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    Following in the tradition of launching strong female characters in science fiction genre shows like Being Human, Lost Girl, and Continuum, SyFy is about to launch another: Bitten. I had the good fortune to sit in on a conference call today with star Laura Vandervoort, who plays Elena, and the Kelley Armstrong who wrote the series of books that the show is based on. What follows is a quick summary of some of the conversation. A complete transcript will be up in a day or two. You can also check back for my preview of the first episode which will also be appearing before the series premiere on SyFy on Monday, January 13 at 10pm.

    The show is filmed in Canada with a largely predominant Canadian cast and Armstrong is also a Canadian. If you too are Canadian, you can see the first episode on Space two days earlier. The episode will air on Saturday, January 11 at 9pm ET and 6pm PT.

    What follows is not a word for word synopsis of the call, but my quick notes. As always, Q = question; LV = Laura Vandervoort; KA = Kelley Armstrong.

Q: Kelley, you’re listed on IMDb as the writer of “unknown” episodes. Have you written any or will you be writing some in the future?
KA: I haven’t written any, but may write some in the future.

Q: What inspired the story?
 KA:Many years ago, I was in a writing group and watched an episode of The X-Files. It was about the traditional werewolf. A big guy gets bitten and goes on a rampage, turning into a monster. I thought that’s not how I would do it, and essentially wrote the opposite as a short story for my writing group.

Q: How does Bitten compare to Being Human or Teen Wolf?
KA: Our werewolves are down to earth and as realistic as possible. When they change, they’re no different than a typical wolf. They have the same hair color and eyes as when they’re human. The story was written in the ‘90’s so, I didn’t have to worry about other similar stories. No one knew how to sell a story back then about werewolves who weren’t bad. I use a lot of folklore, but put it in a contemporary context so these wolves could have existed with no one knowing for centuries. This show is more for adults than shows aimed at teenagers or a younger audience.

Q: Is there an innate sense of connection between members of the pack?
KA: When I was creating the werewolves, I based them on a real wolf pack. Their bond just strengthens that instinct. Elena is drawn to the idea of being in a tight knit group. There’s nothing supernatural about it.

Q: How much influence did you have on the show? Has the show stuck with the books? Has anything surprised you about the adaptations?
KA: I had no influence, and I felt that was the correct amount. They were reconstructing the story for another medium. I’d spent too much time in Elena’s head and the story needed to be seen by new eyes. I was thrilled with the early scripts and the great writing. I didn’t have any concerns with the adaptation and John Barbisan (executive producer) reassured me at every step. It’s a lot of fun to see what the other characters are doing because the books are told in first person from Elena’s point of view, so of course, you don’t see anything that she doesn’t see.

Q: Laura, what drew you to the part? What do you like about playing this role?
LV: I relate to a lot of Elena. That she’s strong and can take care of herself and isn’t afraid to put the boys in their place when she needs to. I like the martial arts. There is an epic fight coming up in the finale. There is an animalistic side to the fighting which our terrific fight coordinator brings in. I was offered the part from John Barbisan and was drawn to t he flawed but strong character.

Q: Tell us about Elena...
KA: The creation of Elena goes way back. I wanted to create a character who was a werewolf and uncomfortable with that, but who would eventually embrace it. She comes to accept that what you think you should be is not always what you should actually be.
LV: She’s pushing the animal inside herself down so she can be everything for everyone else. I had no idea at first where they were going, but it’s very layered. It’s all about family and the characters; it’s not just about the supernatural. Elena has always wanted a family. The pack isn’t the family she envisioned for herself, but it’s still her family.

Q:Talk about the special effects.
LV: That’s a wonderful part of the show. It’s mainly all CGI, so the VFX team does it all. Some of them worked on Life of Pi – need the tiger’s hair and so forth. We don’t have long hours in the makeup chair because we don’t use prosthetics.

Q: Has this been a challenging role/how does it compare to your other roles?
LV:This has been my most challenging role. It’s my first time as the lead on a show, and I’ve invested a lot of myself in the character. There was pressure to play Supergirl on Smallville, but there was no room for interpretation. As Lisa on V, I was a minor character in season one and they expanded my role as the show progressed. With Bitten, I fell in love with this character for the first time in my career. Elena is a colorful character! I was able to have lots of input. She’s sad and she’s layered and she’s not perfect. There was pressure on me to be in every scene, every day, and I tried to do all the stunts. There was a real parallel with Elena entering the pack and Laura entering the show, and we’re both trying to earn our place in this group of people.

Q: What is Elena’s relationship like with the werewolf that changed her?
LV: SPOILER! I can’t answer that!
KA: It’s “difficult”...

Q: In the books Elena suffers a lot of abuse...
KA: You have to pile a lot on this type of character! Her overriding need is for family and acceptance. She’s bounced around the foster system. The pack isn’t the family she’s grown up expecting she’d have but it’s the one she has. I have a degree in psychology and I use that background.

Q: Who are your female action role models?
LV: Buffy the movie and the tv show. They were what got me into martial arts. The Alien movies. As actors, people like Meryl Streep.

Q: Have you read the books?
LV: I’ve read Bitten, the first novel. Then I went off the scripts and drew on myself. I think we’re fairly true to the books.

Q: Werewolves seem to eat an awful lot – how do you like that?
LV: The producers love seeing Elena eat on screen. She stress eats. Plus she has to hide how much she eats from her boyfriend. I’m like, you want me to be naked to change AND you want me to eat all the time...

Remember to look for my preview coming up in a few days as well as the full transcript of this interview. Bitten premieres on Space  on Saturday, January 11 at 9pm ET and 6pm PT and on SyFy on Monday, January 13 at 10pm.

Update: 9th January 2014 Below is the full transcript.

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