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Amid all of its horror-centric tone and demonic imagery, Helstrom is apparently a much deeper and more relatable story than one would expect. That is what the cast and showrunner of the upcoming Hulu original series based on a Marvel comic assured during their virtual Comic-Con panel on Friday, July 24, 2020.
Set to premiere on Hulu on October 16, 2020 and based on a dark comic called Son of Satan, Helstrom follows siblings Daimon (Tom Austen) and Ana Helstrom (Sydney Lemmon), the children of a serial killer (Elizabeth Marvel) who seems to be more than she appears, as they work together to rid the world of its most powerful evils. In a conversation with IGN reporter Laura Prudom as moderator, executive producer Paul Zbyszewski and the rest of the main cast dish on what this series, which has loose connections to the MCU, came to mean to them on a personal level.
Not to mention, a few Easter Eggs, chilling behind-the-scenes stories, and other fun things about what to expect from Helstrom were teased during the interview. Learn all about that and more with these eight intriguing things we picked up on during this panel for SDCC At Home.
Showrunner Paul Zbyszewski Knew From One Panel Of The Source Material What He Wanted Helstrom To Be
Marvel Studios’ adaptations really stand out for having a rich and unique understanding of its characters beneath their costumes, and Paul Zbyszewski is a prime example of that. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. producer revealed that one illustration from a comic focused on the hero of Son of Satan convinced him to make Helstrom, stating:
In Marvel Spotlight #13, there's this one specific panel in an issue written by Gary Friedrich, penciled by Herb Trimpe, and Herb drew this panel where its Daimon Hellstrom in his full on red cape and his pentagram on his bare chest. He's in his mother's library, and his mother has passed. He's reading her diary and sort of learning his origin story through this book that his mother wrote.
In this panel, he's sitting there and there's tears streaming down his face. I looked at that and I went, I kind of know all I need to know about this entire story in that panel. Even though there's crazy fire, supernatural, and all the cool Marvel of it all, it was rooted in emotion and emotion I can understand. So I gravitated to that and went, I think I know what's going on here. That's what pulled me into it.
Appropriate that a show about being a hellspawn is rooted in deeply emotional drama. Of course, Helstrom will not be without its horror, which apparently was a frequent on-set occurrence.
Sydney Lemmon And Elizabeth Marvel Claim Having Real “Run-ins With Spirits” Filming Helstrom
Moderator Laura Prudom asked the panel if they ever felt “creeped out” while filming Helstrom, to which on-screen mother and daughter Sydney Lemmon and Elizabeth Marvel chimed in about the “totally, straight-up haunted” hospital set, as Marvel described it. Lemmon claimed that the location only made “having run-ins with spirits and things from different dimensions and spooky signs written in dust on the floor” just for the show all the more terrifying, and Marvel added that an odd energy was felt “the moment you cross the threshold of the place.” Coincidentally, the actress, who plays convicted killer Victoria Helstrom, caused one of the biggest scares on-set.
Elizabeth Marvel’s “Vocal Warmup” Was Mistaken For A Bear On The Helstrom Set
One of the elements of Helstrom that much of the cast, and the panel moderator, loved talking about is the creepy voice that Elizabeth Marvel created for her character. Apparently, it was especially startling for some unwitting crew members, as the former House of Cards star claimed the following:
The crew thought I was a bear that got onto the set. Literally. Two security guys had to come into the cast tent because they thought I was a bear… It was my vocal warmup.
Sounds like Helstrom was full of surprises even for the people working on it. A later moment during the interview revealed a surprise that fans of the Son of Satan comic were in for.
Robert Wisdom Hinted At An Easter Egg Regarding His Helstrom Character
Robert Wisdom said there was little opportunity to study the original source material to prepare for his role in Helstrom as Caretaker. Paul Zbyszewski then claimed that was more helpful to the reinvention of the character than “the image of a guy with a big, ol’ floppy hat whacking people over the head with a shovel,” which is much like how Sam Elliot’s portrayal in 2007’s Ghost Rider movie depicted him.
Wisdom, who most recently starred on period crime drama The Alienist, responded to that with the reveal that he will be seen in the first episode with a shovel as a nod to Caretaker, one of the many “Easter Eggs” fans should expect to see in the series, but the only one called out specifically thus far.
Why Helstrom Is A Family Story
While Helstrom promises to be a frightening and action-packed spectacle, the most frequently discussed element of the series during the interview was the theme of family, which every member of the panel had a reason to vouch for. Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon dished on their dysfunctional sibling dynamic while hunting demons and the childhood burdens they have overcome in the series.
June Carryl spoke more cryptically about the “maternal bond” her character, Dr. Louis Hastings, shares with Daimon, while Ariana Guerra describes her demon hunter character Gabriella Rosetti as someone who, at first, is at odds with Daimon, before realizing he is someone who is hurt and “really loves his mom.” Speaking of which, Elizabeth Marvel also went deep into how she prepared to play a creepy convict.
Elizabeth Marvel Took Inspiration From Addiction, Anthony Hopkins Form Her Helstrom Performance
Elizabeth Marvel credits Anthony Hopkins as inspiration for the physicality of her role (which, while she never specifies what performance she lifted from, we can only speculate that she based her imprisoned killer character off of Hannibal Lecter). Psychologically, however, the actress looked to a real and serious issue to inform the role’s more devilish characteristics and how that relates to her onscreen children, explaining that in the following:
A door that helped me a lot was looking through the lens of addiction. Although, that is not the story. It’s not a story of addiction. But it is a story of a mother who loves her children and, yet, is overtaken by something out of her control and that separates her from her love… So, her children never know who they’re dealing with. Are they dealing with the loving mother or are they dealing with the monster? That is something that is often the story of children of alcoholics or drug addicts.
Elizabeth Marvel is not the only cast member who looked to a real-world topic to help develop their performance. In fact, Alain Uy has a particular personal connection to this character on Helstrom.
Alain Uy’s Sister Helped Him Prepare For His Helstrom Role
True Detective star Alain Uy talks about his character, Chris Yen, having a strong bond with Sydney Lemmon’s character Ana Helstrom from growing up in a foster home together. During the Comic-Con interview, he cites his own sister, who has experience working with foster children, as being very helpful to better understand his character. He used her insight into how children in these sorts of situations are able to endure different forms of trauma into his performance, also relating that to the connection between his and Lemmon’s characters.
Tom Austen Teased A Twist Halfway Through Season One Of Helstrom
To wrap-up the interview, the panelists riffed on what fans should expect to see in Helstrom, from Paul Zbyszewski’s teasing of additional Easter Eggs that comic book readers will love to June Carryl’s tip-toeing over spoilers by just praising the talents of her fellow cast members. The juiciest tidbit of information that, impressively, still does not spoil too many details, came from Tom Austen, who dropped this description:
Really, I’m most excited for people to see the second half of the season. Because, we read each episode just before we were about to film it and, by about Episode 5 or 6, you think you know the world that we’re in. You think you understand who these people are and, then, very quickly, you find out that you actually haven’t got a clue what is going on. Everything flips on its head and I’m really excited to see how people respond to that.
This was followed immediately by Alain Uy’s supposed reveal of whatever Tom Austen had been insinuating. Of course, we cannot know for sure what he said as he appeared to have bleeped himself purely to just poke fun at spoiler-paranoia, a well-known major concern for the people at Marvel. What we can safely assume, based on this interview, is how proud the cast and producer of Helstrom apparently feel for this series and that the sense of family that they claim the show is rooted from seems reflect what they have become to each other offscreen as well.