While we wait for the new season of Bitten to begin airing on Syfy, I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with the talented Greg Bryk, who plays Pack alpha, Jeremy Danvers. Greg is best known for his work in A History Of Violence (2005), and The Incredible Hulk (2008), but he is truly a renaissance man and takes his talents far beyond acting.
His wife is a well known interior designer in Canada, and together they had a show on HGTV called “Family Under Construction.” Bryk has many years of experience to draw from when playing the paternal Jeremy Danvers. Fellow cast member, Laura Vandervoort [Elena Danvers] described Greg as an “amazing dad and amazing man.” A father to three, Greg describes himself as a “PTA dad” that plays monsters. Starting his acting career in 1998 with a TV movie called “Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Families,” Bryk has since appeared in more than 20 films (with two more currently in post-production, for release this year), as well as around 40 different TV series.
Bryk definitely had some great things to say about Bitten and some good “behind the scenes” information as well.
Den of Geek: The ubiquitous question that has to be asked first; Do you consider yourself a geek in any way?
Greg Bryk: Well, I mean, my kids would definitely consider me a geek in almost every way, sadly. And I’m sure some of the younger cast members would sort of echo that. You know, as you get older, you really try to stay, if not current, at least aware of what’s happening around you. I’m well versed in the pop culture phenomenon with the comic books and super heroes because I’ve got sons that are that age and I’m a one step removed fan of the genres. But I keep my geek hidden
Now, there’s no reason for that!
That’s true. And you know, at one time it was such a pejorative term, but I’ve been really fortunate to get to spend a little bit of time at some conventions over the last couple of years, and I find the degree of passion, and intelligence and acceptance in that community is truly a beacon that we could learn [as a society] a lot from. Because you have people that are fiercely passionate about whatever it is they’re passionate about, but they are completely accepting of everybody else’s views, everybody else’s interests, and there’s this incredible coming together at these conventions that really, I find admirable.
I was looking through some other interviews that you’ve done, and in one you mentioned that you’ve read the back story for Jeremy (from The Men of The Otherworld), but have you read any of the other books in the series since then?
Well, you know, it was important for me to get a sense of who these people were, and at the same time I like to discover, fresh, what’s happening with the television series, because there are some differences, obviously. Different mediums, they have different requirements and different demands. And even though we very much honor the source material for who these people are and the spirit of what Kelly [Armstrong] created, for me it’s not pertinent. I need to deal with the reality that’s created by Daegan [Fryklind] and the rest of the writers on the Bitten TV show, so the homework was figuring out how I could best become this guy. And it was a really adventurous process for me, and I think that I’ve become a better person by trying to embody some of the qualities that Jeremy brings to the Pack and to the story. But after that, my homework and my work is to make what’s happen on the screen and in our world as vivid and compelling and honest and possible.
An understandable reasoning. I actually hadn’t gotten the chance to read any of the books until I recently picked up the first one. Something that I find funny is that the book is based near Syracuse, NY, and I’m actually from Syracuse. I’ve lived in Upstate NY my whole life, and reading the book and the way that Kelly [Armstrong] describes Elena coming into Syracuse and going up Route 81, I’m trying to imagine in my mind where, from the description in the book, she would actually end up.
Every summer, my family drives from Toronto, along 81, past Syracuse. We go to the Jersey Shore and then into New York City for a little while, so that country is very familiar to me as well.
You said that you’ve driven 81 through Syracuse, but have you or any of the cast [that you know of] spent any considerable amount of time in the area?
I’ve spent a little bit of time in Upstate NY. Buffalo is obviously right across the lake from us in Toronto. And Albany, I’ve spent a little bit of time there. But we’re blessed with this amazing [both the set that they’ve created in the studios for us and the] location; It’s a great old house, about an hour outside of Toronto. That becomes our physical reality. A lot of actors work in a lot of different ways, but for me, what’s most important is what the reality of world is. Other than a lose familiarity with the region… it’s a fairly familiar geography for us. There’s nothing so particularly different about it. It’s not like we’re in another country or there’s a huge cultural shift or anything. I guess the werewolf is a big enough jump, so there’s not really any cultural homework that needs to be done.
In doing research, I was looking through your IMDB profile and read your quote about you raising your kids and yet playing monsters [in your roles]. And while reading through the book and going through what we have so far of season to, I was noticing that in the book, Jeremy is much more detached from Elena than in the series. Would you say that the bond that we see between Jeremy and Elena in the series, versus the tense relationship of the books, is a bit of your own personality shining through?
I think it’s a couple of things. It is definitely that I am very tactile and close with my kids, and it’s been a great joy of my life, being a father. My wife and I had our first baby when I was in theatre school, and then we had two more. So my entire artistic life has been while I’ve been a father, and that material is incredibly rich for me. And then Laura [Vandervoort], Greyston [Holt], Steve [Lund] and Michael [Xavier] become sort of like my kids to me as we’re shooting the show. My wife and I, we have the Pack over for dinner all the time, and I sort of take that role of a mentor and protector and teacher very seriously both on camera and off with them.
The thing with Jeremy is, detached is a very good description. When you’re reading a book, your imagination can fill in the subtext, while with TV, there’s needs to be a little more “connective tissue” there. It’s not that engaging to watch someone who doesn’t seem to care about anything. While in the book you have the narration, the perspective of the author, on the screen you need to see that a little bit more. Jeremy is a thousand times more restrained that Greg is: I can burn quite hot and can be very demonstrative with that. But it is a more active relationship that I have with the Pack than Jeremy. And it’s also being able to find the qualities: to be able to listen and be able to be wrong. And to apologize for being wrong is a new model of Alpha in that world where “iron fists ruled all” was the law of the land for as long as the wolves have been in existence.
And this is a more paternal balanced Pack leader, and in a way I think that I learn a lot from Elena [Laura] throughout the series. That relationship feeds both of them, and in some ways she more confident and stronger under my guidance, and I learn to be more accepting and vulnerable because of her.
Going back to you having read up on Jeremy’s background. There’s much more personal background in the book than there is in the show. In the show, we’re just thrown little bits and pieces of who Jeremy is. Do you think that that’s something that, because of the structure of a series-ed show, will come out eventually? Or do you think that the structure we’ve been given makes it not necessary to reveal those things?
It’s interesting: The back story of Jeremy is fascinating. The show made a creative departure because in the books, Jeremy’s mother is Japanese, so there’s that Asian component to his ethnicity that is not true for me. When the show was being conceived, it was going to focus solely on the werewolves, so they didn’t want to bring in the supernatural elements that are on Jeremy’s maternal side. I was aware of the mother though, and I tried to find those qualities that are ascribed to Jeremy in the books, find them in myself and bring that to the character. But the world we were in, the rules we were playing by was that it was just a wold of wolves; there was no other magic in season one. And that’s how we understood it would be going forward, so the focus was more on the dynamic between my father and I, and the incredible tension.
How I define myself in opposition to what he was. But then this season becomes not only a hunt for vengeance, but also the acceptance of that blood in myself, and instead of trying to run from that shadow side of myself, I embrace it to become a fully realized man. No matter how much we try in life, we are the echo of our parents. We can either harness that voice, that sound, and make music out of it, or create discord and really destructive impulses. You have to come to peace with it.
Now this year, they’ve also added witches. So we’ve opened the door to the supernatural and I don’t know how much more will creep in: What other supernatural elements, whether there is mention of my mother’s past, or that strain of magic. Right now I’m playing him with an internal secret where I live with what my mother was, but whether they render that in the series, that will play out as the seasons come.
That addition would definitely be interesting considering the lack of maternal roles because of the Pack dynamic.
Yeah. It’s a world of men for the most part: We take the male children from the mothers essentially killed the mothers. It’s a male dominated world, and it’s a world of imbalance as well. I believe that there are opposing and harmonizing energies in the world, and it’s not as limited as a gender. There are energies that are fluid that are at play, but they need to find a balance and I think that the pack is starting to find that it functions best when we do harmonize with each other. We each have something to contribute to a larger piece.
I know you have the first few episodes of the new season. How do you like the look of the series this season?
One of the things I appreciated most when watching and reviewing the first season was the amount of detail we got from the entire change from human to werewolf. The process being shown in more detail than you generally get. In other shows and movies, you get a clip here and there, mostly close ups of a single body part shifting. I’ve noticed, from the episodes that I’ve seen for this season, that the show has deviated from that amount of detail and has instead switched to the here and there close ups. That is kind of disappointing, but I know that in the bigger scheme of things, it’s a minor detail to most people.
I think that in season one, so much of it was about Elena and the tension between her desire for a normal human life, and the wolf within. Focusing on her surviving the first change and what the tole of being a wolf was and establishing the pack bonds and rules, but also showing the trauma of the change. In this season, I think that they felt that that part has been thoroughly established and instead added more elements that were putting those rules and those people in peril, deconstructing them, rather than focusing on what that means again. I’m not going to spoil too much, but towards the end of this season, the idea of the change is hugely prevalent. In fact, what you’re disappointed in now, you will be satisfied ten-fold going forward. It is a huge plot point in one of the episodes.
That’s good to hear since I feel like the focus on the details of human to werewolf transformation was one of the things that set Bitten apart from the rest of books, shows and movies focused on supernatural subjects. I quite enjoyed that separation.
The idea of Elena as a wolf, becoming a wolf and seeing if another wolf can be created is a big part of the story line in the later part of this season. And then, the focus becomes how we can control the change and the magic effecting that, leads us to just a terrifying end to this season. You will be entertained.
You mentioned before that you would have the Pack over for dinner and off set bonding and what not. Does that extend to just the main Pack/characters? Or are others involved as well?
We had a lot of new writers this year, so I had the producers and writers over before the season started, to have a little sit down and let them have a chance to unwind. I took care of them all for a little bit. My wife and I cooked for them and we had a chance to just spend some time with each other, socially. That was nice. But it’s primarily my Pack. When Pete and Antonio were still involved, they would also come to the house. Now it’s just a sort of “Pack night”. I get along with everyone fairly well, but the family bonds are what is most important to me as Jeremy, and me as Greg. That is a dynamic that I cultivate: The tribe, the Pack that I care about and keep together.
The new characters this season are such a large contribution to the show, and from a fan’s prospective, will do a lot in keeping the show lively.
It’s a very different show this year: The tone of the show, the look of the show. It feels kind of like a reboot in some strange way, even though we’d only done one season. The focus pivoted so dramatically from just the werewolves, to include the magic element. The magic is a huge part of the story and the world that was very carefully crafted by Daegan and J.B. [Sugar].
So there you have it, my fellow Bitten fans. I think we could all tell from what we see on screen that these actors definitely had a bond off set. But who would’ve ever thought that bond would be so close to what we see between the characters?