Lots of actors who become familiar faces work their way up through guest roles and appearances in TV. This eventually leads to roles with expanded arcs, which then leads to supporting and lead roles as they gain further opportunities. You’ve probably seen Alain Uy and Ariana Guerra in shows like “Raising Dion” and “True Detective”. Now you can see both in the new series HELSTROM, which is available for streaming on Hulu.”
For the release of HELSTROM, I had the chance to chat with Ariana Guerra and Alain Uy, where we discussed their how they approached their respective roles and what ultimately drives their characters to make the decisions they make.
Can you both talk about your characters, Gabriela Rosetti and Chris Yen, and how you approached your roles?
Ariana Guerra: Basically, I tried to do as much research into Catholicism, in becoming a nun, and what that looks like for a modern day nun which was very surprising. There were a lot of things that I, as a human, have so much more respect, for any person that’s willing to have a lifestyle where they give their life to God. I think I also wanted to make sure that I did that character justice and not in a way that was stereotypical. I wanted to make sure that she was grounded, that she was dimensional. As important as her faith is, and religion, I also think she is an academic. She’s someone who probably does a lot of research, a lot of homework, so she makes the active choice to be a woman of God. Those were all influences I had at the beginning. Then once we started shooting, the focus is not on my opinions of the Bible or of religion in general, but I think there are those influences and I wanted to feel that in my body, more so. Once we started shooting it was more about focusing on the relationship that I was beginning to develop with each character that I came across.
Alain Uy: And I drank a lot of wine and ate a lot of cheese. I also went window shopping, looking at some fine threads. Would Chris wear this? I don’t know! (laughs). I think for me, the research I did was seeking the truth and trying to figure out why he does certain things. The more you dig, the more you realize. My sister works as an expertise in foster care and so I tapped her a lot [for information]. I asked her a lot of questions in terms of like, what would somebody be like if they came out of the foster care program and what level of quote unquote success can they find? She told me that you have to define success in a specific way. When I told her to imagine that the person [aka Ana Helstrom] owns their own business, they own an antiquities dealership and has an auction house, she told me that that’s, in some ways, a unicorn. It’s rare to find somebody going through the foster care program that have a sense of control of their life. I think that really spoke to me, in terms of doing the kind of research that I did for the character to breath life into him. Also, researching the world that we exist in, in terms of the comic book and what that IP is like and what’s the mythology of this world. Really understanding that really gave me an understanding of the place that Chris existed.
Early on in the season we get to witness Gabriela experiencing some of the immense power that Victoria Helstrom is capable of. How was it doing the stunt work for that scene?
Ariana Guerra: That was honestly one of my favorite days just because I was working with Elizabeth Marvel and she’s just a monster. She is truly on another level of talent. So I had to work with this lady that was really scaring the crap out of me and then they’re like, “All right, you’re going to go up here and then we’re going to drop you from the ceiling” and I was like, “Wait, wait, what?!”. That was like the first episode and I remember just being like, “Oh my God, I gotta be prepared for a lot of action pack, special stunt effects”. Unfortunately, that was like the last thing I really did but it was really, really cool. I didn’t do the real drop, but they rose me to the top of the ceiling and then they had me fall halfway. All of it was just surreal. Marvel wants to make sure we get it right and they are willing to spend the money and the time to do it. So that entire day was really awesome.
When we first see Chris Yen, he appears to be Ana’s sidekick, but as the season progresses, we witness an interesting transformation take place with him. Can you elaborate on that experience?
Alain Uy: I think that’s one of the things that I was really curious about, the understanding of where Chris’ morality is. Where does it fall? Obviously dealing with Ana and her world and her pension for violence, so to speak, you have to go, “Okay, he’s on this side of that spectrum.” But you’re right. It’s one of those things where you first meet Chris and he’s in some ways the Renfield of this world. But then the further we go along, the more you realize that there is a complexity to him and understanding what his role is as we go down this rabbit hole. I’m sure you’ve seen in that first episode, where there is an artifact that we encounter that has a specific pervasiveness to it and that in some ways it needs some kind of partner to come to life. There is a conversation that’s there and that’s a reflection of Chris, in that sense – Can I have this conversation with this artifact and where is this going to take me? I think what’s really interesting is that he still has his own agency about him as he has this relationship with this artifact but it’s not overpowered him in that sense. I think, again, that’s a reflection of how controlled Chris Yen is in those really intense situations.
Ultimately, what do you think drives your characters to do what they do in this world?
Ariana Guerra: I think the through line for Gabriela is always saving as many people as she can. There is an ideology that she subscribes to, like many of us, and then we realized that in application or in practice, it’s not that easy. It’s not as simple as thinking that your approach is correct. She just meets people, I think, that kind of expose her to different approaches and she’s having to figure out if the ends justify the means, essentially. She wants to save as many people as she can but at what expense? There’s always that internal conflict between her own personal faith and different approaches that she’s exposed to.
Alain Uy: What’s really interesting about Chris in what Ariana’s saying about Gabriela is what is morality? I think that drives all of these characters in terms of what is right and what’s wrong and who is defining that. I think for me, what drives Chris is that he falls very adjacent to how Ana thinks, which is can we right the wrongs of this world? And what drives him is all the things that has happened to him that defines his view of the world and his definition of what’s right and wrong. In some ways, he’s taking it upon himself to be like, “Okay, we can right the wrongs and this is how we’re going to do it.”. I think that’s the thing that really drives him, in some ways, the prevention of some things that have caused trauma in his life, to prevent other kids from experiencing that. I think that’s the biggest drive for why he’s associated with this particular person that’s Ana.