If you need a vampire fix, Syfy has the cure for what ails you. Its current slate includes the freshman series Reginald the Vampire, and, folks, it’s as fun as it looks. Based on the novel Fat Vampire by Johnny B. Truant and starring Jacob Batalon as the titular Reginald, the show follows a baby vamp as he tries to navigate the shallow, elite vampire community. Mandela Van Peebles stars as Maurice, Reginald’s sire, while Em Haine portrays Sarah, his Slushy Shack coworker for whom he carries a torch.
Reginald the Vampire is not only profoundly heartwarming and brimming with blood-soaked whimsy, it blatantly calls out fatphobia and subverts vampire tropes.
Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with Mandela Van Peebles about playing Maurice, Maurice’s complicated bond with Angela (Savannah Basley), what his vampire power would be and more.
This interview is condensed for length and clarity.
Melody McCune: What do you enjoy most about diving into a character like Maurice?
Mandela Van Peebles: This was my first time playing a vampire. How do I play someone who’s been around since the ’70s and doesn’t have this fear of death like most people? How does that affect how he lives and makes decisions? And a lot of it was, how do I make him cool? How do I make him relevant? How do I make him funny?
I took bits and sayings from my granddad, who was 89, sneaked in the gold tooth and tried to make him a character I’d want to see onscreen. Working with Harley [Peyton] and Jeremiah [S. Chechik], they’re ego-free and confident in themselves. They’re open to creative conversations, and if an idea works, they’re happy to include it. Since it’s a chemistry-driven show, getting us all in person and seeing how we mix together informed how rewrites were done. The rest of the episodes were written after that because you can see us flourish in the room and feel that energy. I think it was a great vibe.
MM: Speaking of that vibe and chemistry, Maurice and Angela have this fascinating, complex relationship. There’s a fine line between love and hate, but initially, we see love. Do you think that love is still there at this point in their relationship?
MVP: I think everyone has their definition of love. It’s one of those questions we never know the answer to. What is it? But in my estimation and understanding, love doesn’t go away. If it was there, in theory, it should always be there.
Then again, there’s that other side of it with immortality. If you can live forever, how long can you hold a grudge? How long does it take to forgive? It poses a lot of questions that make it enjoyable to watch and act. Even discussing it with Savannah, who plays Angela, becomes a therapy session. It gets the thought process and emotions going and makes everything more real and natural.
MM: In episode four, we get a taste of Maurice’s backstory and how the falling out with Angela happened. What was the highlight of getting to explore his origin story?
MVP: Oh, come on. The afro!
MM: You all looked so great in that episode.
MVP: I enjoyed that one. I love that we got to do a period piece within a present-day project. That’s something you don’t see much. You have a character in the present, with the payoff being he’s also in the flashbacks. It was pretty well put together. To have that be my episode, I’m like, “Thanks, guys.” I liked it for sure. I loved putting on the clothes.
MM: We almost got to see Maurice sing some karaoke. What would be his go-to song if he were to take the stage?
MVP: Oh, man. I feel like he’s an Earth, Wind & Fire guy.
MM: I can see that.
MVP: I wouldn’t know the exact song. The crew had [“Total Eclipse of the Heart”] stuck in their head. It was like, “Turn around,” and everybody was humming that for a week. That was fun.
MM: It’s a karaoke staple. It’s such a catchy song. If you were a vampire, what would your special ability be?
MVP: It’d be dope to fly. Kind of a pain to act it, but if Maurice were to fly, it would be nice. I could do all my scenes in a harness. Oh, now I got it — I want to transform into a bat. A big bat.
MM: What three words would you use to describe this show?
MVP: Needed. Must. Watch.
It’s hard to describe it in three. It’s put together so well. I’m not that great of a wordsmith to sum it up in three words. But I had a blast doing it and working with everybody. Now, months after filming it and watching it all put together, I’m a fan too. I’m a fan of my show. I want to cosplay as Ashley or Todd. Seeing other people’s performances in the scenes I’m not in, I’m like, “Wow, everybody crushed it. This is all flowing together so nicely.” It’s been a pleasure to watch and shoot.
MM: Can you tease anything for the rest of the season? What can we expect going in?
MVP: You can expect us to try and get ready for the Assessment. The main thing we’re pushing for is to make it through that. I’m excited about Wednesdays. Wednesdays are my new Fridays. Every episode has awesome stuff in it. Seeing what resonates with the viewers is also interesting because everybody has their viewpoint.
MM: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Mandela!
MVP: Thank you, Melody!
Reginald the Vampire airs new episodes every Wednesday at 10/9c on your Syfy affiliate.
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