TV

Famke Janssen On 'Hemlock Grove' Season 2: Her Scariest Scene Involved Karaoke

07/29/2014 12:19 EDT | Updated 07/29/2014 12:59 EDT
Netflix

After returning from beyond the grave in the last few "X-Men" movies and now on Netflix's "Hemlock Grove" -- after her character was being zipped up in a body bag last we saw her at the end of Season 1 -- Famke Janssen clearly has a thing for resurrection. Or, more likely, audiences just have a thing for her, considering Janssen seems to become an instant fan favourite no matter what she's in.

Either way, Janssen was grateful for the chance to return as the manipulative matriarch Olivia Godfrey for Season 2 of "Hemlock Grove" -- albeit with a few changes, including a new accent (losing a tongue will do that, apparently). But Olivia's not the only one who's a little different this season: her son Roman is struggling to deal with his unwanted inheritance, and her lover (and ex-brother-in-law) Norman is no longer quite so naïve about what's going on inside the Godfrey offices. Like the rest of the "Hemlock Grove" cast, Janssen is embracing the shake-ups, which start at the top with the show's new showrunner Charles "Chic" Eglee, new cast members, and a brand-new evil descending on the small Pennsylvania town.

With Season 2 of "Hemlock Grove" now available in its entirety on Netflix, HuffPost Canada TV sat down with Janssen to talk about what's different about Olivia this year, her take on the show's gory moments, and the scariest thing she's had to do on the show to date.

HuffPost Canada TV: Between this and "X-Men: Days of Future Past," you got to come back from the dead in not one, but two projects this year! Congratulations.

Famke Janssen: I know, it's the year of the resurrection. [Laughs]

Are you happy that audiences clearly seem to want more of you, and the writers and producers too?

Yeah! It's a great compliment, absolutely.

Who do you think finds it more comforting knowing that this is a show where the dead don't necessarily stay dead: the actors or the writers?

I don't know, but it's certainly a place where you never know who is dead or alive. It's kind of like "X-Men." I mean, who would've known, especially given the "X-Men" character, who's died multiple times and keeps finding her way back in some way, shape or form. [Laughs]

Obviously, you've got a pretty good reason for changing Olivia's accent this year. Was it difficult at all for you to get back into this character when you're playing the same person, but you have to change something as major as that?

Yeah, but a lot of the other elements that were given to Olivia this season [changed]. We really stripped her of everything, and said what happens when a control freak no longer has control? What happens when her tongue's ripped out and she has to learn how to speak again? And what happens when physically she's impaired, and this is somebody who's so completely self-conscious? So it really became much more challenging and fun to play her.

It's almost like a different character in some ways.

It is! It is and it isn't, because then at the end, we do see another glimpse of that monstrosity that seems to be living inside her ... but it was nice to give her some colours and see other sides of her, for sure.

Was there anything that you wanted to make sure stayed consistent underneath? Were there any through lines that you kept coming back to for the character?

I think that even in Season 1, I always wanted to have the notion that Olivia loves her children, she's just a survivor. It's like some of these creatures that will eat their young: whatever it takes to survive. I think that's who Olivia is. But it doesn't mean she's without emotion or feelings. She just has this incredible desire to outlive everybody, to stay alive, to do whatever it takes to survive in a complicated world. So she's more of a creature than a human, in the way that I see her.

Did you and Chic Eglee talk at all about how you saw Olivia heading into Season 2, and where you saw her going?

Yeah, I had a talk with Chic and [executive producer] David Straiton. They came to New York and we had a whole discussion about Olivia and where they wanted to take her and the storylines they wanted to explore and all that kind of stuff. I mean, nobody ever seems to know quite what the ending will be yet, and a lot of that is imagined as we all go. But I had some understanding.

Were there any relationships that you had stronger feelings about than others?

Well, the biggest relationships for Olivia in the show are really her son Roman, her lover Norman, and this bizarre Dr. Pryce. And then, of course, Shelley, but Shelley doesn't return until later and that's a complicated situation anyway. So there are fun relationships to explore, and lots of different places to go with it. And of course, with Norman, I mean, that's a whole other new roller-coaster ride. And Roman and Olivia I think are just really similar. He just wants to fight out from underneath his mom's control, only probably to find out that he's just like her.

Is that something you'd like to explore more in later seasons?

Yeah, I think that's so much the heart of what's going on: this family dynasty, these complex relationships within, the power struggles. The love underneath it all, hopefully.

I think one of the most shocking Olivia moments for me this season was seeing her sing karaoke.

[Laughs] Oh, I know!

Where does that rank in terms of the scariest things that they've had you do on this show?

At the top. [Laughs] It was definitely intimidating. And that's just sort of the scary, unsettling part of doing a series, where you just don't know until the last minute what is going to be asked of you.

Did you get any input on what song you got to sing?

Absolutely none. There was a very specific idea, I think Chic had it, about the "Creature with the Atom Brain" [by Roky Erickson]. And I thought, "This is the strangest song I have ever heard." [Laughs] "I don't know what to do about this but ... OK, here we go."

It's kind of a weird one to have on the karaoke list in this small-town bar.

Well, yes. But it's a weird town. [Laughs] So I guess in that regard it's normal.

This is a show that's quickly becoming known for its gross-out moments. Do you have a favourite? I know you don't get to see much of it, at least in the beginning of the season.

None of that's my favourite. I have to fast-forward through those parts. In this particular season, what happens to [Olivia], how much more vulnerable she is, removed from the White Tower for a large extent of it, automatically that just keeps her away from some of the more bloody, gory bits, which I was perfectly happy about.

We get to hear Dr. Pryce's feelings on the subject, that this new-found compassion doesn't suit Olivia, but what about you? Do you miss the old Olivia at all at times?

Oh, I don't know. She's always there, you can't get rid of that thing. [Laughs] She's like a cockroach that's been around for centuries. And only gets bigger and more powerful.

You can watch "Hemlock Grove" on Netflix at any time.

"Hemlock Grove"