Royalty and political infighting are two critical elements in a good fantasy storyline. They are also crucial elements in the new Peacock series “Vampire Academy.”
Starring J. August Richards, Sisi Stringer, Anita-Joy Uwajeh and a talented collective of actors, “Vampire Academy” explores a world of vampires existing outside the view of humans. The vampires in “Vampire Academy” aren’t hiding in the shadows waiting to snag dinner.
Known for roles in “The Temptations” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” Richards famously played vampire hunter Charles Gunn on “Angel.” Now he’s finally getting a chance to explore his inner prince of darkness as royal Moroi vampire Victor Dashkov.
“Every generation has the quintessential vampires,” Richards told NewsOne. “And for me being Gen X, it was the ‘Lost Boys.’ So ever since then, I’ve always wanted to play a vampire.”
Richards said it was “amazing” playing Victor, a royal passionate about equity and justice. A member of the queen’s council, Victor, is a reformer working behind the scenes to expand opportunities for non-royal vampires.
Stringer, who plays Rose, a vampire-human hybrid Dhampir guardian, told NewsOne the show explores several themes beyond the traditional good and evil dichotomy.
“We have a system of multiple different types of vampires, which I like, as well as having a sort of insular dominion,” she said. “Things are explored with the difference in types of vampires and as it relates to class, good and evil, servitude and things like that.”
Uwajeh’s character Tatiana completely shakes things up with her play for power in the royal court.
“This vampire world is like no other in the sense that it exists in its own world,” Uwajeh said. “We are not hiding from humans. We have our own existence that we are exploring and sharing with people who come to watch this show.”
Shot on location in Spain, the centuries-old venues add another layer to the story.
“The costume design is absolutely amazing,” Stringer said. “We didn’t have any blue screens. Everything was there in the castles, the forest, the monastery, all that stuff.”
“Vampire Academy” is also one of the latest shows featuring a diverse cast that isn’t just a sprinkle of color for good measure. Richards said it is one of the first times in the life span of his career that the “weight of representation” doesn’t rest solely on him.
“When I first started in my career, being a series regular on a television show, I was generally the only person of color in the cast,” he explained. “Right here I am sitting with these two amazing Black women, women of color, and we’re not even the only cast members of color.”
Uwajeh echoed Richards’s sentiment about the authentic diversity of the show.
“Often people say they want people to see themselves, but they don’t follow through,” Uwajeh said. “And I feel like this show is going there to the nth degree.”
You can catch the first five episodes streaming now on Peacock. New episodes air weekly on Thursdays.