Like most, I first fell for Famke Janssen as the bone and ball busting Xenia Onatopp in 1995's GoldenEye. Since then, it's been endlessly exciting watching the leggy brunette cut a swath through Hollywood in a wide variety of films. But her genre work (from The Faculty to the X-Men series) has been the most exhilarating, which is why I'm doubly excited for her turn in the Netflix original, Hemlock Grove.
Eli Roth's gothic thriller (developed by Brian McGreevy & Lee Shipman) revolves around the eccentric residents of a dilapidated former Pennsylvania steel town and the murder of 17-year-old Brooke Bluebell.
Janssen can also be seen in this month's Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters as one of the tracked titular monsters; a film that provided her with the biggest test of her professional career. ETonline sat down with Janssen at The Television Critics Association Tour in Pasadena, CA earlier this week to talk about both roles, and whether or not X-Men fans can expect her to board Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past.
ETonline: What appealed to you about Hemlock Grove?
Famke Janssen: [The producers] wanted to give it a Twin Peaks feel, which is how they got me. They had me at Twin Peaks, because it's the only time I've ever watched television. What I liked about that show, and what I think is comparable to Hemlock, is that it's non-linear. Nothing wraps up neatly. Nothing is ever fully explained. There are so many unsolved cases and mysteries throughout; that drew me towards wanting to be a part of this.
ETonline: What did you like about your character, the very powerful Olivia Godfrey?
Janssen: I like the mystery of her, and she remains mysterious throughout. I don't like repetition. I was very aware of not wanting to go into territory I've already explored [which is] hard with 20 years of acting, particularly because everyone kind of gets typecast anyway. But I didn't want to re-do anything. Especially Nip/Tuck, because I felt like that is the most similar to this. Don't get me wrong, I loved [Ava Moore, her Nip/Tuck character], but there were specific things I wanted to do to get away from comparisons. Like speak in a very intentional dialect.
ETonline: Were you looking to do television, or did this experience feel more like a 13-hour movie anyway?
Janssen: For me, it's perfect. I don't come from television, I don't want to go to television, every time people talk about me ding a TV show I want to run the other way. This feels like new territory [and] there's no looming corporation over our heads giving us notes. That felt great.
ETonline: You took three years off to make Bringing Up Bobby and then went into Hansel and Gretel, Taken 2 and Hemlock Grove. Was it nice to turn off the producer side of your brain after getting Bobby made?
Janssen: Yeah, although, ironically, Hansel has me in full-on prosthetic makeup, which took 3 hours every day. It's like going from having full control and being the queen of a film to being strapped down with makeup and toxins being applied to you. It was a rude awakening.
ETonline: I always imagined that the prosthetic process has to be painfully arduous for actors.
Janssen: I really had trouble with it. They were working on my hands and nails and face at the same time, so I tried everything [to pass the time]. My boyfriend got me an iPad so I could play The New York Times crossword puzzle, but I couldn't because my hands were stuck. And then I couldn't have my dog around me because I didn't want him around the toxins ... and no one wanted to be around me because I was so ugly [laughs]. I'm glad I got to do it because it was a really fascinating process.
ETonline: How so?
Janssen: Other than seeing yourself transform into something, [you] have to rely on an entire new set of skills. I couldn't really rely on my face because of the prosthetics, or my eyes because I had contacts in -- I was full-on glued together. I didn't even have my teeth. And so much of the makeup was doing the work for me because it's so scary, so I didn't know how much acting I needed to do. How much is too much? It was an interesting way of re-approaching acting.
ETonline: Given what you said about not liking to repeat yourself, I'm curious, does that mean you don't want to reprise the role of Jean Grey in Bryan Singer's new X-Men movie, which is bringing back Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan?
Janssen: Oh, I've just become a full on whore at this point because I need money [laughs]. Right now, everything I've ever said goes out the window. I would love to come back in every X-Men movie anyone ever wanted to make, I'll play every character I've ever played again and again. Rounders 2? Bring it on. Whatever we can think of...
ETonline: At the end of the day, what is it that you want people to take away from Hemlock Grove?
Janssen: That it's its own thing. I'm never very keen on boxing things in. That's why my entire 20 years as an actor, I've tried to come out of my box -- but I'm giving that up. I'm crawling right back in there and becoming a whore [laughs]. Boxed in whore. Prostitute. Whatever you want to call it. I think Hansel and Gretel is a very good example of [redefining genres]. It's a fairytale that everyone has grown up with, but they've reinvented it. We constantly have to reinvent every genre because audiences have become so sophisticated, so you constantly have to find ways of reaching people. I'm hoping Hemlock Grove can do that. Can be its own thing and redefine what people expect from this genre.
Hemlock Grove premieres April 19 on Netflix, while Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters opens January 25.