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An Interview with Carmilla’s Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis

Carmilla, a web series based off a gothic novella, took the Internet by storm when it was first released in 2014. For two seasons, it’s filled a genre gap in television where sexuality is tinted by strong characters and progressive storylines. It’s proven to be just what the LGBTQ+ community needed, as creampuffs watched a realistic and genuine relationship grow between Laura Hollis (Elise Bauman) and Carmilla Karnstein (Natasha Negovanlis).

Before Carmilla’s last season premier, Bauman and Negovanlis took the time to talk season three with us. What began as lust in season one grew into love in season two, but what’s going to happen in season three?

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One of the greatest hallmarks of this series is all of these great pop culture references. I’d love to hear a little bit about what you’d be able to tease or share about some of your favorites.

Natasha- There are definitely a lot of Harry Potter references, and the whole season itself feels a little “Hogwarts-esque,” with us being in the magical library. Very cute Harry Potter references….

Elise- We have some fun props this year where Laura is stuck in the library with nothing to do, no crazy mystery to solve. She gets a bit bored and just starts extreme crafting and has some fun Harry Potter props she makes this year.

 

It feels like a major act of boot camp to shoot this much material in such a short amount of time. This is the third time you’ve done this- does it get any better?

Elise- (laughs) I’ve never heard it described as boot camp before but that’s such an accurate description! The way that I view it is that it’s more like sprinting as opposed to long distance running. It’s a lot in a short amount of time, but I don’t know if we’d be able to do it longer than the five days. I actually found it more challenging this year. Natasha said it really well in another interview we did. In the first season, neither of us had shot a lot before. We hadn’t done a lot of film and television. So to us, the pace felt like it was just normal. We knew it was a bit crazy, but we didn’t know any better, and we just adored it and rolled with it. It’s a year in between every time that we shoot. The first day of set is always challenging to sink back into- that extreme pace at which we film. We’ve had experiences on other sets this year where you have the luxury of having so much time, even too much time. Rolling back into that sprinting pace definitely seems like a bit more of a challenge this year for me.

Natasha- The first day was a little jarring, just because we were reminded of how much it takes. For me personally, I actually found this season much easier, just because I feel a lot more grounded in my character. I am embarrassingly organized- I’m very anal. (laughs). I have a very systematic way of remembering my lines and keeping my script organized, so it felt okay for me. I don’t know- it was nice!

 

Your show is extremely progressive in the sense that sexuality is just never really questioned, but also not even brought up. Will that be true for this upcoming season and the introduction of the father? Does the father know about Laura and Carmilla? What does it mean to the both of you to work on a show with a theme like this?

Elise- I think that’s one of my favorite aspects of the show-the sexuality isn’t in the foreground, it’s just the accepted norm, and they’re dealing with other things. I’ve always applauded the show for that, and to be a part of a series that is changing the standard for LGBTQ+ representation in media. This year we do get to delve into it a little bit more which has been exciting. With the introduction of a parent in the series, you get to see it from a different aspect than we’ve ever seen it before. Laura’s dad does know about her sexuality and is very accepting of it. That’s not where the conflict lies. It’s not about gender. It’s about “is this the right person… or vampire for you?”

Natasha- He’s more worried about the fact that Carmilla is a vampire, not the fact that she’s a girl. (laughs). He’s totally accepting. I think it’s so special to show a parent figure be very supportive, as well. I am equally as proud to work on a series that provides the voice for the LGBTQ+ community and especially LGBTQ+ youth.carmillaiii_0321

 

This is your last little bit of Carmilla. What have been some of the most fulfilling scenes for you to film?

Elise- The last six episodes of season three are some of the most special, for me. I feel like it really wraps things up so beautifully, and we really get to peer into the hearts of Laura and Carmilla. Those were so special. It was also the end of the series for us, and the last bit that we shot, so it was so emotional and was just really special to share with everyone. Some of the most fun moments are just when everyone is together- some of those big group scenes for season two and season one were just so fun. Everyone is in a little, enclosed space together and we’re working so diligently but still having so much fun together. Just getting to share the experience with all of the cast- those are definitely some special memories for me.

Natasha- The first and last day of shooting are probably the most special for me. I can’t really pick one scene over the other. Season one, the first day, was very exciting. Season three, the first day, felt like coming home. The last day shooting for all three season, I am just this giant softy. I always cry. I never forget how lucky I am to be working as an actor and working on something that is so meaningful to not only myself, but this huge community of people, so it’s super special. I always, always bawl on the last day. I’m not even a big crier but for some reason, my emotions run so high when it’s the last day.

Elise- (laughs) We’re all just so underslept and tired that we’re all like that.

Natasha- It’s just a family, a gift.

Elise- (laughs) There was one episode this season, right after lunch and we were all pretty tired, and our energy was starting to drop a little bit, Natasha, and I farted at the same time. Kaitlyn was in the middle of us. I don’t really know how to describe that moment…

Natasha- We’re just really in sync all the time!

Elise- It was really funny…

 

In season two, Mattie came into the picture. Once she came into the picture, she completely changed our perception of what Carmilla was like- from being a super broody badass to the little sister we never imagined. So with Sherman Hollis coming into the picture, can we expect a similar change with Laura this season?

Elise- Yeah, I’ve been so curious about Laura’s backstory from day one- I’ve kind of made up my own decisions as an actor. I think it’s such a gift to be able to have some insight into what Laura was like growing up, how she was raised, how that influences her view of the world, and how she navigates through situations. You definitely get to see a different side to her. She’s gone through so much change from season one to season two to season three. Parents kind of represent holding onto childhood, and a big part of growing up is letting them go and allowing your parents to let you go as well. I think that’s what Laura is going through this season- standing alone in the world, knowing her father loves her, but also, realizing she has to let him go.

 

How do you feel about the footprint and impact you’re leaving in regards to representation and inclusion? Your series has been at the forefront of everything. It’s been such a gift with the creampuffs, getting to feel like you relate to these characters and identify.

Natasha- It’s such a gift, and it’s something I never take for granted- especially as actors who are still establishing ourselves in the world. You take what you can get and don’t always have the opportunity to work on something with such an impact and such social responsibility. Sometimes the pressure can be intense, but I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else. It means a lot to me. It’s a community I am personally apart of, and it’s a show that I hold very close to my heart.

Elise- You talk about the “footprint” that we leave behind, and with the series coming to a close, what I really hope we can accomplish is to inspire other people to create their own projects. One of the most amazing things about this web series is that it’s made without a massive budget. What it really boils down to is: “do you have a good story?” And “can you tell that story with heart?” That’s all you need to make something have an impact on people, so I hope that other people are inspired to keep making their own footprints in the world, even if they don’t think they have the resources.

Natasha- Even if that’s not with film or a web series, it’s been really cool to inspire our fans to create in general. We’ve received wonderful fan art and songs and poems and it’s just really cool to be inspiring to create, in any capacity.

 

This is a classic pre-victorian vampire novella that was updated into something more 21st century. The original Carmilla was the expression of males fearing female sexuality, a fear of a gay woman, to the point where she had to die. This happened with every single gothic novel that has anything to do with female sexuality. Carmilla takes a modern look at LBGTQ+ and feminism to correct that original assumption, combines it with tons of geeky literary references. It’s progressive and funny and entertaining. I want to get your take on this.

Elise- Wow, I think you said that really well! You can just pretend that I said that! (laughs)

Natasha- We just feel really lucky. We owe all the credit to our writers- I can’t take credit for what she’s created with all of those references. She’s really awesome.

 

carmillaiii_1422Laura did a lot of talking these past two seasons. When Laura isn’t talking, Carmilla is always sitting in the background reading a book. Was that in the script or was that something you decided on?

Natasha- (laughs) No, that was not in the script. Something that has been drilled into my brain ever since I was a young teenager in musical theater is that you always have to be present in a scene. I always just try to fit in my character and give her things to do. I had a director in musical theater school that used to watch everyone in the background. She said, “no matter how big your part was, you always had to stay present.” I think that’s just an old theater trick. Audiences, sometimes, start to look at what’s happening in the background. I think that comes from my experience and improv training, and just living in your character. I didn’t really put a lot of thought into it- I was just Carmilla, and I thought how she would be.

 

Carmilla and Laura have obviously been through a lot, more than most college students. In the last episode of season two, Laura is struggling with a lot of guilt. Is she going to blame Carmilla for this guilt she feels and cause tension or will it make Laura realize how much they would both risk to save one another and bring them closer together?

Elise- I talked a lot about this with Steph, our producer, and Spencer, our director, before we went into season three. I felt like Laura was starting to mope a little bit towards the end of season two and I think that’s a pretty natural thing to go through. Making a mistake, you don’t necessarily want to sit with that mistake. You want to run away from that. Just like denial. For Laura to go from “I’m right. I’m right. I’m right.” Through season two, to then blame yourself exclusively is the exact same thing. Blaming yourself and moping isn’t taking responsibility. In season three, Laura starts to accept that she’s fallible and makes mistakes, just like everyone else on the planet. She’s not a bad person because of that, but she has choices. I think we start to see her growing out of the “I can’t blame other people. I can’t blame myself. I have to live with this.” I think some of the tension is relieved between the two of them.

 

A lot of the action takes place off-screen. How do you and the rest of your cast mates generate the same energy and excitement when you film the scenes after the big battles?

Natasha- I think we all have pretty vivid imaginations, and that really helps. We’re professional pretenders in a way. Part of being an actor is being truthful and living it truthfully, but a huge part of it is being a creative person. The exciting thing about season three is there’s quite a lot of action on camera this season. It was definitely exciting.

Elise- I think everyone is equally invested in believing 100% that this is the world that exists and no questions asked. It’s kind of the charm of the show, too. All of the characters have a moment of, “Wow, there’s vampires here, there’re weird mushrooms growing around campus,” but it’s accepted pretty readily. I think that adds to the quirk of the show. We, as the actors, decided this was the magical world we were going to live in while we were filming, and just believed it.

 

So no play fighting between scenes?

Elise-(laughs) Well, I mean….

 

The biggest change for creampuffs is that this is dropping in three acts. We feel like it’s coming a lot sooner than we all expected. What would you say to the fans who are somber about it coming to an end?

Elise- (starts singing…)

Natasha- We can cut that out… (laughs)

Elise- We just have to appreciate that we can have this experience together. I think a lot of people met some awesome friends that are going to last for the rest of their lives, and all the lessons that were learned, the acceptance of ourselves- those are things that will be present in your life forever. The series is coming to a close, but we can bring everything that we loved about the series into the rest of our lives. Myself included.

Natasha- Once something is on the internet, it’ll be there forever. It’s weird because the last day of shooting was really emotional for us but at the same time, it doesn’t really feel like it’s over. We do have the opportunity to still do fan events and meet people and press is coming up, and NYCC is coming up, so it doesn’t really feel over. It’s something we’re all going to carry with us for a long time. It’s something that none of us will ever forget.

 

The setting always seems like it’s another character. How’s the library going to change things this season?

Natasha- The library is especially magical. I’d say this season; the library is a very important character. In fact, some of the characters, like Carmilla, actually talk to the library. I can’t give away any spoilers, but I can tell you that there’s actually some conversation with the set.

Elise- There are some fun surprises with the set throughout the season, as well, which we can’t spoil right now. Keep your eyes peeled.

 

Season one was about infatuation. Season two was about dealing with a realistic relationship, falling out of love, but coming back together again. What can you tell us about where the relationship is in season three?

Elise- I’ve said it before that season one is falling in love, season two is finding those parts about the other person that you maybe didn’t expect to be in that person. It’s not the person you thought it would be, or envisioned yourself with. There’s a bit of resistance to that. You want them to fit into this little box that you have them in when you first met them- you just want to stay there. Season two blows that up a little bit. It’s important to see that. In the main media, you only see the falling in love part in film. All these epic love stories- Romeo and Juliet, you don’t get to see that because they die, you don’t get to see their day-to-day relationship. You see the initial falling in love, but the story ends after the first kiss. But what happens after that? That’s a lifetime of trials and tribulations and mistakes. Season three is about that deeper level- recognizing that this person might not be who you envisioned spending the rest of your life with and that there’s going to be heartache within love, and challenges, and that it’s work. It’s so important to see that love isn’t just fairytales and happy endings. A happy ending is figuring out how to coexist with someone and knowing you’re different people with challenges to work through.

Natasha- I like that you said infatuation instead of love. My perspective on season one wasn’t really love or true love- it was infatuation, in my opinion. It was lust at first sight. It was lust and new feelings and confusion. In season three, you do see the love part and what that means, and it’s not just shallow attraction- love can also be a friendship and partnership. Carmilla realizes that it was an infatuation, but then she does come to love Laura, in the true sense.

 

Will fans be happy with the ending of season three?

Elise-(laughs) I don’t see how anyone could be disappointed in this season. I feel like I fell in love with the series. It’s always had a special place in my heart but this year. I am so proud of what we created this year.

Natasha- I hope they’ll be happy with it. The Internet has taught me you can never please everyone. Some people might not like it, but I think most people will! I hope they will! Elise and I are both in love with it.carmillaiii_0089

 

What have you guys learned from each other over the course of these series?

Elise- A big theme this year is that it’s better to do things together. Despite being scared, it’s better to go to that deeper level of love. Laura and Carmilla have a lot of frustrations with each other in season two, and a lot of that comes from being scared at what they have. That’s something that I brought into my life this year. Something that’s in the script for season three is, “love is worth the risk.” I’m starting to live my life that way, and I think getting to go through that scene with an actor as open and honest as Natasha, I really got to feel that this year. So, kudos to Natasha.

Natasha- Well, thank you! I feel the same way. I’m so impressed with the amount of growing that you’ve done, Elise. It’s been really cool to watch you, and you’re such an aspiring actor, and I’ve learned a lot about acting and that process from Elise. She can be a little stubborn like Laura… It’s been really nice to surrender to each other. Much like Carmilla were assigned to live in the same dorm room, we were assigned to each other and maybe wouldn’t have engaged with each other and not worked together. We’re very different, but we also have very common goals and we’re both very passionate. So just finding similarities has allowed us to have a much deeper connection. We’re just very honest with each other. That’s something we both learned- it’s so much better to say things right away, to communicate. That’s the biggest thing. Before we shoot things, we always make sure we meet up and check in with each other.

 

What things do you want people to keep in mind about your characters? What do people need to remember?

Elise- People were upset with Laura last year… Reading the script, I was frustrated with her… I think one of the most important things to remember is that these stories in film and television are out there so people can learn and grow from that. I would say to go into the third season with an open heart, willing to see yourself in every character and willing to watch it going, “what can I learn from this? What can these characters teach me?” And “what did I not know about myself before watching this show?”

Natasha- Not everything is black and white. In life, there are a lot of gray areas. Despite the fact that Carmilla is an ancient being, she was once a human with a lot of human like qualities. Part of being human is making mistakes. I think the big thing is not to put either character on a pedestal.

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