BEING HUMAN started life as a BBC series, created by Toby Whithouse, about three Londoners sharing a flat, who just happen to be, respectively, a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost. Syfy Channel has now made a Boston-set version of the show, with Sam Witwer as vampire Aidan, Sam Huntington as werewolf Josh , Meaghan Rath as ghost Sally and Mark Pellegrino as Aidan’s bloodsucking mentor/maker Bishop. While Whithouse is a producer on the new version, the executive producers/show runners are Jeremy Carver and Anna Fricke, who sit together on a couch as they talk about all their characters who go bump in the night.
ASSIGNMENT X: You two are personal partners – you’re married – as well as professional partners. Do you ever do solo projects, or have you been writing partners for most of your careers?
ANNA FRICKE: This is actually the first time that we’ve ever been partnered on a project. We both had separate careers before this.
AX: What made you decide to collaborate on BEING HUMAN?
JEREMY CARVER: I think first and foremost, we each had a shared love of the original series, and when we realized that our backgrounds might be a good selling point to actually be able to do the show, we had a long conversation about marital issues that could come up [laughs] and we decided to go for it.
AX: Can you talk about ways specifically in which the U.S. BEING HUMAN differs from the U.K. BEING HUMAN?
CARVER: Yeah, I can. For example, because we have more episodes [per season than the U.K. edition], we made a couple decisions early on. We decided that some of these things that are hinted at of our original characters running away from, well, what if you brought them into the story?
For example, Josh’s younger sister who I don’t think existed in the British version, becomes the bridge between Josh and the rest of his family, who he left. In our show, he’s forced to confront the family that he ran away from. Furthermore, we spend a lot of time in ours investigating the relationship between Bishop [Mark Pellegrino] and Aidan [Sam Witwer], as it has developed over the past two hundred years. We spend a lot of time in flashbacks and seeing these two over the decades and seeing the turns and highs and lows of their relationship to give us a little more understanding as to where they are now.
Here’s another thing – we introduce an entirely different sect of vampires in our version, which come into play later in the season. So where the BEING HUMAN vampire stands out for being a relatively modern vampire, in that they can stand sunlight and have a couple of twists on the normal vampire, we give a certain amount of homage and a nod to the fact that not all vampires in this universe are as modernized as Aidan.
AX: Do you have the same overall mythology of what vampires, werewolves and ghosts can and can’t do as the U.K. version?
CARVER: Well, we take them one at a time. I would say, vampires generally yes, with a couple new twists thrown in that we introduce over the course of the season.
FRICKE: To make a general statement, I think [something] we love about the original series is that they are sort of lackadaisical about the rules. I think we probably have a few more, but we sat down with our writers and also with Syfy to talk about what would make sense in this universe. There are some vampire rules that are sort of tried and true that we stuck with.
CARVER: The ghost character in the original show, an utterly delightful character – the rules with that ghost were extremely loose. Sometimes she appeared, sometimes she didn’t appear.
FRICKE: Sometimes she could hold things, sometimes she couldn’t.
CARVER: Right. So we decided to tighten up the rules on our ghost Sally [Meaghan Rath] and basically made any new skill set she developed all part of her emotional arc throughout the season, and that was very rewarding for us, and I think for the show itself, hopefully.
AX: Is the vampire character Aidan named after Aidan Turner, the actor who played the vampire Mitchell in the U.K. version?
FRICKE: No. That’s actually a very happy accident, because one of the first things we did was change the characters’ names so that we could free ourselves somewhat, and Aidan just was a great, classic old name, and we realized afterwards that it was Aidan Turner’s name, and we were like, “Oh, no, it’s going to look like …” [laughs] So it’s a happy accidental homage to Aidan Turner.
CARVER: We felt sort of like jerks when we found out, but we had committed to the name. Hundreds of names we had gone through, so we decided to leave it at that, because we weren’t going to look for another one [laughs].
AX: The show is somewhat effects-heavy.
FRICKE: I wouldn’t say it’s effects-reliant, but definitely, especially with the werewolf transformation, there is a lot of that, and also with Sally. We do a lot more effects with Sally in this series than the BBC version did – we try to do a lot of her disappearing and appearing and what happens when she tries to touch people. [to Carver] How heavy would you say it is?
CARVER: I think the show is so character-based that the effects, while wonderful, are not front and center. From a story standpoint, they’re almost there just enough so that you’re always reminded when you need to be that these are not human beings. So the effects team that we have is absolutely wonderful and the effects are fantastic, but they by no means overwhelm.
FRICKE: Even when trying to decide how the werewolf transformation would be, we specifically wanted to use prosthetics as much as we possibly could before we went to CGI, because we want to stay with the character of Josh [Sam Huntington] as long as we possibly can and stay with the human side as long as we can.
AX: The werewolf transformations are similar to those in the U.K. series, which in turn are similar to those from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, where the whole thing looks extremely painful to experience.
FRICKE: Yes, yes, absolutely.
CARVER: The short answer to that is, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was an inspiration for us as well. That movie to this day still holds up in my opinion as the best transformation, and the least cheesy transformation. It’s the pain of this human being experiencing that matters most to us, and the character.
AX: Who is handling the effects for BEING HUMAN?
CARVER: Our visual effects supervisor, Mario Rachiele, He just won a Canadian Gemini for BEN-HUR for visual effects. And the effects shop is Oblique, and they are out of Montreal, and they’re wonderful.
AX: Taking it in a slightly broader sense, do you feel that AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was seminal in the naturalistic horror/naturalistic comedy marriage?
CARVER: I don’t think there’s any question. It was wonderful in every way. I have no idea how old I was when I saw it – I don’t think I was old enough at the time to think of it that way, but as someone who’s been thrown into the horror genre shows over the last several years, I’ve certainly come to believe that, absolutely.
FRICKE: I agree [laughs].
AX: Are you shooting in Montreal?
CARVER: Yes. We’re shooting Montreal for Boston.
AX: Is your crew all French/English bilingual?
CARVER: Well, it’s a bilingual city. I can only tell you as [someone who grew] up in Montreal, I’m not saying this in a negative way, it added to the uniqueness of the experience of walking on the set and standing there amidst people who were only speaking French to each other [laughs]. They’re totally bilingual and it’s not an issue, but it’s an added layer, I would say.
AX: What is your favorite aspect of the storytelling on the show, and what is the most challenging?
FRICKE: I think what we both appreciate about the original and about what we’re able to do in this show is to be able to have a single episode in which there are moments of great pain and moments of great humor. We’re very grateful to our writing team and to Syfy for allowing us to do that. As Sam Witwer was saying, how do you go from brutally murdering somebody to five minutes later in the show joking around and having a buddy moment with your roommate? So I think that that is who the characters are. They are all sort of leading double lives and they all have to [push] down whatever darkness they’re feeling. So it’s going back and forth. It’s challenging and exciting.
CARVER: The show works best when it’s this heady mix of humor and drama and horror and pathos and when you don’t know what is coming next. It all happens in one scene and that’s the biggest challenge, structuring the story to these moments, and we’re very lucky to have filmmakers as directors and the cast that we do, who so wonderfully takes the scripts and gets exactly what we’re going for.