KRISTIN Kreuk immediately understood the difference.
Since wrapping up her eight years on Smallville (2001- 2009), the actress had played a recurring role on Chuck (2010) and appeared in such indie films as Vampire (2011) and Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy (2011). Now, by signing on for the CW series Beauty and the Beast, which debuted on October 11, she was making herself the public face of the show. For the first time in her career, she would be in nearly every scene and be No 1 on the call sheet.
“I don’t know if I realised how much work it would be,” Kreuk admits, laughing. “I thought I was ready, and it’s been amazing. It’s been wonderful and challenging. Being a lead on an hourlong weekly is ... a lot of stuff. I have a lot of responsibility and a lot of fun things to do.
“It’s kind of amazing, actually, to be No 1 on the call sheet,” she continues.
“I get to be privy to a lot of what goes on. I get to know everyone pretty well, and I get to have a say and be able to shape the direction of at least my character, to a large degree, and that feels amazing.
“I also kind of like the responsibility of setting a tone on set,” Kreuk adds.
“That’s something that I enjoy. It’s also a little bit stressful in some ways, having the responsibility of that. I’m not in every scene, actually, thank goodness, but many of them.” The new show airs on Thursdays on the CW network, which recently ordered three additional scripts, a sign that the network believes in its freshman series. Beauty and the Beast in many ways resembles the series of the same name that ran from 1987 to 1990 and starred Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman as, respectively, New York district attorney Catherine Chandler and Vincent-the Beast. The new version casts Kreuk as Catherine Chandler, a New York cop, and Jay Ryan as Vincent Keller-the Beast.
The big differences between the old show and the new show include the fact that Vincent can go Hulk-like, full-out beast, but most of the time looks like a handsome guy with a nasty scar.
Perlman’s beast looked beastly all the time, thanks to layers of prosthetics and makeup. Also, the old series took its time pairing Catherine and Vincent, while the new incarnation seems likely to get them together far sooner.
Speaking by telephone from the show’s set in Toronto, Kreuk – who will turn 30 in December – admits that the original series was before her time.
“I hadn’t seen the original series because I missed it a little, age-wise,” she says. “I did watch a bit of it when I was seriously considering doing this version. This is so different, I think, from the version they did, but the concept was so sweet, and Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman were such wonderful actors.
“What I love about our show is that Catherine and Vincent are two people who are quite broken, and that through love and through caring about each other, they heal,” she says. “Each of them sees aspects in the other that they may not like or that they consider to be beastly about themselves, and that’s what Catherine loves about Vincent and what Vincent loves about Catherine.
“Vincent and Catherine do really acknowledge that they have feelings for each other early on,” Kreuk continues, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s possible for them to bridge the gap. So I don’t know how quickly it will move along, and I think it’s important that it doesn’t move too quickly, because you’ve got to have somewhere to go.” Kreuk says that she genuinely likes Catherine as a character.
“Catherine has gone through a certain amount of trauma, with her mom being murdered, but she also had a very typical childhood,” Kreuk says.
“She had parents who stayed together, and a sister, and it was all fun until she was a young adult and her mom died.
So she’s got elements of being able to play in her life, but she’s sometimes emotionally repressed, hiding her hurt and still trying to figure out what happened to her mom.” Of course Mrs Chandler’s demise will factor heavily in the show’s ongoing mythology. That’s a given. It also should surprise absolutely no one if Mrs Chandler’s death and Keller’s descent into bestiality turn out to be connected somehow.
“Catherine made her mom into this wonderful, amazing woman who could only do good and was a victim,” the actress says. “That life was taken from her, and it’s an injustice, and she’s going to bring justice to the world. She’s really taken that on and, as we get to know her better and get to know the stories better, she’ll realise that all of that might not be true.
“But I love that she’s tough and that she’s driven and also very vulnerable, as well as kind of funny and sarcastic,” Kreuk concludes. “She has all these elements to her that I adore.”