First Kill, launching on Netflix on Friday, June 10th, is a Juliet and Juliet tale of two households and forbidden love. In the first episode we meet teenage vampire Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) as the time draws near for her to make her first kill so she can take her place among a powerful vampire family. She sets her sights on a new girl at her high school, Calliope (Imani Lewis), but much to Juliette’s surprise, Calliope is a vampire hunter from a family of celebrated slayers, who’s looking to make her own first kill. Both find that the other won’t be so easy to defeat but way too easy to fall for. The eight-episode series is created by New York Times bestselling author Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, based upon her own short story of the same name, alongside showrunner Felicia D. Henderson and executive producer Emma Roberts.
Ahead of the season one premiere, stars Imani Lewis and Sarah Catherine Hook spoke exclusively with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about sinking their teeth into their roles.
Watch the full interview:
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: Imani, how did you approach playing Calliope?
Imani Lewis: “I always wanted to play Calliope strong and to show her training. Although she is the only girl among her siblings, she takes so much from them and embodies it. I think that’s even cooler as the younger sibling and as the daughter in the family. She takes so much from her father and from her mother’s strength, because her mother is a lioness. I think they’re constantly training and sharpening their sword, no pun intended and I wanted to embody how calculated and strategic she is.”
In portraying such a strong character, how conscious were you of creating screen representation, particularly for young girls, that you perhaps didn’t see yourself growing up?
Imani: “Absolutely, both in Calliope and personally, in my own own journey as well. It means so much to me to look the way I look and to speak the way I speak and to be where I’m from and to be able to show the young girls out there, if you have a dream, go chase it and go after what what you’re passionate about. I’m so grateful to be living through Calliope vicariously, going on this journey and proving my position in this world. Proving that if you’re skilled at something and you’re passionate about it, you should give it your all. Even if there are doubters and naysayers, you keep the ball rolling. I’m very honored to be able to represent that kind of strength, especially for young girls—for everyone really—but I think young girls need just a little more love.”
Sarah, what did you particularly relish about playing Juliette?
Sarah Catherine Hook: “I loved the representation aspect of the show as a whole and getting to play this character was such an honor. I really enjoyed being a vampire! I the first time I put my teeth in I kept walking around being like, ‘Have you seen my teeth?!’ I refused to take them out! Anytime I had the opportunity to wear them, I would. People would ask me, ‘Do you want to wear your teeth for this scene?’ And I’d be like, ‘Why would you ask me that?! Of course I want to wear them!’ I was obsessed with them. I even took them home with me, so I still have them. It was really thrilling to play something that I’m truly not, a vampire!”
Did each of you grow up enjoying vampire stories, either on the page or on screen, or is this all new to you?
Sarah: “I was a huge Vampire Diaries fan. I also love What We Do In The Shadows. That’s one of my favorite movies and also TV shows. It’s just brilliant.”
Imani: “I grew up watching Blade, so I definitely saw a lot more the hunter! I did grow up on Sabrina the Teenage Witch in the supernatural realm too, but I was a big Wesley Snipes Blade fan; that black trench coat, ready for war. So I think it’s ironic that I ended up embodying this hunter character.”
There’s a really compelling screen relationship between the two of you. What did you enjoy about creating that together?
Sarah: “We knew that it was totally meant to be. What was so great about working with Imani was that from the beginning we wanted each other to feel safe and protected. We were really there for one another throughout, especially in the more intimate scenes, making sure that the other one was comfortable. It was really special.”
Imani: “This is a new journey for the both of us, so we wanted to feel equally supported and seen and heard. We could sit and run lines together for hours if we needed to or talk about what was going on. We always left an open line of communication for each other.”
Both of your characters obviously have a lot going on in their lives, but one thing that they’re not anxious about is their queerness, which we find out about them at the beginning and it’s not a big deal. What did you make of that aspect of the writing and what was that like to portray?
Imani: “It was wonderful. It was refreshing and I think it’s important that we see stories like this because the characters go on a journey that’s far more challenging a battle than their sexuality. The characters have so many layers to them, but I think it’s important to see that they are in a family where that was accepted and normalized. It wasn’t really up for discussion, because it didn’t need to be and it wasn’t ever a thing of, ‘Don’t be with her because she’s a girl’, but it’s, ‘Don’t be with her because she’s trained to murder you!’ Both are trained to murder each other, so that’s why it’s a danger. It’s important that that was highlighted, and it’s so much more fun and interesting.”
Sarah: “What’s so cool is that their queerness is not a point of conflict and it’s normal and accepted and never questioned. It’s celebrated, even. That is so special and rare.”
When Victoria was on set were you able to interact with her and if so what kind of insight did you get from her into playing your characters?
Imani: “When we spoke to Victoria, she explained to us the importance that she felt, especially when she was younger, in wishing that she saw these kinds of stories and saw this kind of representation. I think we both understood that this was her baby and we respect our jobs, we respect the art of what we do, and we respect Victoria. It was important that we take these characters and we handle them with such care.”
Sarah: “It was cool being able to talk to her about the story and how she came to this. When I asked her how she thought of the story, she told me that she was thinking what the modern-day Buffy would look like, and that’s Calliope. I thought that was so cool, I have chills just thinking about it! She was super supportive the whole time. She even came to set for a couple of weeks and got to see us all in action. She’s a special lady.”
When the cameras weren’t rolling did you have chance to hang out on set?
Sarah: “We had a lot of fun just hanging out together. There was a nice comfortability on set and it was such a big family, we all got along so well.”
By James Kleinmann
First Kill debuts on Netflix on Friday, June 10th 2022.