Don’t be expecting Belle and the Beast to be twirling around a ballroom in The CW’s Beauty and the Beast. The new series, which premieres tonight, is closer in tone to the 1987 CBS series of the same name than it is to the Disney movie: The dark, brooding tale of romance and danger between an ordinary woman and her supernatural soulmate should be a hit among fans of a certain blockbuster vampire franchise.
Wetpaint Entertainment caught up with Jay Ryan, the 31-year-old Kiwi actor behind the beast, for an exclusive preview of the history, present, and future of the relationship between Vincent and Catherine.
How would you describe the new Beauty and the Beast?
Jay Ryan: It's a two-genre show almost weaved together. There’s a procedural element to it, like the case-of-the-week, through Catherine, who is the cop. And there's a mythology element to it, which comes from the Beast element and him trying to regain his humanity. So when we enter the pilot, we find out that Vincent has been helping Catherine all along and has been protecting her, and they have this connection. She finds him after ten years and realizes that he has answers to her mother's death — her assassination — which has to do with this medical military experiment. These big bad people are after Vincent, the last surviving beast.
So you're the only one?
Apparently, yeah. In this episode, he's the only beast left, so he has all this survivor guilt, and he's trying to regain justice and regain his humanity. And when Catherine comes in, she wants to do the same thing, but she wants to do it the hard justice way — black and white. And he's very aware that these people are hungry to kill him and to cover up this huge mess to humanity. So they're two very strong characters, two alpha characters that keep banging their heads against each other. They want to do the same things, but they want to do it a very different way. At the same time, there's this huge connection between them where this romantic element sets in.
So how much are we going to see of his Army past and the experiments?
A lot. In the pilot, you see a trail of what their past was. He touches on it. But it's very deep and hard for him to come up with the goods. And the fact that he's been very isolated for the past ten years and that Catherine actually listens to him brings up this attraction, obviously. So, we're going to see what happened. We're also going to see the decade that we skipped from the first scene of the pilot to the day that Catherine and Vincent find each other.
So he's been a constant force in her life?
Yeah. And he's been trying to suppress this beast, this chemical inside of him, and he has gotten to a point that is good. But he's almost given up every last drop of humanity from his heart. He's given up trying to find the cure until Catherine comes and re-sparks this fight in him. But, also, we're going to see this darkness of his past. When he came back, he had this strong killer instinct in him. So he's left behind this trail of a dark history, and it could have to do with other relationships he’s had with women. It's almost like this dark serial killer element that will come through.
What's the procedural element?
Catherine is an NYPD detective, so it's a case-of-the-week [format], and it brings our viewers in to be able to maybe watch one episode and miss another. But the procedural element is going to complement the things that are going on [with] Vincent and Catherine's struggle and romance. Sometimes it will be stronger than other weeks, but it also brings them together in a working relationship... because she has strengths that he needs to regain his humanity, and he has strength that she needs to be successful in what she does.
He has a scar across his face. Why is the scar important?
The scar [an idea] from Gary Fleder, who directed our pilot. He really wanted a marking on Vincent. I thought it was a great idea, and it’s a reminder to the audience that constantly [Vincent] has something inside him. The scar is like this wound that's almost open, like something's trying to get out. And I believe that the scar originated from a beast-on-beast attack. It's a very deep line going down his face. It references the struggle that he's gone through, I think... and apparently a scar is sexy on men!
Why did you want to take on this role?
I was a fan of the original series, and I got a call. I wasn't going to do pilot season this year. I was doing a miniseries with Jane Campion and BBC and Sundance. I was shooting in my hometown. So I just wanted to focus on that. But when I got this script, I was really intrigued to see how they re‑imagined the original. And I'm really into bringing back a romantic genre to television without all the instant sex and tweets and Facebooks and all that sort of stuff. So bring in that Shakespearean courting element into a modern CW show is exciting for me.
Will they date? Like, dinner and a movie?
Well, no. Because he's in hiding. So they have to have all this sort of secret language between them to court. Old-fashioned letters, throwing pebbles at the window to get attention, secret whispers. [It’s] lovely to show a younger audience what it used to be like before we had computers.
Beauty and the Beast premieres tonight, Thursday, October 11, at 9 P.M. ET/PT on The CW.
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