Vampire Academy cast on playing beloved YA novel characters

Peacock enters the world of vampires with the new series Vampire Academy. Based on popular young adult novels by Richelle Meadthe series follows the adventures of Rose Hathaway (Sisi Stringer) and Lissa Dragomir (Daniela Nieves) as they navigate love, politics and killer vampires at St Vladimir’s Academy.

vampire academy will look to become another hit for showrunners Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre, who previously worked on The Vampire Diaries, The originalsand Legacy. In an interview with Digital Trends, the vampire academy The actors talk about the pressure of portraying beloved characters, the allure of portraying vampires, and what they would say to fans of the books who are skeptical of the show.

Christian looks into Lissa's eyes in a scene from Vampire Academy.
VAMPIRE ACADEMY — “Earth. Air. Water. Fire.” Episode 102 — Pictured: (lr) Andre Dae Kim as Christian Ozera, Daniela Nieves as Lissa Dragomir — (Photo by: Jose Haro/Peacock)

Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Digital Trends: Kieron, Dmitri is an intense, disciplined guy who over time reveals a more sympathetic side to his personality. Why did you like this role?

Kieron Moore (Dmitri Belikov): I think, for me, the surface level is, of course, this deadly, disciplined vessel, raised to protect. It really transcends most other things. But that was the element of trying to find the underlying sincerity and vulnerability that I think makes us all human, and that comes in the form of Rose Hathaway.

I’m super excited to tell this story. It was such an honor. I hope I managed to achieve that, and I think as the show goes on, maybe people will find the problem I had, which is that by opening up and in finding vulnerabilities, we often find conflicts. It was really rich for me to find, as well as the physical stuff.

Rose is a badass sitter in training. Sisi, does this type of role fascinate you as an actor?

Sisi Stringer (Rose Hathaway): Sure. I read the books. I was a big fan when I was a kid. I watched the movies. When I got the audition, I was so excited. I thought, “I know that girl. I know this woman. Then, as soon as you get on set and start playing it in real time, you tell even more. But I think the scary thing is how similar we actually are. Really, it’s honestly scary. She is very fiery, outspoken and strong-willed. She is never a doormat. She stands up for what she believes in and she’s really passionate.

But she can be volatile, explosive and mischievous. Where Lissa always has a kind word and an open shoulder, Rose isn’t like that. However, all of the fights she has and all of the assaults definitely come from a place of passion and love for the people and things in her life. Deep down, she’s a lovely girl.

J. August and Jonetta, what attracted you to these roles? Want to play vampires?

J. August Richards (Victor Dashkov): I always wanted to play a vampire. It’s probably years to be on Angel and watch the actors who play vampires having fun. I wanted to try the other side and very quickly I realized that it is probably one of the most human vampires. But what’s interesting is that I think all vampires, ultimately, are about humanity and what it means to be human. It’s just a metaphor in the same way sci-fi or futuristic movies never talk about the future; they are always on the present. This character is very determined to find justice within this underground vampire society, and that’s what drew me to the character.

The Queen and Victor stand next to each other and watch a scene from Vampire Academy.
VAMPIRE ACADEMY — Episode 101 — Pictured: (lr) Pik-Sen Lim as Queen, J. August Richards as Victor Dashkov — (Photo by: Jose Haro/Peacock)

Jonetta Kaiser (Sonya Karp): Well, I love vampires. I love Julie Plec. I love books. I read them as a kid so I was already into it when I saw this and realized what it was. I feel so connected to her [Sonya] because I am a very shy person. I grew up very, very, very shy. It was very easy to get in there. You’re right about the different personalities because she has to go with her dad sometimes on his royal business and I have to act on it which is different from when I’m in my library handling my books and talking to the birds. . [Laughs] So, yes, it was interesting. It was fun.

André, what can fans expect from your interpretation of Christian?

Andre Dae Kim (Christian Ozera): I think fans of the book will hopefully see that I tried to keep the essence of Christian in the book. A sarcastic but walled-up type of character that has a lot to do with resentment and a lot to do with being protective of the treatment he received. But, hopefully, they can also find some surprising things seeing Christian in other states that we don’t see in the book, like Christian alone and Christian without the perspective of a Rose or a Lissa. I think these parts could also be very interesting for book fans.

Because the show is based on a beloved novel seriesdid you all feel extra pressure to satisfy the fans who love the books?

Daniela Nieves (Lissa Dragomir) Yeah. I mean, I think it’s an honor, it’s a privilege, [and] it’s a pressure. But overall the stories are so good and these characters are so good and complete. They have so many dimensions to them. I think as long as we get the themes, the characters, and the world, I think fans of the book are going to really enjoy the series. They will be able to fully immerse themselves in the same way as they did with the books. It’s a 10-episode series that they can really dive into.

The fans are so important to us. They really are the reason it’s so iconic. I’m going to play a character in these books that millions of people have read. Like it’s crazy, and it’s because of them [the fans], so we are very much in love with them. We are very involved with them. We care about their feedback.

Dmitri holds Rose and looks her in the eye in a scene from Vampire Academy.
VAMPIRE ACADEMY — Episode 101 — Pictured: (lr) Kieron Moore as Dimitri Belikov, Sisi Stringer as Rose Hathaway — (Photo by: Peacock)

Stiffener: We talk to them all the time. They’re so supportive so it’s still lovely, despite the fact that we might not look like the way the book portrays the characters or how they look in the movie where there’s not a lot of diversity, let’s be honest. Dani always says the basics, right? We capture the essence of the characters, and I think that’s more important than her having blonde hair. Sometimes the fans are a little upset, but they’re always so supportive. They say, “We know. We trust you and we know you’re going to do a great job, so it doesn’t really matter how you look. It’s good that they have so much confidence in us.

Kaiser: Not necessarily. I respect the fan base. I am one of them, myself. But what we were able to do, what Julie Plec and Marguerite were able to achieve, was to keep the spirit and the heart of the books. It’s much more contemporary. He developed what was written 15 years ago, so it’s more cutting edge, hip, cool and diverse, which is amazing. The worlds we were in, the costumes we were in, the scripts we were given. Once you have all the puzzle pieces there is no pressure because you have everything you need. You are fully equipped. I didn’t even think about the pressure of anything.

Richard: I usually always feel a lot of pressure, but for some reason I didn’t. I guess it was such a trip. We moved to Spain, we collected the scripts as we arrived there, we absorbed them, we discovered the world, we learned Spanish… There was no time for pressure.

Since many characters are great fighters, many of you had to train in martial arts. How did it go? How was the process?

Andrew Liner (Mason Ashford): Yeah, every time we weren’t shooting, we were practicing, learning the choreography[graphy], or to train, to build muscle. It was a really interesting experience because not only did we have to find the physicality of these characters in a very characteristic way, but the Dhampirs are supposed to have a specific appearance. They are protectors. They are physically dominant people, so I think it was great to find that. Rigorously learning the choreography and then having a change of choreography on the day and being comfortable with changing the day was awesome.

With experienced designers like Julie and Marguerite, does their prior knowledge of the subject give you relief, knowing that you can trust their vision?

Nevis: It relieves us. We feel safe. They definitely have a vision and they know what they want. They know the stories they want to tell. They know what they want it to look and sound like. They are successful women, so it is admirable to watch them work. Even working with them is a privilege. I feel so blessed to be a part of this with such amazing women.

Stiffener: Yeah. Strong women to model our own strengths. One thing about Lissa and Rose’s friendship is that they are both very strong women. They have their pitfalls and they have their torments. A sometimes turbulent relationship. But at the heart of them as characters and the whole story is their love for each other and their friendship.

Vampire Academy | Official trailer | Original Peacock

For fans of the books who are skeptical of the series, what would you say to them?

Moore: I understand them perfectly. I think when you cherish something as much as these books are cherished, you have a love for it, and that should be realized. I hope people will give the show and the characters, who have been portrayed in our interpretations, an open and empathetic approach. I hope they take this time to try to fall in love with these people as much as we fell in love playing them.

We’ve talked a lot about this word, this “essence” of character, and it’s something that has stuck. Everyone brings it [esscence] books and adopts it in its own way, and it can take on different shapes, sizes and patterns. Ultimately, the characters that fans love, we like. …just sit back, trust the story, and trust the writing as much as we do.

The first four episodes of vampire academy start streaming on Peacock on September 15, with new episodes available weekly on Thursdays.

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