Thanks in large part to the success of The Walking Dead, AMC has become a prominent source of boundary-pushing genre television that offers a compelling blend of horror and drama. The network's latest series, NOS4A2, is an adaptation of the Joe Hill novel of the same name, exploring the soul-sucking Charlie Manx and the teleportation powers of Vic McQueen, who hopes to thwart Manx from abducting children and taking them to his terrifying Christmasland. Virginia Kull stars as Vic's mother Linda, a woman who has spent her entire life in the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts and aims to protect her daughter at all costs, even if that means stifling her ambition.
With the title alone, NOS4A2 (read as "Nosferatu") aims to reinvent traditional horror tropes by injecting those familiar stories with compelling drama. This first season of the series serves as an adaptation of only the first third of the book, requiring the series, and Kull herself, to elaborate and explore a character whose role is smaller in the source material.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Kull to talk about the process of adding new dimensions to a beloved character, and how she nailed her New England accent.
ComicBook.com: With the title seemingly being nothing more than a collection of letters and numbers, when you first got the script, did you know how to pronounce it?
Virginia Kull: You know what? I did. I sounded it out. I thought, "NOS4A2," and then I sounded it out, and I started laughing at how clever it was. My father is a huge cinephile, so I grew up watching silent films and really obscure foreign films from the '30s and '40s, so Nosferatu was one of my early entries into great, classic cinema. So, I was familiar with the word.
It's a proud moment to pronounce it for someone else to show that you've figured out how to say it.
Did you figure it out? Good for you.
Thanks. That's actually the only question we had for you, thanks for your time.
That would be the easiest ever. You would win the prize, man.
Once you got past the title, what was your first reaction to the script? Were you at all familiar with Joe Hill or this book?
I read the script. I loved it. I thought, "What the hell is this thing? I have no idea what's going on. Christmasland? What are they talking about?" I hadn't read Joe Hill's work at that point, but I was familiar with who he was. I'd heard of Locke and Key. I'd just come off of working on another series called Mr. Mercedes, which is in the Stephen King world, so I was really excited about this being part of the Stephen King/Joe Hill legacy. I just thought [showrunner] Jami [O'Brien] wrote such a great script.
I completely ate it up and drank the Kool-Aid and went out and bought the book and read it over the weekend and was completely hooked.
Did you know what part you were up for when you got the script? So when you finally read the book, you had more insight into how to play her?
You know what's funny, I haven't told anyone this. They sent me the script. They said they want to see you for Linda. I read it. I said, "Linda's great. I want to audition for Maggie Leigh." They wrote back and they go, "Hon, you're 10 years too old. You can't play Maggie Leigh." I thought, oh drat. Because I was absolutely smitten with that character. I just thought she was amazing.
What's funny, sometimes instinctually what I want isn't the best thing for me, and I'm so glad it worked out the way it did. I'm so glad I got to play Linda, because she was a delight.
Once you realized you were up for Linda and read the book, did you get to collaborate much with the creators to offer your own insight into her journey?
Oh, very much so. Jami O'Brien, our showrunner, was so encouraging of collaboration and wanted Ebon [Moss-Bachrach], who is the actor that plays Chris McQueen and Ashleigh [Cummings] who plays Vic and all of us to bring our own thoughts and ideas to the table. Jami is from a small town in Massachusetts, so she was very much of this world, understood this world, had a deep affection for this place and these people. So, I felt both an immense responsibility to get it right, but also a sense of play and fun, that I have an insider here that's giving me ideas, and was really excited and enthusiastic whenever I would come to her with my own.
Your character's relationship with Ebon's character is complicated, as there's a lot of love but also a lot of abuse. How did you, Ebon, and Ashleigh develop that dynamic?
We were all living near each other in the Providence area of Rhode Island for the six months we were shooting, so we got to spend a lot of time together on and off set, which I think always deepens and enriches the relationship that you see on screen. Ebon is one of my favorite actors that I've ever had the privilege of working with. He was so generous, he was so thoughtful, he had such immense energy. The chemistry was really fun. The scenes where we're having knock-down, drag-out brawls and fights and screaming at each other were some of the most invigorating and fun scenes to play. I mean, it just is electric. I would leave set just buzzing. It was just funny that you'd say that about maybe what appears to be a tough, emotional scene. It was just intoxicating. So fun to play.
A key component of both Hill's novel and the series is the culture of New England. One of the most authentic elements of the show, and your performance, is capturing that tone.
Thank you. That's was one of the biggest goals for me personally, and I know it was really important to Jami O'Brien, as well, that we get it right. Her being from there, of that world, it was important to tell the truth. Ebon was wearing a New England Patriots sweatshirt every other day on set. It's a real thing there. I didn't understand this Go Pats thing until I was up there.
One of my first auditions, I came in hot because it was the scene in the first or second episode where they're going to Lake Winnipesaukee and Linda is just determined to have a great night, and we're eating burgers by the beach and I come in with the cheeseburgers and what I thought were called "frappes". So, I'm going, "Frappay? Frappay?" Jami and Tom Brady, one of our other writers and producers, is also from that area. They all burst out laughing and said, "Virginia, it's 'frap.'" So, they had to teach me and correct me from the start. I was so eager to please and to do it right. I was glad for the locals to tell me how it was done.
You absolutely captured how authentically irritating that accent is, and this is coming from a local.
You know what's funny, I know people are really sensitive about this accent in particular, and I worked really hard on it, and Amanda Quaid, our dialect coach, is just remarkable and spent lots of time with all of us. But I would go to the local ... Do you know this local thrift store called Savers? Do you know that store?
There was one right over the border. I was living in Rhode Island, but I would go the Savers in Massachusetts and just push a cart around from aisle to aisle, so I could just listen to the people talking. I'm telling you, my accent is subtle compared to what you would hear at the local Savers. It is no joke. That accent is thick and luscious and amazing and grating and powerful and all the things a good dialect should be.
That's nice of you to say, but you're saying this to someone who grew up there.
Oh, I loved it. I loved it, because the person behind it is so much damn fun. They tell you the truth. I'm from the South. We're all about being passive aggressive and polite and not telling what we really think. These people tell it like it is and they don't care about the consequences. I have deep respect and admiration for that.
We're less than halfway through the first season, is there a particular episode you're looking forward to fans seeing?
There are two episodes coming up, I'm really excited about. I can't claim credit because it has nothing to do with me or with Linda McQueen. But there's an episode coming up that features Bing Partridge pretty prominently that I think is very special, and I'm excited for audiences to get to know that character more. And there's also an episode coming up where you're going to meet another strong creative, and hold your horses, it is so much damn fun. So, just sit tight and hang on and stick around, because the world of strong creatives is about to be open to the audience and it is amazing.
With this first season only tackling the early chapters of the book, can we expect to see the rest of the book adapted in upcoming seasons?
Technically, boring answer is, most actors when they sign on to a show, they have to sign for multiple seasons. So, I'm pretty sure the majority of us are signed on for multiple seasons. I can't say if we're going to get more, but I think that we're only scratching the surface with what you could do with Christmasland and the world of strong creatives and the genius that is Joe Hill and Jami O'Brien. I think it would be fun to spend some more time in that world.
So fans should keep their eyes out for you in Rhode Island area thrift stores next year?
Around the local Savers, yeah man.
Tune in to new episodes of NOS4A2 on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.
Have you been enjoying the series? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things horror and Star Wars!0comments