be thrilled if this wasn’t the end of the Carmilla universe
Elise: I would be so happy to play Laura again and work with everyone again! It’s such a wonderful community and family of people and it’s’ such a rare gift to be able to revisit a character. It’s not something an actor gets to do all the time and so from a purely selfish standpoint, it would be wonderful.
Aren’t they delightful? It was so nice to talk about a movie with queer characters and queer creators and actors and not have the whole conversation have to be about queerness. To have plenty to talk about re: this rich world and these complex characters beyond their relationship with each other was like a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, and let’s be honest, when it does, it’s usually coming from Canada.
On a final note, I’m not usually one to do those Hollywood-style interviews where I describe what the interviewees were wearing, but both girls looked fantastic and Natasha was rocking a silver jacket that I was obsessed with. Anyway, I hope you are as excited for this movie as I am; it comes out on October 26th, just a few weeks away!
Here’s the full trailer, in case you missed it: