HEAT VISION

How Warren Ellis and the 'Castlevania' Team Made Season 3 a "Philosophical Journey"

Executive producer Kevin Kolde, writer and co-showrunner Ellis, and director Sam Deats talk about the cult hit's movie origins, why adult animation is a thing and how a 10-episode count lets them take a novelistic approach.

Castlevania is back with more blood and more philosophizing than before. Netflix’s animated series based on the Konami video game has proved to be an unlikely cult hit, drawing a passionate and loyal following.

The show began as the story of monster hunter Trevor Belmont and his fight with Dracula, hellbent on punishing humanity for the death of his wife. But with the surprise death of Drac at the end of season two, the show will now begin to explore what happens when there’s a power vacuum in the land of Wallachia.

Castlevania was initially developed by exec producer Kevin Kolde and writer and comics author Warren Ellis to be a straight-to-video movie. “It was the only market for this kind of adult animation at the time,” Kolde tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But we were coming in when the market was dying. That’s why it didn’t get over the finish line. There was no one in cable or broadcast who took it seriously."

It took nearly a decade, but the arrival of streaming services opened the doors for fare that could be adult-skewing. And with an eye on global audiences, there wasn’t a worry about it not being a comedy, long the popular genre for adult animation in the United States.

“In America, comedy has been the preserve of animation. But you go literally anywhere else on the world, not so much,” says Ellis, speaking on the phone from his U.K. home. “It could be nice to change the narrative that animation is a valid way to attack a half-hour or even hour drama, but everywhere else, no one else asks these questions.”

The first season debuted in 2017 with only four episodes, due in part to the influence of the initial movie script’s four-act structure. The second season in 2018 was eight. Now, the third season is a leg-stretching 10. This allowed the team to make the episodes “breathe,” they says, and allowed Ellis to write in a more novelistic frame.

“We tend to have run times that go over the standard 22 minutes because we want to let scenes play out naturally,” says director Sam Deats.

Adds Ellis: “I was able to slowly unfold arcs. Like in the case the Isaac character — who is moving from Africa to Eastern Europe to wreak his revenge — I got to do a philosophical journey where he gets to meet people along the way and has conversations and ideas expressed and investigated. I got to test the container and to see if I could bring different kinds of writing into it.”

At the top of the post, a scene, titled “I Have a Scheme,” focuses on Striga and Morana, two of the four vampire woman who rule Styria, after Carmilla has announced her grand plan to fill the power vacuum left by Dracula's death. The warrior Striga and administrator Morana, who have been a couple for many decades, meet to commiserate about how Carmilla is always saying "vampires and sisters, I have a scheme!" and leaving them to actually work out the details of how to achieve it.

Castlevania season three is streaming now on Netflix.

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