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'Lesser Dead' podcast overcame Minnie Driver's horror aversion

Minnie Driver said she loved ditching hair and makeup for the podcast "The Lesser Dead." Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
1 of 5 | Minnie Driver said she loved ditching hair and makeup for the podcast "The Lesser Dead." Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, March 27 (UPI) -- Minnie Driver said the dramatic podcast The Lesser Dead, premiering Monday on Wondery+, appealed to her despite her aversion to the horror genre. Driver provides the voice of the vampire Margaret, and is one of the podcast's producers.

"No pun intended, I'm a sucker for a really original story," Driver told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "For people for whom the horror, supernatural thing isn't their deal, this might be because it's such a clever idea."

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Written by Christopher Buehlman and based on his novel, The Lesser Dead takes place in 1978s New York. Margaret leads a clan of vampires who feed off subway commuters, but don't kill them.

Another vampire clan called The Family has been attracting attention by leaving dead bodies strewn around the city. Margaret assigns Joey (Jack Kilmer) to investigate and Joey narrates the story.

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"There's a kind of justice that you can understand," Driver said. "You can't say that they're not hurting anyone because they are, but they're not as terrible as The Family."

Driver has appeared on screen in such acclaimed films as Circle of Friends and the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting. More recently, she has appeared on television series Speechless, The Riches and About a Boy.

Driver said she appreciated the opportunity to create Margaret solely with her voice. Removing the demands of visual costumes, hair and makeup gave her more time to focus on the acting.

"I'm glad to have not been in the subways and the flip-flops," Driver said of the descriptions of Margaret's lair and her wardrobe.

Nevertheless, Driver said Buehlman's descriptions and the audio production of The Lesser Dead evoke visuals for the listener.

"It's very important that we hear those details when you're listening to a dramatic podcast because you are basically generating the movie images in your head," Driver said. "You're making the movie."

For scenes in which the vampires feed, Driver said they still relied on props. It proved impossible to simulate drinking blood without putting her mouth on something.

"The bites were with a melon," Driver said. "That was really revolting."

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Driver said The Lesser Dead also reminded her of radio plays to which she listened as a child in the U.K. She said that podcasts like Homecoming brought the format back to prominence in the United States, but radio plays were part of her training at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.

"You went to drama school and studied all these different disciplines, really," Driver said, including "how to use your voice."

It is also a different skill to voiceover in animation, Driver said. She played Jane in Disney's Tarzan and Lady Eboshi in the English language dub of Princess Mononoke.

Even though animation does not require time-consuming makeup and costume, Driver said her performance still was driven by the visuals.

"In animation, again, you are subjugated by the image," Driver said. "This is just completely and utterly the creation of a character through your voice."

That said, Driver did recall one sequence from Tarzan in which the animators worked around her. When Jane describes her first encounter with Tarzan, the directors encouraged Driver to improvise. Then they animated what she said.

"Tarzan was an absolute unicorn in the way that they made it and how collaborative it was," Driver said.

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She also used her voice as a singer, in films like The Phantom of the Opera and Cinderella, and released her own albums, as well. She also voiced Lexus commercials, which Driver clarified was not a character.

"As a singer you know how to keep your voice strong which is really important," Driver said. "It's fundamental to being an actor to me."

The Lesser Dead will be available on other podcasting platforms after 60 days.

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