Dracula star Claes Bang: My Dracula is ‘VERY SCARY, but also quite funny!’

Danish actor Claes Bang stars as legendary vampire Dracula in BBC1's dark new version from the creators of Sherlock

Prepare for a trip to gothic Transylvania in BBC1’s dark three-part series that puts a new spin on the legendary story of Count Dracula.

Shown over consecutive nights on BBC1 from New Year’s Day, this creepy version stars Danish actor Claes Bang as the infamous vampire and with no shortage of blood and gore, the supernatural tale from Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss isn’t for the faint-hearted.

The three-parter begins in the late 1800s as lawyer Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) travels to Dracula’s remote castle to help him purchase a property in England, yet he soon realises his host is hiding a terrifying secret…

Soon after, the Count sets sail for Whitby, Yorkshire, with a plan to feast upon the people of England – yet he finds a surprise waiting for him when he arrives…

As horror fans will know, Bray Studios was the former home of Hammer Films, where Christopher Lee filmed a series of classic Dracula movies in the 1950s and 1960s, and this is where BBC1’s latest Dracula has been created.

We met up with Claes Bang during a break in filming at Bray Studios, to find out more about his Dracula…

Claes Bang as Dracula

Dracula is coming soon – be afraid!

Did you feel nervous taking on such an iconic role as Dracula?

Claes Bang: “A tiny bit because I’m walking in some quite big footsteps. Luckily, Mark and Steven have put their own spin on the legend, so it doesn’t feel like I have to live up to previous portrayals. We all know Dracula as a bloodsucker, but this is about making him real. We’re trying to move past the traditional idea of Dracula and put more oomph into the story.”

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Is it true there will be some laughs mixed in with the gore?

CB: “Hopefully. When I told people how we were doing it they said, ‘That’s going to go wrong!’ But I think we’ve managed to do it, which shows you how talented Mark and Steven are. They want this to be funny and sexy, but they really want it to be scary too. I think that’s a great idea. It should have those elements of true terror, horror and shock.”

How would you describe your version of Dracula?

CB: “We’re trying to bring out lots of different sides to Dracula. He’s very scary, but also funny. We really wanted to get that contrast and I think it gets more scary if you have a bit of comic relief in there. If you make people relax, they jump even more when it the frights come along.”

Dracula and Jonathan Harker

Dracula deals with Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan)

Do you have any sympathy for Dracula?

CB: “He needs blood to survive and that means killing people. It’s nothing personal, he just needs food. But in the first episode, he meets a nun called Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells), and he has quite a different response. She’s intelligent and they have a confrontation in the church that intrigues Dracula.”

How did you get the part of Dracula?

CB: “I was in America filming The Affair and I couldn’t get to the audition, so Steven and a few other members of the production team came over to see me, which I’ve never had before. We had a long meeting where we tried lots of things and I wasn’t expecting to hear back from them for a while, but three days later they phoned me to tell me I had the part.”

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Had anyone ever suggested you could play Dracula before?

CB: “Never, but when I told people about the part they all said, ‘Oh you’re perfect for it’ I didn’t know what they meant. I mean what the hell is so Dracula about me?”

Tell us more about Dracula’s voyage by ship to England in the second episode. It only forms a short part of the novel, but has been expanded to almost an entire episode here…

CB: “His trip on the Demeter is one my favourite parts of the whole series. I think Steven and Mark realised the potential for putting Dracula on a ship and I’m so glad they expanded it. That episode is part Dracula, part Alien!”

Terror on the ship… Dracula at sea!

How did it feel filming at the famous Bray Studios?

CB: “It felt really special to use the same studios where Christopher Lee filmed those Hammer movies all those years ago. The castle ramparts they used are still standing at the back of one of the studios.”

What was it like wearing Dracula’s fangs?

CB: “They take a while to put on and they’re quite uncomfortable, but I like the way they’re not enormous like Christopher Lee’s fangs. I can talk through them, although saying the letter ‘S’ is quite tricky! I also have nails glued on every day and I’m very glad to take them off in the evening. I don’t think I’d be married anymore if I came home with those on.”

* Dracula runs for three nights consecutively on BBC1, starting on New Year’s Day at 9pm