The Mary Sue Exclusive Interview: Celebrate the Carmilla Season Two Premiere with the Cast and Crew

Love will have its sacrifices - in season two.
Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) takes a much-needed break.

“Fans are going to lose their minds.” Those were some of the first words I heard upon arriving at the Carmilla set, and (as a fan myself), I can tell you for sure that they’re right. Yes, the wait is finally over: Carmilla season two has just premiered. More Laura; more Carm; more vampires and Silas and supernatural shenanigans and witty repartee and feels. The first brand-new episode just went live on YouTube, and we were able to speak with the cast and crew about their thoughts on season two.

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If you’re not familiar with the webseries, Carmilla is an adaptation of the J. Sheridan Le Fanu novella of the same name that revolved around a young woman’s enthrallment with a female vampire. This version follows Laura Hollis as she meets her new roommate, Carmilla, and slowly discovers that she’s not what she seems – and neither are their feelings for each other. You can watch the entire first season online right now, and you absolutely should, because it’s an incredible female-created and focused show with amazing writing, LGBTQ and genderqueer characters, and a creative team well-versed in Whedonisms and fandom.

Carmilla is produced by shift2 and Smokebomb Entertainment in association with U by Kotex, and since last August the first season and additional content has amassed over 14.6 million views on the VervegirlTV YouTube – so, you know. It’s a hit. Season two will bring creampuffs thirty-six new episodes and a twelve-part branded series focusing on even bigger stakes as the girls try to save all of Silas University. They’ve also added a more diverse cast with four new amazing actors, three of whom are non-white; are pulling more from the original Carmilla novella; and will be diving into more Lovecraftian and cthulhu lore.

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Matska “Mattie” Belmonde (Sophia Walker) takes a sip of her blood cocktail.

“I’m really proud of our cast – they’ve really leveled up this year for sure,” said producer Steph Ouaknine. On the final day of their intense thirty-six-episodes-in-four-days shoot, she’s just had to wipe tears off her face after watching a particularly heartbreaking scene. “The first season’s tagline was ‘Love will have its sacrifices,’ and here we see those sacrifices. We feel them and see them a lot more.” Ouaknine described the difference in tone between seasons one and two as the difference going from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to a cross between Chamber of Secrets and Azkaban. “They just grow up, and it’s a little more sad.”

“At the end of the first season our heroes managed to destroy one evil – but in doing so, they created something much worse,” said Negovanlis. “Season two will follow the consequences of their actions and the stakes (no pun intended) are much higher. Carmilla and Laura are also in a relationship now, so the second season will reveal what it looks like to be in love during a time of catastrophe.”

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Tiny reporter Laura (Elise Bauman).

“Laura’s black-and-white view of the world starts blending into this uncertain grey territory, an unfamiliar plane she’s not used to navigating,” agreed Bauman. “And that can be scary, and a lot of mistakes are made in that place, and her beliefs are challenged. But she grows up a lot this season. She’s had this image of what right and wrong is and ultimately she realizes that sometimes you can’t do one without a bit of the other.”

The shoot is taking place at a quirky B&B in Toronto called The Darling Mansion, featuring rooms like The Opium Den (with its own stuffed jaguar); The Magic Carpet Ride (with a suspended bed); and the Wes Anderson (as weird as you think). The (almost entirely female) production makes use of every inch of space, with video village sprawled out on the owners’ round bed, wardrobe in The Boudoir Room, and star Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman holed up in the darkened, Victorian living room, working through an emotionally-charged and potentially devastating episode. Between difficult takes, the ladies retreat from the camera, exchanging hugs and “I love yous” to get through the scene.

Of course, strife in the Hollstein house is even more important when you consider Carmilla’s excellent representation of LGBTQ characters and their relationships, both platonic and romantic – something fans have found hugely important. “In traditional media, they’re like, ‘let’s put the token gay in there,'” said Ouaknine. “So then they’re on the fringe of the ensemble [cast]. And that’s not the same as being central to the story, and not having it be a coming-out story.”

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LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander) and Laura (Elise Bauman) play a game.

In a message to all the Carmilla fans struggling with their sexual or gender identity, Bauman said,

Rilke wrote in one of my favourite books [Letters to a Young Poet], “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” It takes courage to live as our true selves; especially when doing so can be faced with such unkindness. But I believe the more we show of ourselves, the more we make space for positive change in the world. I feel so grateful I get to be a part of a series that is contributing to that change.

“How you identify or what you prefer in the bedroom does not define your goals, dreams or interests, and has no baring on who you are as a human being,” added Negovanlis. “You don’t need to dress or behave a certain way because of your sexual orientation if you don’t want to. Trust that there are groups and resources out there that will support you no matter what. I know that I certainly appreciate all of my fans equally!”

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LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander) prepares for action while Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) stands by.

But Ouaknine stressed that it’s not only the queer content, but the expansiveness of the female ensemble cast (including female-identified and genderqueer characters) that has fans so excited about the series, and Bauman is all about it. “I love all the people in the public eye who use their status to promote a change in the way the media represents women,” she said, citing Ashley Judd as an example. “Women need to speak out and start shifting the dialogue that exists around our bodies, sexuality and social identity.”

Negovanlis also expressed happiness that not only does Carmilla portray women as diverse in their sexuality, but also in their personalities. “I’ve always identified with anti-heroes and have found supporting roles much more interesting than ingenues. When I was a little girl and played make-believe (before I started doing it for a living) I always dressed up as a witch rather than a princess. Women are complex creatures, and I wish there had been more main-steam roles like Carmilla to look up to when I was growing up, so it really is a dream job.”

Perry (Annie Briggs) looks on in disapproval.

Perry (Annie Briggs) looks on in disapproval.

Most of all, the cast and the crew want to express their great love to all the fans (affectionately self-dubbed “creampuffs” after a line of first-season dialogue), the ones who tweeted #SaveCarmilla over eleven times a minute to help get the show renewed. “I fucking love it. I fucking love it,” Ouaknine said with great affection of the Carmilla fandom. “I love it because I kind of approached developing this with our writers as this is what I want to see, I’m a fangirl of this myself, as trite as that sounds, it was like, I really want to see this.”

“I’m lucky to have the sweetest and most supportive fans who want to watch my work!” said Bauman, overwhelmed by the social media response to her work. “It is still a little surreal,” agreed Negovanlis, “I get recognized on the streets and feel the responsibility to be a role model, and in another life (to my contacts without social media) I am still just Natasha – volunteer social-worker, softball teammate, and local bartender. Internet fame is a cool kind of fame though, because it’s given me a voice and will hopefully lead to more acting work, but it also keeps me grounded in my day-to-day life.”

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Danny (Sharon Belle) watches the action unfold.

As I head off the set, Ouaknine, Negovanlis, and Bauman are back in the shadowy living room, completing the final, emotional scenes of Carmilla’s second season. We’ll have to wait to see what this year has in store for Hollstein, but I’m hoping for the best; after all, like Bauman’s closing words to me, “I think we all secretly want to believe magic exists.”

Carmilla season two premieres today on VervegirlTV.

(all photos but the last by Sophie Giraud for Smokebomb/shift2; Copyright: Smokebomb/shift2)

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Author
Sam Maggs
Sam Maggs is a writer and televisioner, currently hailing from the Kingdom of the North (Toronto). Her first book, THE FANGIRL'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY will be out soon from Quirk Books. Sam’s parents saw Star Wars: A New Hope 24 times when it first came out, so none of this is really her fault.