04/18/2013 12:26 EDT

'Hemlock Grove': Everything You Need To Know


At the foot of a sweeping grand staircase in the foyer of an imposing early 20th century mansion, Famke Janssen is stoically explaining what's going to happen next to Bill Skarsgard as he fights back tears.

The two are filming a scene of "Hemlock Grove," the epic new Netflix series helmed by horror-master Eli Roth. The show is based on Brian McGreevy's novel of the same name, and follows two teenage boys (Skarsgard and "Degrassi" alum Landon Liboiron) at the center of a murder mystery in a creepy small town full of supernatural elements.

Its horror-esque approach and broad mix of supernatural beings may sound a lot like "True Blood" (which stars Skarsgard's older brother Alexander), but "Hemlock" is carving its own path. "We started by casting an entirely different Skarsgard," jokes McGreevy, who serves as an executive producer on the show.

Janssen plays Skarsgard's mother, the matriarch of the wealthy and powerful Godfrey family. Dougray Scott is her brother-in-law, Norman. "Battlestar Galactica" alumni Aaron Douglas and Kandyse McClure round out the cast as two characters (a cop and a "doctor," of sorts) investigating the murder.

HuffPost TV caught up with Janssen, Skarsgard, Scott, the creators and the rest of the cast to find out everything there is to know about "Hemlock Grove."

1. It feels more like a 13-hour movie than 13 one-hour episodes. "Like a novel, it's designed to work as a whole," explains McGreevy.

"The cool thing about doing it for Netflix is there are no act breaks," adds Douglas. "You don't have those shlocky breaks where you have to watch a soap commercial and then wait to find out what happens. It's seamless in that way."

"This is something completely fresh and new," agrees Skarsgard. "You hear 'werewolf' and 'vampire,' and think 'Oh, God, this is something I've seen a million times before.' But our show takes that and reinvents it and makes it a weird, special, unique show. I hope people appreciate this as something that's completely different."

2. The beautiful house used in the show is a real place. The sprawling Godfrey mansion is actually Parkwood Estate, a national historic site in Oshawa, Ontario. It has everything you could hope for in a sinister old manor, including a creepy waterless indoor pool, an old-timey bowling lane, an elaborate formal dining room and the aforementioned grand staircase.

3. It isn't as "dark" as you might expect a horror series to be. "We wanted something lush, a slightly more colorful palette," says McGreevy, explaining the show's visual sensibility. "To a certain extent, we wanted echoes of Old Hollywood."

"It didn't surprise me that 'Hemlock Grove' was based on a novel," says Lili Taylor ("Mystic Pizza," "Six Feet Under"), who plays Peter's mother. "It has that depth to it -- that depth and complexity. It sort of reminded me of the '70s and Robert Evans and all that stuff that was happening then, along with the freedom that the writers and directors were having. It felt like an independent film with all the creative control Netflix gave us."

4. There's plenty of family drama mixed in with the murder and monsters. "[The Godfreys] really do argue over what's for dinner," says Joel de la Fuente, who plays Dr. Johann Pryce.

"I feel like humans are ultimately worse than monsters," says Liboiron with a smile. "The town has normal people, like the sheriff [Douglas] ... they're all reacting to this supernatural energy that they can't explain. You see them slowly progress into their deeper, darker spots and they can't fully grasp the seriousness of the situation. As soon as things get a little out of control, humans can do some pretty wacky things."

5. This is more of a psychological horror than a physical horror. Don't expect non-stop gore or straight-up drama, but something in between. "This is certainly not blood-and-guts gore horror," says executive producer Lee Shipman. "This is psychological horror, like Roman Polanski or Stanley Kubrick, and that's what we tried to draw on here."

"A major influence for me growing up was Alfred Hitchcock," says McGreevy. "The way he could pick a relatively mundane scenario and set the camera at a weird angle to make me think about it in a completely different way. That was very influential when I was thinking about the book."

6. "Hemlock Grove" is not a show about werewolves and vampires. "I don't really see it as a vampires-and-werewolves kind of show at all," says Douglas. "It says it right on the poster: 'The Monsters Within,' and it's a human hand coming out of a creature ... it's more (at least for me) about the dramatic human interaction and how human beings are with one another when strange things start happening."

"We get asked the 'Twilight' question a lot," says the book's author. "There are unavoidable parallels between my work and that series, but in no way did I write the book with that franchise in mind."

7. Liboiron and Skarsgard have a natural, instant bond -- both in real life and as their characters. "This show is going to live or die based on the relationship between Peter and Roman," says Shipman. "When you talk to them, you know it and you see it -- these are the guys."

"[The relationship between Roman and Peter] is not really explained, and I don't think it's one of those relationships that needs to be explained," says Liboiron. "The two of them see eye-to-eye on a level that they haven't been able to see eye-to-eye on with anybody else. It's like a supernatural, personal understanding of each other. In a strange way, Bill and I connected on a weird level in real life as well. We started talking about relationships, love and personal shit almost right away ... there were no barriers. It was immediate."

"I don't think I can explain [Roman and Peter's] relationship," says Skarsgard. "It's supernatural. It's relatable, though, because sometimes you meet somebody and it's just meant to be. There's some chemistry that just makes sense. In this case, Roman sees through Peter's mask and vice versa. It's an unspoken connection of understanding."

8. This is Netflix's first-ever original series. "House Of Cards" is based on a British TV series, and the upcoming "Arrested Development" block is (obviously) continuing from its previous run. "Hemlock Grove," though it's based on a book, is wholly original and differs quite a bit from page to screen.

McClure's character (Dr. Clementine Chasseur), and Taylor's character are definitely expanded from their roles in the book. In a way, McClure's character acts as a conduit of information to the TV audience, and Taylor's motherly role is an anchor to her wayward son.

"Dougray's character, Norman, at first glance seems like a really good person," says Janssen. "But he also does bad things too. There are clashes between good and bad, as well as class differences. All of this stuff is going on at once."

9. It's a slow burn. The first three episodes serve as a sort-of primer, and from there, the characters and storylines take off. When asked about her matriarchal, powerful character Olivia, Janssen balks at explaining the whole story. "I'm not going to tell you what's going on with Olivia, because I think it's best to watch the 13 episodes an let it unfold as it does," she says. "But I will say however someone seems on the outside is not necessarily how they are on the inside."

"This show is like a roller-coaster, going up those first three episodes -- tick, tick, tick -- and then as soon as it goes over the hill, it takes off," says "Hemlock Grove" director Deran Sarafian. "After the first three episodes it gets exponentially more exciting. I can't wait for people to see our 13-hour movie.

"This isn't network television," agrees executive producer Mark Verheiden. "You can set things up and not pay them off for a while. Stuff in Episode 2 doesn't pay off until Episode 9, and in this case, you don't need to wait 9 weeks for it to happen. If you're binge-watching, you may have seen it four or five hours ago. When making this show, we didn't have to play into any of the usual expectations."

10. "Hemlock Grove" was inspired by classic horror, including "Dracula," "The Wolf Man" and "Frankenstein." "The genesis of the novel came from a simple premise," says McGreevy. "I wanted to take the major archetypal monsters of the modern era and put them in my high school. Resolving my feelings about monstrosity, and my feelings about adolescence were the same thing."

"There's some very subtle naming going on in the book too," says McGreevy with a laugh. "Godfrey ... Shelley..."

"Hemlock Grove" premieres on Netflix on April 19. All 13 episodes will be available for streaming.

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