NBC’s “Dracula,” premiering on Friday, October 25, is shrouded in mystery. While other genre shows previewed their entire pilots at San Diego Comic-Con, “Dracula” just offered up a trailer. A planned panel at the Television Critics Association summer gathering vanished from the schedule. It’s surprising that a high-profile show starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of “The Tudors” as the Count is metaphorically being locked up in a coffin until its premiere.
Fortunately, we’ve seen the pilot episode and we’re ready to spill. Here are five things you need to know about “Dracula“:
1. Dracula Has an American Accent & Other Creative Re-imaginings. The lavishly-produced, cinematic show re-imagines many elements of the classic story. Dracula, after he is revived from a dessicated state, moves to 1891 London and assumes the identity of Alexander Grayson, an American industrialist. Yes, Meyers uses an American accent while almost everyone else is British. No, his accent is not particularly convincing, although since Dracula is also faking it, he has an excuse. In this version, Renfield (Nonso Anozie) is Dracula’s butler. His reincarnated true love Mina (Jessica De Gouw) is now a medical school student who is engaged to journalist Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who you may remember as the character infamously played by Keanu Reeves in the film. Mina’s best friend Lucy (Katie McGrath) is still a socialite who becomes infatuated with Dracula.
2. It’s Vampire “Revenge.” The last name Grayson is not the only thing that Dracula shares with “Revenge.” Dracula’s overarching mission is to destroy the Order of the Dragon, an Illuminati-like organization that has existed for centuries and is responsible for killing Dracula’s true love and turning him into a vampire. Yes, this time we’re rooting for Dracula. In a strange political subplot, the Order is determined to get control of the world’s oil production, accurately believing that it will be a source of world power in the 20th century. He is undercover as an American so he can bring them down without them realizing who he is. Unfortunately, red sharpies did not exist in 1891.
3. Dracula and Van Helsing Are Allies. One of the show’s most radical departures from the source material is the conceit that Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), usually portrayed as a vampire hunter who is Dracula’s sworn enemy, is his reluctant ally in this series. The duo are working together to take down the Order of the Dragon, which sort of makes Van Helsing the Nolan to Dracula’s Emily Thorne. In fact, Van Helsing is the one who revives Dracula. He wants to take the Order down because they murdered his family.
4. It’s an Old School, Serious Take on Vampires. “True Blood” is campy and sexy. “The Vampire Diaries” is filled with romance and teen angst. “Dracula” is far more serious and straightforward. This is a somber, earnest period piece. There is no humor or irony in the dialogue. Though Rhys-Meyers imbues Dracula with a lot of sex appeal, compared to other vampire shows, the pilot is light on both sex and graphic violence. Dracula announces his arrival in London by throwing a big party, but he doesn’t have much fun with his powers. Even when he does seduce Lucy, he seems to be going through the motions rather than actually enjoying it. This old school approach sets it apart from all of the contemporary twists on the vamp genre.
5. Dracula Impresses a Room Full of People by Inventing the Flashlight. The oddest scene in the pilot occurs at Dracula’s party. He gives each of the guests a lightbulb and, thanks to a basement full of workers manning giant steam powered machines, everyone’s bulbs light up. It’s all part of his plan to take down the Order of the Dragon by persuading the elites to use alternative energy sources, in this case “geomagnetic technology.” It’s actually a visually spectacular scene, and the irony of a vampire who embraces light is interesting. He’s not just a vampire. He’s an environmentalist, even if it is for selfish reasons.
“Dracula” premieres Friday Oct. 25 at 10/9c on NBC.