It is a cliche Los Angeles day — sunny, breezy, 76 degrees. Not exactly the kind of weather you expect when hanging out with vampires in a morgue. But that is what I got when I went to visit the set of Moonlight, the new CBS drama that reinvents the vampire mythology. Alex O'Loughlin stars as Mick St. John, a vampire who lives as a mortal private detective. He resists his natural urge to drink blood straight from the vein, and instead subsists on blood bank withdrawals. "It's like watching an alcoholic trying not to fall off the wagon," Alex tells me.
His counterpart on the show is Beth, a journalist, played by Sophia Myles. There is a definite sexual tension there, but as Sophia says, "I think the show is over the moment they get together." The two have a natural camaraderie, perhaps stemming from the fact that they are both foreigners, he from Australia; she from England. "It's comforting," Sophia admits.
Rounding out the cast is Shannyn Sossamon, who plays Coraline, Mick's ex-wife – and the vampire who turned him.
The day starts not at the morgue, but on a soundstage. Moonlight star Jason Dohring is showing me around the sets on the Warner Bros. lot. Jason plays Josef, one of the oldest vampires on the show, and one of the few who know Mick as a vampire. "I can't decide if my character is good or evil," Jason muses as we tour his character's imposing office. "I prefer to think of it not as black or white, but 'dark grey.'" His office, with its warrior wall carvings and shadowy paintings of a woman in purple ("She looks like Coraline, don't you think?" asks Jason) leans towards very dark grey indeed.
We then hit up Mick's apartment, and I immediately take decor notes. With dark wood and clean lines, Mick's home is the ultimate brooding bachelor pad. And not a coffin in sight.
I ask Jason what it's like working with Alex. "It's unreal," he says. "I keep thinking I will show up to work one day and he will realize he is the star and turn into a snob, but that just doesn't happen." Jason, Alex, and Sophia are pretty chummy, and enjoy a cigar break together between takes.
It's time now to head over to the props truck where I get to become a vampire. Okay, not really, but I do get to drink production blood. No one can (or will) tell me what is in it, but I drink it down bravely. It tastes like a syrupy berry-pomegranate concoction. Not bad, but might benefit from some vodka.
Finally it is time to head over to the morgue and meet up with Alex, Sophia, and Shannyn. The set is an actual morgue, in an abandoned hospital in East Los Angeles. The exterior alone is creepy in its dilapidated state; the interior need not be dressed to make you afraid of the dark corners. Real, abandoned medical files and maybe-real nightmare drawings only add to the chills.
Oh yeah, and there are a lot of corpses, too:
"I get scared easily," Shannyn admits. "When I jump on screen, I'm usually not acting." Despite her nervous ways, she has always wanted to play a vampire. "I love it. I've always been a fan of the vampire aesthetic. It suits me. It feels natural; it is passionate and dramatic. And there is no such thing as over the top!"
Alex is totally into the vampire thing. "Lost Boys was the penultimate vampire film," he enthuses. "I was a teen when it came out and it was just great. Total rock n' roll." Other favorite vampires? "The original Nosferatu, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and of course, Anne Rice. She has had the most influence on how I play this role."
Sophia is no stranger to vampire projects, having starred in Underworld, its sequel, and an adaptation of Dracula. "When they offered me the job, I thought my friends were having a laugh." Despite her exposure to them, Sophia has "never found vampires sexy."
Both Alex and Sophia agree on one thing though: that American culture is terribly prudish. "My entire career, I have been struggling against directors to remain clothed. Now I'm finally ready to get my tits out, and they won't let me!" Sophia jokes.
Moonlight premieres Friday, September 28, 9pm et/pt on CBS.Powered by Sidelines