Tonight, we see the backdoor pilot for the Vampire Diaries’ Originals spin-off, a safe bet to make The CW’s fall schedule, which will be announced on May 16. But Daniel Gillies (Elijah), who’s currently filming the second season of CTV’s Saving Hope, has something else to look forward to next month: Last October, he released his feature-length directorial debut, the drama Broken Kingdom, and Kingdom Come, the documentary following the three-year process of getting that independent movie made, online. Unbeknownst to him, reps for one of the documentary’s co-directors, Paiman Kalayeh, then began shopping Kingdom Come — which also features a score of indie filmmakers including Don Cheadle, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Spurlock, and Kevin Smith sharing their own war stories and triumphs — to networks, and got a bite from Showtime. After viewing the documentary, execs asked to see Gillies’ movie as well. And now, both will air on the cable network May 15, back-to-back. Gillies, who wrote and stars in Broken Kingdom as an American writer who forms an unlikely union with a 14-year-old street girl in Colombia, chatted with EW about the films (which you can still stream at Brokenkingdomfilm.com) and the script he’s penning now.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After all you went through to get Broken Kingdom made, would you do anything differently?
DANIEL GILLIES: There’s so much that I would do differently, but that’s the point of making a first film. I think your first film should be full of beautiful disasters. It should be a heavenly chaos wherein which you kind of almost lose your mind, but really you inaugurate yourself into this new sort of kingdom, no pun intended. There’s so many things that I could do to circumvent that level of difficulty. For example, I grew a beard down to the middle of my chest. I looked like the Unabomber for the better part of three years, because I made this physical pact with myself that I wasn’t gonna f—ing cut that beard or my hair during that time because 1.) I knew I wouldn’t get acting work if I did that, and I was preventing myself from auditioning. And 2.) I wanted to make public declaration almost. “Hey, I’m doing this, and I’m not cutting off this hair until it’s done.” It was a weird creative rite of passage. But would I be that masochistic again? I don’t need to anymore. I’ve proven to myself that I was tough enough to endure this. I would never subject my wife [Rachael Leigh Cook, who costars in the film] to that amount of growth, first of all, and I would never subject her to the company of so much personal flagellation.
I know if all goes well, you’ll have a couple of months later this year where you’ll be shooting both Saving Hope and The Originals. But are you thinking about writing another film?
I’ve been pretty vigorously writing away, especially over the last two months. I can honestly say to you that I’m gonna require a lot more money than I did with my first film. [Laughs]
What’s it about?
It’s a movie about what it is to be a man in the world and to love women. It’s a very honest account of men and women and the struggle within most men between their angel and their animal. At the moment, it’s taking place in Los Angeles. It’s this weirdly metaphysical odyssey that looks through the eyes of a man and a woman and their struggles around a dark crime that descends upon them… Sounds like a nice, fun date movie, right? Doesn’t that sound like a fun night at home with your feet kicked up on the ottoman. What is wrong with me? [Laughs] I listen to myself talking to you, and I’m thinking, god, I need to kick back and watch a few episodes of Family Guy or I don’t f—ing know.
Are you planning on directing yourself again in this film?
If I could write it within the time that I would like to have it written in, I’m probably gonna look for an actor who’s 42 or 43. I’m too young for that. But put it this way, if it takes me as long to raise the money as it did for Broken Kingdom, I certainly will be starring in it. If I’m 40, I’ll be like, of course I’m gonna f—ing play this. And I’ll be able to lasso together all of my personal hatred and rage at having to take so many years to raise the financing, and that will channel into this performance beautifully.
Has the Showtime deal changed how you look at making movies moving forward?
Would I go to cable networks? Now I definitely would. Knowing that there’s a market for it and an interest, and I’ll probably have a greater opportunity having successfully sold both [Broken Kingdom and Kingdom Come] to Showtime. I would certainly walk into Showtime first with anything I was able to create. Would I desire a theatrical release? Of course, that’s every filmmaker’s dream. You make the film so that it can be seen in the theater. But the times we’re living in, people aren’t watching independent films anymore because they’re not being made. Studios gamble big, and are making less and less films. Our cinema has become the stuff of computer games. They’re a carnival ride, and you generally need 3-D glasses to be able to experience them. And that’s not a knock at that kind of entertainment, I personally love that stuff. But the movies have become more like an experience that one might have at Universal Studios these days, then say when you read stories of films in the 1970s and people were lined up around the block to see Last Tango in Paris or The Godfather. That era has left the harbor, and I’m hoping that the ship circles around and returns. The independent filmmaker has to find any outlet he or she can find, and what’s so exciting is that there’s never been more opportunities and outlets, between online media and technology becoming significantly cheaper. With people getting more resourceful, I think we’re gonna see a flourishing, a bloom of superb artists emerging outside the studio system.
Switching gears, let’s talk Vampire Diaries: I think fans are excited to see Elijah wanting to explore a romance but not sure Katherine (Nina Dobrev) deserves him.
That’s what people have been saying, and frankly, amid the storm of it all, I’m just confused. [Laughs] I don’t have feelings one way or the other. Me, I just play the role. It’s fascinating to me to watch the frenzy…. It’s exciting watching that relationship transpire — and heartbreaking, whether it works or not. There’s something about it that already feels like this ancient, fractured romance.
We’ve talked a lot about this hour before (read about the new characters we’ll meet, about filming on-location in New Orleans, about the larger story if the series happens). But now that we’ve seen footage in the promo, what can you say about its tone?
It’s a lot more adult feeling than The Vampire Diaries. It’s a lot more dangerous. It has a frequency of this impending war that’s approaching in the sense that politically, we’re about to make all these moves to reclaim this kingdom that was lost.
There’s a moment at the end of the promo when it looks like Marcel (Charles Michael Davis, playing Klaus’ former protegé who rules the French Quarter) might have an ability we haven’t seen before. Are we going to see new vampire skills?
You could well. I want to share, but I can’t share…
How does Elijah react to Silas having tricked him out of the cure?
It’s never pleasant to watch someone get the upper hand, but it’s only going to feed into Elijah’s desire to reinstate himself within his family and achieve his desire to get them the hell out of Mystic Falls.
And speaking of family, last question: In last week’s episode, you patted Joseph Morgan’s face after Elijah told Klaus that he leads a hollow, little life. Was that scripted?
No. I did it in the moment. We shot that from several angles, and for some reason, he was just so close to me in that take, and I felt so sad for him threatening me, and he seemed particularly lost and lonely in that one — I was just overwhelmed, and I touched his face. I remember even Joe commented right after the take. He said, “I loved how you did that.” I was so delighted to see that in the cut.
Gallery: Inside ‘The Originals’
‘Vampire Diaries’: Joseph Morgan and Daniel Gillies on filming Originals spin-off pilot in New Orleans
‘Vampire Diaries’ spin-off: The redemption of Klaus, the unraveling of Elijah? — EXCLUSIVE