Vampire Academy – Interview with Daniela Nieves and André Dae Kim

Daniela Nieves (Save me) and André Dae Kim (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, locke and key) star in Peacock’s vampire academy series, based on the bestselling books by Richelle Mead. Premiere on Thursday, September 15, 2022, vampire academy takes place at St. Vladimir’s Academy, an institution populated by vampires – including moroi (vampire royalty) – and guarded by dhampirs (half-human/half-vampire). Nieves stars as Lissa Dragomir, the last surviving member of the royal Dragomir line. Kim plays Christian Ozera, a member of vampire royalty whose parents willingly turned into Strigoi (evil vampires).

Fans of Richelle Mead’s books know what to expect from Christian and Lissa’s relationship, while newbies only need to know that Christian is a bit of a bad boy and Lissa is highly respected among the royal family. Teaming up for interviews at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Daniela Nieves and Andre Dae Kim discussed stepping into their characters, source material, and wearing fangs.

Daniela Nieves as Lissa Dragomir and André Dae Kim as Christian Ozera in ‘Vampire Academy’ (Photo by: Peacock)

Interview with Daniela Nieves and André Dae Kim:

How much did you know about vampire academy before signing to play in the series?

Daniela Nieves: “Not a lot. Personally, for me, I feel like I hadn’t even heard of the books before doing it. I really went into it seeing the sides, the way they were, and the relationships between Rose and Lissa and Christian and Lissa. I just sort of made my point. And then after that, I realized it was a book series.

(Laughing) So, I got the series of books, I read them… I drank the first book in two days. I was obsessed and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this story of friendship and this world of vampires is so amazing.’ I am so happy to be part of it. »

Andre Dae Kim: “I was the same. It was kind of a general audition and after I booked the show, I read the first book. I was like, ‘Okay, now I’m a fan. This is awesome. ‘ And now I can work on this show and be a fan at the same time, so yeah, it was the same for me.

Daniela Nieves: “And it was crazy also because after we booked it, I think we all started to be like, ‘Oh wait, it’s like a thing.’ It was published that we were cast and I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s okay.” And then pretty soon there were about 50 montages of us with like “Dragomir that…” and we were kissing.

Andre Dae Kim: “Our photoshopped faces.”

Daniela Nieves: “I was like, ‘Oh, wow, these fans really like these books.’ It’s just like a responsibility and an honor to be like, wow, we’re the ones representing this.

Andre Dae Kim: “A little motivation to keep the essence of these characters as we practice.”

Was there anything really creepy where you were like, “Wait a minute, that’s just going too far,” from the fans?

Daniela Nieves: “Oh my god, you know what’s so funny is that we had this scene once…I wasn’t there, but I heard about the story and it freaked me out. Jen (Kirby) who plays Alberta, she’s absolutely brilliant, and she had her first scene with the Strigoi. The Strigoi are like the evil vampires and our makeup team led by Ana Lozano – who’s also amazing – they made them so intricate and so scary that while we were on set it was like, ‘Okay, stock !’ and she (jumped up) and said, ‘That’s pretty scary, isn’t it?’ She started laughing and she couldn’t get over it because they were so creepy and scary in person.

They had those black teeth, with the fangs and bloodshot red eyes, and they also rock you as they try to kill you…in the show. So I would say the Strigoi were really scary.

Andre Dae Kim: “Were you talking about the show or the fan art?


Daniela Nieves: “Oh, like something creepy from fan art. Oh my God.”

Andre Dae Kim: “Do you remember that fan montage we had that was like deep fakes of our faces with the movie – the vampire academy film? It wasn’t scary; it was so weird to see our faces rendered on other people. I was like, ‘How do people do that? It’s so crazy.

Daniela Nieves: “Or like people would – because obviously in the books she’s blonde – for people to photograph blonde hair on me, but it just didn’t sit well with me. It’s like I know that you wanted me to be blonde so badly, but it doesn’t look good.

Vampire Academy Cast
‘Vampire Academy’ stars Sisi Stringer, Kieron Moore, Daniela Nieves and Andre Dae Kim at San Diego Comic-Con (Photo by: Todd Williamson/Peacock)

Andre, you have been part of big franchises before. How intimidating is it to be a part of something with an established fanbase built in?

Andre Dae Kim: “Yeah, it’s also an established world that can be scary, and I felt that with star trek as well. There’s a core fan base, there are set rules in this world, and arriving as a newcomer can feel a bit daunting. But I’ll give all the props to not just our cast, but also our writing team Julie (Plec) and Marguerite (MacIntyre) because they absolutely made us feel so comfortable and so like we had a place to be here, to play , but also to collaborate. So whatever nerves I had after meeting these two, they were swept away. And after meeting Daniela, I was like, “Oh, well, I’m in good hands.”

Daniela Nieves: “Same here with her meeting with him. And, yes, Julie and Marguerite obviously did, and they’re really great at what they do. I think it was like a breath of fresh air and they had a vision too. It was just amazing to be there and see him as good as an actor and be like, ‘Oh my god, this is what it’s going to be like! What? Is this the church you have chosen?!’ They really created a whole world from top to bottom, which was amazing.

So how were the teeth?

Daniela Nieves: (Laughing) “I haven’t had to use the teeth too much, but I use them a little. They were really interesting. The mold was this gummy, disgusting stuff, like when you make retainers – that was it. They just molded it to my canines.

There were a few options, sizes, sharpness and trying to decide what it would look like. And, ultimately, we went with some really sharp options at the end and Julie really helped me get the bite and the tilt in a way that looks really good on camera and stuff. And then when we finally got the final teeth, I guess it was a little too sharp and my loader was like, ‘Hey just a little less… just a little less pressure.’

I was like, ‘Oh my god, am I puncturing you and you’re bleeding here?’

She was like, ‘No, no, no. Its good. That’s fine, just a little less.

So, I’ve definitely learned how to bite properly, so for season two, I’ll do it better.

Andre Dae Kim: “You know what? I didn’t get a chance to show my teeth, but I will say the show teeth are amazing.

Vampires have special powers, including the ability to make fire. How do you visualize that and act like you’re using your characters’ powers?

Andre Dae Kim: “That’s the big part of working on this show. I really wanted to have a little bit of agency on the magic. I didn’t want it to be just a collection of things, so there were scenes that felt like everything which I imagined now in the scene is playing out in the CGI.

I have to play with fire, I have to throw it in the air, I have to catch it and I can do stuff like that. And all this was allowed by Julie and Marguerite to play with. I had a bit of experience as you said with Star Trek and Locke and Key about working with things that weren’t actually there which can be a little difficult because you expect that something is there in front of you and you have to pretend it’s when it’s not. But it’s so much fun. There’s no kid who doesn’t grow up wanting to be a movie-making superhero. It was a dream come true.”

Daniela Nieves: “I think the Elements as well…we have this whole selection (of Elements) and I think Jeff and them created and showed us the different moves. We created movements for each element and all that. Lissa doesn’t really play with her elemental magic too much because she’s not good at it, so I guess that’s part of it. But he (pointing to Andrew) did a great job of really mastering fire and making us believe that he really is so good with fire, which is very unique to Christian is that he is so amazing with fire. But yeah, it was great fun.

Andre Dae Kim: (Laughing) “I’m not like an arsonist or anything. I just really thought about it.

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