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Dracula’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers: ‘I Look Like the Bad Guy’

By Erin Hill
Parade, September 15, 2013

In Dracula, Jonathan Rhys Myers, 36, portrays a dashing version of the iconic vampire, who battles ancient enemies in Victorian London. (NBC, premieres Oct. 25).

What first drew you to the role of Dracula?
When you’re offered iconic roles like this, you take the opportunity to play them. I thought it would be interesting. It’s a variation on a theme, which is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we can’t just repeat and give the same story, so there are variations of that. I liked the Victorian setting, so we just brought a couple new elements in.

Were you a fan of the Dracula story growing up?
Yeah. I read Dracula as a kid, and I’ve read it since as an adult. Bram was a very good storyteller and brought in a very interesting eastern European backstory to it and created what was a very thrilling story. He did it very cleverly by telling the whole story in journals, which is a beautiful way of getting it across because it makes you an observer of someone’s own personal tale and it captured the imagination of people.

I’ve only ever seen one version of Dracula and that was Francis Ford Coppala’s 1992 film, and Gary Oldman is a fantastic actor doing anything, I’m an apprentice. I couldn’t even begin to come to think comparatively.

Do you view your Dracula as a hero or a villain?
Oh, he’s a monster. I want the audience to see him as such. The thing that makes the Dracula story interesting is he’s 99 percent monster and 1 percent human. It’s the 1 percent that causes all the problems. This little bit of humanity is what causes the conflict. If he was all monster, there would be bliss.

What do you think it is about vampires that fascinate audiences?
I think the fascination that people have with vampires is the same fascination that people have with the one thing that everybody would love to have: eternal life. But you’d like eternal life at the peek of your physical condition. I would like to live forever, but I’d like to life forever at 26. That’s the fascination with vampires; we’ve made them beautiful.

How does making Dracula compare to your experience making The Tudors?
I was 27 when I started The Tudors. I was a kid, but I was always kind of a little bit younger than my age would imply, so when I played the first season, I was this young, arrogant, impetuous king and it kind of worked for me, and the second season kind of worked for me too, but seasons three and four, I would have happily given the role to an older person because I couldn’t quite move the age along that quickly, so I would have happily bowed out at that point. It was more difficult for me.

Dracula is a completely different experience. I’ve never made a network show before, and let me tell you, it’s difficult. It’s a lot of work and a lot of time away and it moves very quickly. I wasn’t really as prepared for it as I thought I was. People in the entertainment industry really look hard, I know it kind of looks like fun when you see me there on the tube — and its meant to — but to get it to look that flawless and that effortless and that fun, oh my God, the hours that people put in.

You seem to play the bad guy a lot. Why do you think that is?
I play the bad guy because I look like one. People have sort of put me into that thing. It’s not something I would have chosen for myself. Some people say it has something to do with me being a very intense character on screen and that’s usually the bad guy. There’s something in my physicality that lends to it.

Are you drawn towards period pieces?
I think because I’m European, people immediately assume that I want to do period pieces. I liked doing To Paris with Love with John Travolta. Modern action films and modern films in general don’t not appeal to me, it’s just people sort of assume that you’re European and you want to do these period things.

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