Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The Originals star Daniel Gillies is trading in his vampire fangs for an enchanted hammer as the narrator of Marvel's new serialized audiobook series Thor: Metal Gods.
The actor said the challenge is unlike anything else in his career.
Gillies, 43, who recurred as Elijah Mikaelson on The Vampire Diaries before becoming one of the central characters on spinoff The Originals, narrates all 11 episodes of Thor: Metal Gods, the first of several planned serialized audiobooks based on Marvel Comics characters from Serial Box.
The actor said the audiobook is a logical next move for Marvel after the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"We're moving into an era of podcasting and audio series," Gillies told UPI in a recent interview.
"It's one thing to be stuck in your car in traffic; it's quite another to be sitting there and to be taken away to another universe," the New Zealand-born actor said.
"Whether that's listening to Franz Kafka's The Trial or listening to Bill Burr rant incessantly about problems with his wife, we like to be transported. And I see this as a logical extension and progression of the Marvel universe to want to walk us into these new places and new territories."
Audio with no visual
Metal Gods sees the god of thunder teaming up with his adopted brother, mischief god Loki, to solve a mystery that takes them from a heavy metal music concert to the far reaches of the galaxy. Gillies said translating a superhero narrative into an audio format rather than visual media like comic books and movies required a different approach to storytelling.
"It almost feels a little more personal," he said. "It's an interesting medium in that it kind of resides somewhere on the cusp between the literary and the graphic novel. It's still very visual in terms of the texture of the language, but you get that first-person experience, and you get to be a party to a stream of consciousness. It's unique."
For Gillies, personally, the approach was unlike anything he had previously encountered in his career.
"I have a new and profound admiration for the specialists in this, because I'm utterly inexperienced compared to some of these veterans. I happen to listen to a lot of audiobooks myself, and I now realize how marvelously committed and detailed their work is," he said.
One thing did help prepare him for the experience, Gillies said. But it wasn't his work -- it was reading to his children, Charlotte, 6, and Theodore, 4.
"I read to them every night, and I have since they were babies," he said. "I honestly think that was better preparation for me than anything else I've done in my career. Just learning a certain dexterity around languages and characters and switching to ideas ... it was more like that kind of storytelling than anything else I've done professionally."
A characteristic of sound
Gillies said some aspects of the job utilized his more traditional acting skills, most notably when he was delivering dialogue for the characters. The actor said he was aware when reading words spoken by Thor and Loki that he inevitably would face comparisons to the performances of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston from the film series.
"I know some readers just use one sort of universal voice, and allow it to be the voice for everyone, and that's one way of doing it. But then I thought, 'I don't know, that just seems like an easy way out,'" Gillies recalled. "I do like the idea of transporting the listener, and I felt that if I could do something approximate, I would."
He said that while he did use the films for inspiration, he didn't want to merely attempt to do impressions of the other actors.
"I was like, 'Well, I'm not even going to try and do Chris Hemsworth,'" he said. "First of all, he sounds Australian, which is dreadful. No, I'm gonna make him sound more classical."
Gillies was quick to clarify that Hemsworth is "the most wonderful Thor," but "as a New Zealander, it's my job to make sure that he doesn't sound anything like that."
"I can definitely hear Australian in his Thor, and I wanted to do my best to remove that. Loki I didn't even try to approximate. I want it to be my version of those characters. I thought, 'What would I have them sound like were I playing the roles?'"
Gillies said another character to whom he gave extra consideration when crafting his performance was Horangi, a tiger goddess who takes on the appearance of a Korean woman.
"I said, 'Look, I'm not going to try and imitate an Asian voice and have ... a politically correct army rain down upon me; I refuse to do it,'" Gillies said.
The actor said he aimed to "get the tone of the character" rather than attempt an impression of an Asian person.
"Trying to achieve a characteristic of sound rather than a race is not only safer and better, it's something that I would aspire to do anyway," he said.
Metal Gods marks the performer's latest foray into the realm of science fiction and fantasy, story genres in which he has frequently worked since his late '90s appearances on Young Hercules and Cleopatra 2525, some early credits.
"I'm sort of a child of the changes that have happened," Gillies said. "As technologies have taken leaps and bounds, we're just seeing more content that can take place in other dimensions, and I think that that became more ubiquitous.
"There was more of an abundance of that kind of work, particularly over the last decade and a half, and I was just fortunate enough to be a part of it."
The Originals, and with it Gillies' character, came to an end just over a year ago. The actor said that while he is "very, very grateful for that experience," he has no desire to return to the Vampire Diaries universe if any revivals or spinoffs are developed.
"I'm always tremendously grateful, whether it's a fan approaching me in the street to take a selfie, or somebody writing something lovely online, it's so gratifying I have to kind of remind myself that I'm really blessed, because you can kind of become a little numb to that sort of gratification," he said.
"Those shows meant a lot to a lot of people. For me it was work and paycheck for a long time, but for a lot of people, it was their escape, and in a way they feel like you belong to them, and to a certain extent you did, and you do. It's really kind of a special thing. And I'm not looking to replicate that situation again, but I'm certainly really grateful."