It’s that time of year again when we walk among the dead, uncover goblins in our attics and spy ghostly apparitions everywhere we look.
When Romanian actor Bela Lugosi assumed the role for Universal in 1931 no one realized that it would create a lineage that includes Dracula in 3-D, tales about his son, his daughter, his bride, his widow, his curse, his treasure, his castle, his war, his dog — all the way to that counting fool, Count von Count of “Sesame Street.”
Many skilled actors have played the eerie bat-man: Gary Oldman, Gerard Butler, Jack Palance, Frank Langella, John Carradine, Rudolf Martin, Leslie Nielsen, Wei-Qiang Zhang, Marc Warren and Christopher Lee (who portrayed him no less than 10 times).
But among the most anticipated is the creature NBC has disentombed for Oct. 25, when Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers sharpens his fangs for the network’s new “Dracula” series.
Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, describes the show as a new version of Stoker’s classic. “In the world of ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood’ and all the contemporized vampire stories, we thought we would go back to the original, and the book is still really fresh and really original, and we have an incredible script written by a writer called Cole Haddon. It’s a co-production of NBC Universal and the Sky Living channel BSkyB and Carnival Films, the company that brings you ‘Downton Abbey,’ and we’re very excited about it. We’re going right to series.”
Greenblatt and Rhys Meyers are no strangers. They collaborated on the “Elvis” miniseries for CBS. “I was happy to work with him on ‘The Tudors,’ and we’re going to bring a sort of ‘Tudors’ sensibility to ‘Dracula,’ ” says Greenblatt.
“It will be faithful to the period, which is 1896, but it will be sort of looking to the future and hopefully be a really cool, new version of ‘Dracula.’ ”
In this lush version, the Prince of Darkness poses as an American industrialist penetrating London’s high society while he seeks vengeance on those who cursed him with everlasting life.
In spite of his popularity, he says, his life hasn’t changed much. “I just feel like I’m working hard,” he says. “And I live a very, very quiet life. I haven’t really bought into that ‘I’m so fabulousness’ of it all yet. I still do all the same things that I used to do. And so nothing really has changed except that I get seen for better parts with better people. And sometimes people are nicer to me,” he says.
“I’m just glad to be doing something that I love doing. And being kind of good at something and being kind of, like, accepted is nice because it’s taken a long time. I’m enjoying it, but I’m not letting it sort of, like, rule my life ... I like doing the things I always liked to do. I like reading, going to the gym, hanging out with my family. That’s it.”
When he was growing up in Ireland his dad, an itinerant musician, was gone much of the time. He and his three younger brothers were mostly reared by their mom. He says he first used his acting prowess as a means of self-preservation. “You’re a kid, you’re hanging around. Kids do things they’re not supposed to do. You break a window or you’re making too much noise, and then you’ve got to find very quick excuses on the spot. There’s a lot of improvisation when you’re a child.”
He landed his first commercial at 16 but didn’t venture into films until two years later. “It was a good living so it started off by being a job. And then, as you become more successful, you start to want the craft a little bit more.”
Essaying historical characters like Henry VIII and Dracula (who was based on Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia in the 15th century) suits Rhys Meyers.
“I wasn’t very good at math but very good at history, geography and English — anything that took a lot of memory and focus I was very, very good at. Anything that took logic I was very, very bad at. I still am.”
— MCT Information Services
(one hour) premieres Oct. 25 at 10 p.m. on NBC.