Victoria Smurfit says clothes help make the woman in 'Dracula'

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Nov. 7, 2013 at 11:20 AM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Irish actress Victoria Smurfit says the gorgeous clothing and jewelry she wears for NBC's "Dracula" are a tremendous help as she prepares to play a Victorian lady who moonlights as a vampire huntress.

The former "Ballykissangel" and "Cold Feet" star plays Lady Jayne in this reinvention of Bram Stoker's gothic novel, while "The Tudors" actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the titular vampire posing as Alexander Grayson, a wealthy American entrepreneur attempting to bring modern science to 19th century London.

"They did an incredible job on our costumes. They just really blew us away," Smurfit told United Press International in a recent phone interview. "We got to be a bit inclusive about it, as well. It was important to me that Lady Jayne wasn't just fabulous and over-the-top and out-of-her time zone, but she also was a working woman. She goes to work. She is the only woman in 'Dracula' who works. She goes to work at the Order. She works as a slayer."

So, how did Smurfit get into the character's mindset and bring her to life?

"Lady Jayne is not in the book, so I had a bit more freedom, I suppose, than some of the other characters because I am not fighting against expectations. Once they made Dracula [and famed fictional vampire slayer] Van Helsing cohorts, they needed a nemesis and so the nemesis is the Order of the Dragon and Lady Jayne is the head huntress or head vampire hunter within the Order. She's a very modern woman for the time," Smurfit noted. "It is set in 1890. We're making our own time zone, really. But in order to get inside her head, for me, once you boil her down, she was a woman who seemingly had everything, yet had this dark, dark, dark side that meant that she felt she had to protect London from these undead creatures. So, she had her own agenda, her own sort of quiet brutality that I really loved. I'm a mother of three [in real life] so to access the lioness is very close because if anyone hurt my kids, I would chop their heads off. It's very simple. ... So, I was able to tap into that side and the physicality of her. I've always loved physical roles. I've always loved marrying up your emotions and your physicality, so, again, another opportunity."

Smurfit, who now lives in Los Angeles, said shooting the show in Budapest as a stand-in for 1800s London also assisted in transporting her to a gritty, romantic other world.

"It's gorgeous. It's exactly what you want it to be. It is slightly ruined glamor and everywhere you look is history and time. Buildings with bullet-holes still in them. Some buildings untouched since the end of [World War II,] literally untouched. It just blew my mind. We used a lot of the old museums and stately homes to shoot in. The set designer, who was extraordinary, a lot of his job was done when we went out and about because it was all just there and then once we went to interiors, we had these big sets set up in studios, [the production designer] just went wild. The day I walked in and saw my bedroom, I thought: 'This is not a bedroom! This is sensational!' It's stunning and all the locals [hired as extras and crew members] were extremely helpful and kind and there was no complaining. ... They just got on with the work. ...

"We all feel sort of part Hungarian now, I think," she laughed.

"Dracula" airs Friday nights on NBC.

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