Interview With #VanHelsing ‘s @RukiyaBernard via @stacyamiller85 @SyFyVanHelsing @cw_spn #Supernatural
How hard would it be playing a doctor turned vampire? Or a psychic and a shape shifting grief counselor? If you have the talent of Rukiya Bernard, you make it appear easy and as natural as breathing. Bernard is the gifted actress behind the character of Doc on SYFY’s Van Helsing. She previously appeared on The CW’s Supernatural as Camille Thibideauxin the Season 7 episode “The Mentalists” and recently came back as a new character, Dr. Mia Vallens in the Season 13 episode “The Big Empty.”
Rukiya took the time from her busy shooting schedule to speak with me about Van Helsing’s Doc as well as her roles on Supernatural. I found her to be well spoken and intelligent with a charming quality that made it a pleasure hearing about these characters and what playing them has meant to her. Read below to find out what she had to say.
Photos By: Kristine Cofsky
Van Helsing’s Doc is such a complicated character. Viewers saw her as a vampire then the struggles she faced in regaining her humanity. What challenges did you face in portraying Doc’s journey?
“I have a lot of fun playing Doc, both as a vampire and as a person as she struggled to regain her humanity back. I found that the most challenging part actually was playing Doc as a vampire because it was the very beginning of the show and vampires hadn’t really been established yet. We knew that there were different kinds of vampires, but the show was brand new. It was kind of the cast responsibility I guess to show what a feral vampire was like. I couldn’t copy anyone or make it up. So I found that to be quite challenging. I kind of threw caution to the wind and went with the first idea I had. This is going to sound ridiculous but I used to have a dog as tiny as she was, she was pretty fierce. She had a great under bite. I used to kind of imitate her (laughs). Just as Doc is regaining her humanity I think that her struggle is learning how to be firm in her stance. She wavers a lot. She’s not decisive.”
What repercussions do you think Doc’s choices will have for the character in the long term?
Photos Courtesy VAN HELSING/Syfy
“I think that the struggle with Doc will be whether she will be able to find people who trust her. What I love about this show is getting to the world of the apocalypse because it is really about who can you trust. People who you thought you could trust you can’t and people who you thought that you couldn’t trust, all of the sudden, you can. Doc was someone who at first was allied with Axel. She was part of a group and she messed up big time so she was on the outs. If she gets back in, she’s going to have to step up to the plate. It’s a big hill that she’s going to have to climb so I feel like that’s the repercussions. It is one of those things like when you cheat on someone, can you ever forgive them fully. Even if you forgive them it’s always in the back of your head that they did that.”
How has working on Van Helsing been different from some of the other projects you have been a part of?
“It’s my first starring role on a show where I had to carry a character. I never had to do that before because I had recurring parts. I absolutely love that now I have creative input into a character. The writers are there with us all the time. If I have any ideas like ‘what if Doc did this or that’ there are a few moments like that will pop into the conversation. It’s so collaborative. Neil LaBute, our show runner, really encourages our ideas. He’s super trusting in our ideas on our characters as well. His mind is amazing. I don’t know how he goes there. I feel like that’s a huge difference from doing a guest spot on a show. Like when I did the guest spot on Supernatural…I was creating it. I knew how Mia Vallens was. But the show is so established and I was only in the one episode so they just kind of needed me to do that to get the main characters to the next episode.
It’s been different and it’s been similar. It’s similar in the sense that you go on set, you get in hair and makeup, you learn your lines. That’s pretty standard. It’s different though…I really think it’s the genre of the show. I’ve done a few Hallmark movies and they’ve all been sweet and light. The depth of emotion has been different. But with horror, the stakes are high like in Van Helsing. I love the action aspect of it. It’s just super exsciting to do the stunts. I just love that part of it.”
Before you got Supernatural and Van Helsing, were you a fan of the fantasy/horror/science fiction genre or did you happen to fall into those kinds of roles?
“I think that I just fell into those kinds of roles. I’ve always been a Star Wars fan. Any kind of story that follows the hero’s journey, in matter the genre, I’m a fan of. I’ll be honest, horror is my least favorite genre because I’m so scared all the time. And here I am working on Van Helsing which is a horror show (laughs). It’s the most fascinating experience because I’m so interested in the makeup department and the special effects that they do creating the different kinds of vampires. They have huge vats of blood in their makeup trailer. It’s really interesting the artistry that goes into it. I like that part of the horror genre. Of course it’s easier for me to watch Van Helsing because I know what’s going to happen. I do love sci fi and fantasy though. I love how the genre allows us to explore different societal topics without labeling anything. You can get into issues of class, for example. You don’t have to make it that specific in a world that doesn’t truly exist. The allegory is quite beautiful. Sci Fi and fantasy really lends itself to do that.”
Your Supernatural character, Dr. Mia Vallens, was a shapeshifter who actually was a friendly monster of sorts because she used her abilities to help her patients through the grieving process. How did you feel about playing a shapeshifter character that chose to use her gifts for good rather than evil?
Photos Courtesy The CW Supernatural
“I loved it. I think that it’s a nice twist on the character where everyone is expecting an evil monster. She was using her abilities for good and why not if you can shift to anything, why not shift for good and she does that with her career. Who knows what Mia Vallens is doing now. Who knows if she will continue being a grief counselor, perhaps now that her ex is gone. I was kind of honored to play that character.”
When you came back to Supernatural, how was that experience different from your first appearance on the show?
Photos Courtesy of The CW Supernatural
“The second time was more comfortable. Supernatural has been around for thirteen seasons. The people who work on the crew…a lot of them have been there from the very first episode like the pilot episode so they’re truly a family. The first time I went there, they were super welcoming. I was so excited to play the character Camille Thibideaux. The second time around, I was surprised that people remembered me because it had been years since I worked on the show. My first day on set, they looked at me and they remembered me. I walk in the first scene and we’re on location in the house and people are looking at me like ‘you’ve been on the show before.’ Immediately they welcomed me with open arms. My first scene was with Jensen and he’s looking at his lines and he looks up at me like ‘you’ve been on the show before.’ I was surprised he remembered me and he was like ‘of course I remember you.’ I was amazed. They’ve worked with so many actors. It was really cool so from that point on, it was like picking up from where you left off. You know each other. We’ve all had kids. We talked kids. It’s like being on mutual ground. It was such a blast being on that set. Those guys really know how to have a good time.
Without giving away any spoilers, what can you tell us about your upcoming Hallmark movie, Christmas in Evergreen?
“The story is about a young woman who is a veterinarian who is looking to move to a bigger city to further career. A play a character who lives in the small town. What ends up happening is a whole series of events where you get to feel the Yuletide spirit.”
Feature Photo by Kristine Cofsky
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