What, No Coffin? Dracula's Lair Gets a Modern Twist in NBC's New Drama

6:00 AM PST 10/11/2013 by Cathy Whitlock
David Lukacs/NBC

The count moves into a sumptuous "Great Gatsby"-esque mansion in Victorian England, where he's surrounded by newfangled inventions including telephones, electric carriages and the cinema -- but he still uses a demonhead sword and Vlad the Impaler-embossed gold pieces.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

The seductive tale of the most famous vampire of all time traditionally plays out against the crumbling, cobweb-covered walls of his Transylvania castle. Now the setting gets a more modern twist in NBC's upcoming primetime drama, premiering Oct. 25.

Set in 19th century London, the show stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the vampire count, who poses as an American industrialist who wants to introduce modern science (wireless electricity in particular) to staid Victorian society. Playing off this, British production designer Rob Harris (Mr. Selfridge, Hornblower) added items on the cutting edge of 1896 -- telephones, electric carriages and the cinema -- to the milieu. "The idea was to make it as interesting as we could and do a new take," says Harris, a three-time Emmy nominee. "It gives you more scope to invent your world."

PHOTOS: On the Set of NBC's 'Dracula'

The sets were built on two Budapest soundstages, and the production found that Hungary's capital, with its centuries-old streets and patinaed buildings, stood in well for London. The design for Dracula's lavish mansion, Carfax Manor, "came from a very rich person's house in London from the period. We didn't want Gothic or a castle tower. It's kind of similar to an 1896 Great Gatsby with strong colors," Harris says.

Besides the task of building some 150 sets for the series' 10 episodes, a main challenge was designing Dracula's world at night, as sunlight is deadly for a vampire. "We had to do a lot of dramatic lighting to make it look interesting. Dracula lives in a twilight world."

But perhaps the most unexpected change is that Dracula's private quarters contain no coffin. Says Harris, "He will sleep in an actual bed."

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