Helstrom: Elizabeth Marvel Talks Playing The Matriarch In New Hulu Series [Exclusive Interview]

Elizabeth Marvel plays Victoria Helstrom, the matriarch of the demonic family. Marvel’s first horror series is out on Hulu this Friday!

Paul Zbyszewski is the creator of the series, Helstrom is based on the comic characters Daimon and Satana Hellstrom. Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon respectively star as Daimon and Ana Helstrom. The children of a powerful serial killer, who hunt the worst of humanity. Enter Elizabeth Marvel, who plays Daimon and Ana’s mother Victoria Helstrom. In this new recreation of the comic book Victoria has become possessed and it is up to her children to save her.

I had the opportunity to speak to Elizabeth Marvel. She shared readying the Helstrom comic as part of her preparation to play Victoria Helstrom. Marvel also shared about a new film coming out later this year and her experience working with Tom Hanks.

Nancy Tapia: So I’m pretty excited to talk to you about Helstrom. It was about time they had you involved in a Marvel film

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha…right?

Nancy Tapia: Like, hello! Marvel!

Elizabeth Marvel: It’s just automatic free advertising for them. Haha…

Nancy Tapia: Exactly, haha!

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha…No, and it came at just the right moment. I have a 14-year-old son who is a big fan of the Marvel Universe. So I’m incredibly grateful that at this moment I’m able to be a part of the Marvel Universe, because I’m getting great credit amongst the ninth graders.

Nancy Tapia: You’re the cool mom that no one can top, haha..

Elizabeth Marvel: That’s right! I mean, you can’t really be cooler than being on a Marvel series. So that definitely lowered my demand for the PTA this year, haha..

Nancy Tapia: Yes, you gotta go easy on her. She’s been working hard.

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha..Yeah!

Nancy Tapia: So were you already a fan of Marvel? Or were you just a viewer of the films?

Elizabeth Marvel: Well, I have the past 12 years, as I said, I have a 14-year-old. I guess that’s the past 10 years, because my son loves it. So that just became a part of our lives, because it’s my husband, son and I. So whoever’s interested in seeing a movie, we all see it. So yes, we’ve seen all of them. I definitely started reading the comics as he got into them. Then engaged in reading them because they’re so fantastic. For an actor, it’s a dream job because what you get to do in the Marvel Universe is so much fun.

Nancy Tapia: We all know Helstrom is based on the comic. So you did read the comic prior to filming?

Elizabeth Marvel: I did, yes. Fortunately my son was able to steer me straight to it and fill me in on any questions I had, haha..

Nancy Tapia: How challenging is it? I know some actors are like, “No, I just want to read it and do my thing, my original.” But you did the contrary. How is that helpful?

Elizabeth Marvel: Well, it’s great to have a template. Sometimes structure is actually more freeing. So having an outline of and boundaries that I had to work within actually was incredibly liberating for me. Honestly, it’s funny because when I showed up for work, I assumed going to work for Marvel, it would be incredibly strict. They would be like, “You’re going to do this and you’re going to have to wear this.” And this is what it’s going to be.

My experience was the absolute opposite. I was well acquainted with the Universe and the story. But when I showed up on set, they really gave me free rein. They said, “We want to see what you do with this.” So it was total actor candy for me. I got to just create my own thing, which is very true to the comic, but it’s also my unique version of it.


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Nancy Tapia: For your role, you’re simultaneously playing two roles.

Elizabeth Marvel: Yeah, haha…

Nancy Tapia: So you got quite a task there.

Elizabeth Marvel: Yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s total actor candy. It’s just a blast. I said to Paul (Paul Zbyszewski) the creator of the show, I was like, “You’re letting me play all the keys of the piano.”

Nancy Tapia: That’s awesome! I got a chance to watch a couple of the episodes. As a viewer, I’m being fooled because I don’t know who is speaking. Is it the mother? Is it the demon? 

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha…Well, I’m glad that I did my job, because you shouldn’t be sure. A lot of the success of the story I think is where you feel doubt. Where you don’t trust what you think you know.

Nancy Tapia: Very true! You know just like everyone else I’ve also watched the Marvel films. However, I  actually like this TV series better. It feels like it can be somehow realistic as a story if there are actual demons, but there is also the religion stuff. How do you like that twist in this Marvel version?

Elizabeth Marvel: I really love it. I’m so excited about how it was made and what we made. Because I agree with you, I think it is a very different sort of wing of the Marvel mansion. We’ve built this whole new section in this Marvel horror genre. Also horror in the sense of like The Shining is horror. The Shining is so successful because it is based in reality and truth. It’s so terrifying because it’s built on a family dynamic breaking down. Which is the same thing that we’re doing in Helstrom. The template is a family dynamic breaking down.

That’s the most terrifying thing. There’s nothing more terrifying than a child experiencing a parent that is out of control. That’s terrifying. I think that’s where we begin with this story. We don’t begin with super powers and battles. We begin with a family breaking down and that’s truly terrifying.

Elizabeth Marvel as Victoria Helstrom in Helstrom

Nancy Tapia: Well, like it says, “Every family has its demons, but nothing that compares to the Helstrom family.” Haha…

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha…that’s right and then that’s the fun of it. That’s where the Marvel aspect comes in, because it does begin in this very real familial way. But then it grows into a story of the demonic, the monsters, the superpowers, and it gets heightened into this whole other realm. That is just wickedly fun.

Nancy Tapia: I definitely think this series is going to attract more viewers compared to the original Marvel comic films because of this version,. The different tone and being dark. Do you by any chance know why Disney decided to drop that one L from the original Hellstrom? Since you are familiar with the comic?

Elizabeth Marvel: You know, I have absolutely no idea. No one’s told me. I don’t know if they wanted to lean more into just the character instead of the original hellscape that having two L’s in the name implies, haha..I don’t know. That’s a good question.

Nancy Tapia: Well, you’ll have to get back to me when you find out.

Elizabeth Marvel: I will.

Elizabeth Marvel as President-elect Elizabeth Keane in “Homeland.” JoJo Whilden / Showtime

Nancy Tapia: So let’s put Helstrom on the side for a moment. You’ve been on TV and films for several years. One of my favorites was when you played the President Elizabeth Keane in Homeland.

Elizabeth Marvel: Oh, thanks!

Nancy Tapia: I was a fan of Homeland before you joined. When you did I was like, “Oh my gosh, it just got better!”

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha…Thank you. That was a great job. That was an awesome gig.

Nancy Tapia: You got to play the a President!

Elizabeth Marvel: Yes. I’m very grateful I got to pretend to be it instead of actually walking in those shoes (chuckles) because that’s a tall order. It was incredibly fun and fascinating to be playing the president in TV land at that time. It was very exciting and very interesting.

Nancy Tapia: You had a couple of action scenes, when they’re trying to kill the president in Homeland. Now with Helstrom, you are throwing people against walls.

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha…You know, I did this movie called Bourne Legacy where I played an assassin. For that I had to train for over a month learning how to handle a series of weapons. Mainly with a Glock. I had to get very comfortable with a Glock and go to a lot of firing ranges. I had to work with a group of military trained experts. They had to train me. So oddly, I am this nerdy theater actress who’s gotten to do a lot of very intense action stuff a few times, haha…

Nancy Tapia: That’s awesome! Maybe we get to see more later in the season.

Elizabeth Marvel: Yeah! Oh yeah! There’s more and I was surprised at how much they had me actually do. I thought my stunt double, who was amazing, would be doing everything. I was shocked at how much, not just me, but how much all of us actually did and how little they CGI’d. They wanted the real thing as much as possible. I would say probably 80% of what you see is the real thing.

When you see fire, that’s fire. Things were lit on fire all the time. There were walls of fire happening. We were in rooms that were filled with fire all the time. We were flying and climbing on walls all the time. So it was pretty wild and I did not expect it, but I certainly enjoyed it.

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Nancy Tapia: Well, now I am liking this Marvel even more!

Elizabeth Marvel: Haha…yeah. I can’t think of one sequence I did that involved a green screen.

Nancy Tapia: That’s good to know. No wonder I would see a difference..

Elizabeth Marvel: Absolutely, because you can feel that, you can see it.

Nancy Tapia: So later this year, you also have a film coming out. If I am not mistaken, December 20th.

Elizabeth Marvel: That’s right.

Nancy Tapia: News of the World with Tom Hanks. How exciting!

Elizabeth Marvel: That’s right. It is, and it was amazing. I filmed that movie while I was doing Helstrom actually. I was flying back and forth between Vancouver and Santa Fe. It was an awesome experience. It’s a beautiful film. I think people are going to love it. Mr. Hanks is everything you imagined him to be. He’s such a lovely man, such a hard worker and so fantastic to be with on set because he absolutely treats everybody equally all the time. Also always has great stories. He has the best stories. So I have nothing but admiration for him.

Nancy Tapia: Is there anything you can share about your character in that film?

Elizabeth Marvel: Well, it’s interesting, I had to learn several languages. My character speaks multiple languages, including several Native American dialects. Which was amazing. I had to work with several people on those dialects because they’re so specific and rare. That was fascinating. It was like learning a new instrument. It was also just, it’s beautifully shot. It was awesome to be in Santa Fe on that set. It’s in that world, that Western world. I think it’s going to be a very beautiful movie and people are going to love it.

Nancy Tapia: Great! Well, that’s exciting. Is there anything else that you might be working on or going be starting to work on?

Elizabeth Marvel: There are a lot of things that are percolating right now, haha…

Nancy Tapia: That’s great news!

Elizabeth Marvel: I think it’s going to be a very busy new year after this strange pause we’ve all been taking. I think it’s going to be a very busy new year.

Nancy Tapia: You’re already ending 2020 in big, Helstrom, News of the World and 2021 is just going to be even bigger for you.

Elizabeth Marvel: That’s right, I think you’re right!

Nancy Tapia: Well, thank you so much for your time, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Marvel: Oh, thank you.

Nancy Tapia: I’m sure people are going to enjoy watching Victoria Helstrom! You are going to be fooling everyone else, just like me haha…

Elizabeth Marvel: Yeah, it definitely gets crazier. You can’t even begin to imagine where it goes. I think you’ll have a good time watching the rest of the season.

Nancy Tapia: I know I will.  Thank you so much. I will be waiting with everyone else when it comes out on Hulu, this Friday October 16th.

Elizabeth Marvel: Awesome, thank you.

Nancy Tapia: Thank you. 

Helstrom is set to be released on Hulu in October 16, 2020, and will consist of 10 episodes.

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