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Interview: Todd Williams discusses his 'Vampire Diaries' hunter
'Chicago Code' veteran discusses his approach to Connor
Todd Williams' Connor Jordan hasn't been around for very long on "The Vampire Diaries," but the character has already caused a heap of trouble, leaving bodies and flashbacks in his wake.
Introduced earlier this season in "Memorial," Connor arrived in Mystic Falls to investigate the death of The Council and we quickly learned that he's a vampire hunter with a very peculiar and increasingly informative tattoo.
Since then, Connor has spent nearly equal amounts of time torturing or threatening the show's main characters and being tortured and threatened by them.
Earlier this week, I got on the phone with Williams, who some viewers will remember from his regular gig on FOX's short-lived "The Chicago Code."
We talked about Connor's moral code, his mysterious past and the sort of revelations that may come out in Thursday's (November 8) episode, titled "The Killer."
Click through for the conversation...
HitFix: We're used to seeing you on more grounded shows like "Chicago Code" and "In Plain Sight." Are there different rules for acting in a heightened environment like on "Vampire Diaries"?
Todd Williams: No! Not at all. The story is the story. When you're approaching a character, it's pretty much the same way. The way that I do it is I try to establish circumstances, because these are circumstances that I didn't choose, and so in order to have some emotional connection to the things that are going on, it's all the same thing. It's using the imagination to create past circumstances that will fuel the dialogue or the words that I'm speaking. So it doesn't matter. It could be Shakespeare, it could be sci-fi, it could be a police drama. It's all the same.
The cool thing about it is that, with "The Vampire Diaries," because it's fiction and because you're dealing with vampires and witches and all of these mythical things, it makes it so much fun, because you can create so many different situations in your mind and it'll all be fine, so it was definitely fun to do, but no different from my approach to other characters.
HitFix: Are you a fan of the genre? Had you watched the show before? Etc?
Todd Williams: You know, I'll be honest with you: I did not watch the show before. However, once I got on, I watched three seasons of just so that I can get an understanding of exactly what's going on and I was hooked from the beginning. I just like where they go in terms of storyline and it's something I haven't watched on television. I mean, I watch "True Blood" and I like "Game of Thrones" and all of that stuff, but this is different. Same vampire genre, but with a lot of differences that I found intriguing and interesting.
HitFix: I know there's a lot of secrecy on "Vampire Diaries." How much were the producers able to give you up-front about the character, his backstory and what his involvement was going to be in this season?
Todd Williams: I think everybody's learning as they go. In the beginning, when I first auditioned for it, there wasn't much information on him. There wasn't much background on him. I didn't even know what he was going to be doing. All that they described was that he was ex-military and that was pretty much it. I didn't find out that he was actually a hunter until later on and then after I found out he was a hunter, I really didn't know what he would be doing until each week the new script would come out. I think that it's interesting, because you can't see where the ride is going to take you, but that's also the excitement of it.
HitFix: You mentioned the "ex-military" thing and there was a conversation with Jeremy in which your character gives some small details on his pre-hunter life. Is developing and knowing a backstory important when you're playing a character like this? How much have you done on your own, beyond what the writers have told you?
Todd Williams: It definitely helps, because when you get the script you're looking for clues, not just things that you're saying, but what other characters are saying about your character. And when you don't know exactly where they're going with it, it can make things unease and it's only uneasy because you're not sure if the story that you're creating on your own will coincide with that of what they plan on writing. But so far, everything has been, I think, pretty much on par with everything that they've wanted Connor to do or places that they wanted him to go, so it's been good.
HitFix: You'd played a string of detectives and cops coming into this. Is Connor an extension on those characters or is his mission an entirely separate thing?
Todd Williams: [Chuckles.] I think it's about the morality of Connor moreso than anything. As you could see when he first came into town, it didn't matter who was around. Anybody could get it. He was focused on his mission. It's not that you can't have police officers or detectives who think that way, but I think it was more of his morality that was very different from anything that I've done before.
HitFix: Where do you see Connor fitting on a morality scale? "Vampire Diaries" is obviously a show that operates heavily in shades of gray.
Todd Williams: I think it's ambiguous. He fits beautifully in the gray. People look at the hunter as a person who's just out to kill their favorite vampires who they've come to known and love, whose humanity they've had a chance to see and so they can sympathize or empathize with aspects of them, even though technically they feed off of humans. Now Connor, his standpoint is, "I'm helping humanity, protecting them from the vampire threat, however it's going to be done by any means necessary." So as you saw in "Memorial," he used April as bait. April was an innocent. She was collateral damage. But, to him, it's to benefit the greater whole and that's where it becomes everything is gray. There's good in it, but then there's not-so-good in it.
HitFix: This is a show that has also had a tendency to introduce characters as villains or adversaries and then ultimately they become awkward allies within the story. Do you see a way, given that morality that you just mentioned, that Connor could be woven into this ensemble under some circumstance?
Todd Williams: I have no idea! I've been enjoying the fact that he's on the other side, working alone and just doing his own thing and saying, "Forget the rules, this is what I'm gonna do to get my mission across." Whether or not he ends up like that? I can't say. I can't say that I would want to see him go there. I just find him much more interesting like this. But I would really enjoy is for people to see the human side of Connor. Forget about his deeds or however he feels like things need to be done, but if you can see the "Why" for why he does what he does. You're not gonna agree with it, but if you can see the "Why," I think that that's enough. And "The Killer" touches on that. It definitely goes into Connor's "Why," because up to now he's just been this killing machine, just focused on extinguishing as many vampires as possible, but there are a lot of questions that he has an in "The Killer," you really start to see Connor the Human, not just Connor the Soldier-Machine.
HitFix: Certainly your first few episodes have been almost evenly split between torturing people and being tortured. What's the challenge to playing a character who doesn't really get any relaxed downtime?
Todd Williams: I think it's fun! Connor brings the action. He wants what he wants and he's gonna do what he has to do to get it.
HitFix: So it's not hard being constantly 'on' with the character?
Todd Williams: No, not at all. They make it very easy. Like you see in "Memorial," Connor's just finished shooting Tyler on the podium, running outside, jumping into the truck, getting the door ripped off, wrestling with Damon? All of that? That's all I need, you know? That's all I need to get into that state and it's been like that constantly. I don't get stressed, but it's a very stressful state-of-mind, because you're always moving and there's always a mission that has to be accomplished and it's always life-or-death and the stakes are always very high and I like that, because it doesn't give you any time to rest. I like the fact that when Connor comes on screen, it's about business. It moves in a way that is just to help Connor accomplish his mission, whether that be through violence, whether that be through intimidation, whether that be through whatever. It's interesting and it's a nice contrast to other elements of the show.
"The Vampire Diaries" airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.